Sam and Simon
The thirties are a strange time, a sort of limbo between not being old enough to be considered middle-aged and not quite young enough to be considered...well, young. However, they are thought to be the time when an individual attains maturity and stability in most areas of life, or so we like to think. Ces gars-là, roughly translated as "Those Boys," follows the lives of two quirky bachelors in their thirties as they chase highs and experience lows in the metropolis of none other than Montréal. The show has been a surprising hit on the relatively minor V network, attracting 500,000 viewers in its first season, and was renewed for a second season which debuted last February. It breaks ground in Quebec television through its realistic representation of life in Montreal, such as the pervasive use of anglicisms in everyday French speech, as well as the evident presence and influence of multiculturalism and bilingualism throughout the city. Despite its raunchy and occasionally over-the-top brand of humour, the show is nonetheless thoroughly entertaining thanks to its original characters, plot and dialogue.
Sam and Simon, the show's main characters, are played by their real-life counterparts, comedian Sugar Sammy and Simon Oliver Fecteau, the latter of whom is actually the director of the show. The duo, based on the familiar "nice guy and bad boy" formula along the lines of "Two and a Half Men," nonetheless manage to stand out through their particular relationship. The show regularly draws on the complementary nature of Simon's bashful apprehension and Sam's zany gusto for comedic situations. Adding to their on-screen chemistry is the strong bond between the two friends from very different backgrounds, an anglophone of Indian descent and a white francophone. Sam is depicted as a wisecracking, self-assured womanizer who still lives with his parents, and Simon as a needy, unconfident wreck marred by his neurotic obsession with his ex-girlfriend. Interestingly (or frustratingly), theirs professions are never revealed, which begs the question as to how the two stags manage to fund their indulgent, urban lifestyle. The show's secondary characters are also intriguing in their own way, influencing much of the main characters' actions and thoughts. Amélie is an indecisive, confused woman who depends on Simon for many things even after their break-up. Despite her slightly clichéd role as a damsel in distress, her involvement in much of Sam and Simon's daily shenanigans adds depth to the plot and offsets the dynamic duo's masculine energy that reigns throughout the show. Sam's parents are stereotypical Indian immigrants who are nonetheless sweet, caring and unintentionally funny. They provide many laughs throughout the show by the manner in which they respond to unpleasant situations, such as when the Office québécois de langue française fines them over $8000 for putting up posters that say "garage sale" instead of "vente de garage." Aside from these major characters, there are also many unusual minor characters in each episode, who offer a refreshing perspective of the different types of people that are found in Montreal without being overly one-dimensional or contrived. Though the characters may at times seem too much like caricatures, they are for the most part believable, captivating, but most of all, relatable, allowing audiences to become invested in the outcome of their interactions.
The duo's natural habitat
Plot (Spoiler Warning)
The storyline is linear, each episode following the events of the previous, but with usually unrelated plots. The pilot opens with the two sitting in a bar as Sam tries to cheer up Simon following his recent break-up with his long-time girlfriend, Amélie. To this end, he jokingly tells him, "it's just a girl, it's not like you lost your car or something," which epitomizes his goofy personality. Simon attempts to "get back in the game" by approaching an attractive woman sitting by herself, but is discouraged when she spurns him curtly. This first episode sets the tone for the rest of the duo's adventure of going out and picking up women, encountering all sorts of odd, unpredictable ladies: an ultra-Quebec separatist, a woman with severe halitosis, and a lax mother of a malicious, troubled teen, just to name a few. Throughout the 10-episode run, Simon constantly tries to make up with Amélie, which turns complicated when she and Sam develop a secret relationship behind his back. The season ends as he prepares to ask Amélie for her hand in marriage, only to walk in on Sam giving her a friendly peck on the lips as they forge a promise never to let their relationship come to light. Although the show's dominant theme is the duo's quest for casual encounters with numerous women, they come to realize that their virility cannot suppress their deep-seated desire for love and romance. Many important elements of the plot seem absurd or exaggerated to a ridiculous degree, such as Sam still living with his parents or Simon's unhealthy desire to get back with his ex ("Move on already!" may be uttered more than a few times), but through suspension of disbelief, viewers can accept the situations as normal and appreciate their humour thanks to the semblance of truth contained in each one of them.
Simon and Amélie
According to Sugar Sammy and Fecteau, they wanted to "reflect what guys in their mid-thirties think and say when women aren't around," which they have undoubtedly accomplished through the often crass subject matter that is discussed throughout. Over the course of the show, Sam's jokes become increasingly boorish, exemplified by lines like "it pays to be gay in show business" and "a 30-year old woman is like a used car: it'll get you where you need to go, but you wouldn't show it off to your friends," which may amuse or offend depending on the audience's gender, age and sense of humour. In one particularly memorable scene, after desperately trying to avoid telling his date that she has bad breath, Simon finally snaps when pushed to explain his strange behaviour and tells her, "Your breath stinks! Your mouth smells like decay! It's as if a goat walked in and did its business right in your mouth!" This is a fine example of a mean, but undeniably funny premise, which is sure to get anyone laughing (unless they themselves suffer from awful breath). An important innovation in the show's dialogue is the realistic portrayal of the amount of English that can be heard in Montreal. Sam constantly peppers his predominantly French speech with English words, phrases and sometimes entire exchanges, albeit most of it is subtitled in French. This is rare considering the supposed unpopularity of English on French networks, but this myth is debunked by the largely francophone viewership who have responded positively to the generous incorporation of the "rival" language, paving the way for future programs to follow in their footsteps. One minor complaint in the dialogue may be Sam and Simon's redundant addressing of each other as "bro" and "man," but it is nonetheless an accurate reflection of commonplace Montreal vernacular which must be embraced for what it is: two grown men clutching onto whatever is left of their youth.
Overall, the show has been a large success in terms of ratings and originality. Its central theme of love life in the thirties and its truthful exploration of the many facets of culture and language in Montreal have appealed to a wide audience of all backgrounds and ages, earning itself critical acclaim, as well as another season. Its occasional over-the-top moments are easily outweighed by its entertainment value from its original characters, plot and dialogue. Will Sam eventually stop sowing his wild oats and settle down? Will Simon finally end up with Amélie again? The only way to find out is by tuning in on Mondays at 8 p.m.