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August 30, 2015

Is It Too Soon for Security Satire?

by Stephanie Earp, posted Jan 3rd 2011 3:00PM
CBC's latest comedy 'InSecurity' debuts this week, a decade after 9/11, but it still has me wondering if a series based on jokes about national security might be hitting the airwaves a little too soon.

Between the WikiLeaks Cablegate story and the introduction of the backscatter X-ray machines to airports, security -- as in homeland and travel -- is a topic still very much in flux. Will Americans -- and the rest of the world dragged along with them into forced nudity and patdowns -- accept the latest incursion into their privacy or reject it?

Is Julian Assange a journalist doing his job or is he some kind of freelance spy/traitor? It will take some time to figure out where history stands on these and other issues around how the west has dealt with the threat of terrorism. But it's into this murky water this half-hour show is set to premiere.

'InSecurity' is about a group of Canadian federal agents working for a fictional agency called NISA -- it's based on CSIS, which is the Canadian version of the CIA. The team tracks terrorists and spies, yet all they have to do this with is a few computers, spy cams and their brains. While the technology is equal access, the brains have been handed out willy nilly, with the vast majority going to series leads Alex (Natalie Lisinska) and Claude (the fabulous Rémy Girard). The cast is studiously multicultural, of course, which works better in the context of a high-end government agency than, say, a gas station in the Prairies.

Certainly, if this show was going to get made, it was going to get made in Canada. Despite evidence to the contrary -- for example, the 2006 Toronto bomb plot -- Canada is seen merely as a pitstop for terrorists on their way to the U.S. And while, sure, we're concerned about terrorism, because it would be awfully embarrassing if something happened, there's this idea in the ether that we'd never be the target of an attack. So if anyone can afford to crack jokes about security, it's us. Then again, one of the most persistent pieces of fiction surrounding the 9/11 attacks is the terrorists crossed into the U.S. from Canada. So if anyone can't afford to crack jokes about having crap security, it's us.

But what of the jokes? Like so many CBC series, 'InSecurity' tries too hard. From that expendable capital 'S' in the title, to a way-too-long bit about ridiculous code names in the opening minutes of the pilot, so many of the jokes are jackhammered into oblivion. The jokes that are good are usually over-acted -- a few potentially great moments of 'CSI: Miami'-like lab work on a stale piece of pizza could have been brilliant if they were played straight. You want to shake the writers and actors and say, "Dudes! We know what you're making fun of: The most-watched show in the known universe. You don't have to explain it so hard!"

That said, the show has potential. One situation sees two agents stumble into a dominatrix's basement lair where they find out where to get adult diapers (Costco). Another has our lead agent Alex mistaking kidnappers for her colleagues. "This isn't how we rehearsed it," she says with real confusion as a bag is slipped over her head and she's shoved into a black SUV. The delivery on these lines is almost 'Simpsons'-esque. And if the writers and actors find that place more often, they could get some laughs -- or at least a few snorts.

'InSecurity' has already been heavily retooled from a pilot called 'The B Team' which I missed when CBC burned it off in 2010 -- but from the reviews, it sounds like a lot of major problems have been addressed in this new version. Which on the one hand is good -- this crew can take criticism and use it to make improvements -- but on the other hand, if they've already gone back to the drawing board once, shows this may be the best they can do.

'InSecurity' debuts on Tuesday, Jan. 4 at 8:30PM ET/PT on CBC.

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More crap from the CBC, as we've come to expect!

January 05 2011 at 11:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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