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jPod’s mixed blessings

Preliminary reviews of CBC TV’s jPod are in, and so far critical reception of the new hour-long comedy-drama series “ based on the novel by Douglas Coupland “ is decidedly mixed.

The only wholeheartedly favourable review is by Toronto Star critic Vinay Menon, who says the series’ premiere episode, which airs tonight at 9 pm, left him “craving” the second. At the other end of the spectrum is fusty National Post columnist Robert Cushman, who confesses his befuddlement regarding the series’ title (You might guess that a jPod would be the next thing up from an iPod. Guess again.) and offers a wholesale rejection of its premise, which unites a rag-tag group of eccentric video game producers on the basis of a random computer glitch. As Cushman puts it:

I mean, by my simple arithmetic the show’s co-workers, employees of a huge Vancouver company called Neotronic Arts, have been herded now for seven years, time enough for even the most intransigent organization to have acknowledged that its computer had bungled and to have done something to put it right.

In the past, the CBC’s attempts to appeal to the under-30 demographic have often been disastrous (Freestyle, here’s looking at you), so producers are clearly looking to the series for big things. If it catches on, it could benefit Canadian publishing as well, by directing TV viewers to Coupland’s novels and even promoting an image of CanLit as urban and contemporary “ a view that’s not exactly widespread.

That trickle-down effect might be too much to hope for, however, if an interview with actor Alan Thicke is anything to go by. Thicke, who is most famous for playing Jason Seaver on Growing Pains and has a supporting role on jPod, says that he hasn’t read the book and isn’t planning to either. Nothing against Douglas “ I don’t read books, he tells the Post.