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Almost Heroes, “Terry and Peter vs. Episode One” (1.01)

The 'Almost Heroes' logo: 'Almost Heroes' displayed on the plaza sign.

A review of the new Canadian comedy, pilot written by Jason and Ryan Belleville and directed by Graeme Lynch, after the jump…

Summary: Two brothers, suave Harvard Business School student Terry (Battlestar Galactica‘s Paul Campbell) and Peter (series co-creator Ryan Belleville), must save their father’s comic book store after his untimely death. They are surrounded by a longtime friend who works in the same plaza, her bitchy boss, a quirky security guard, their toughminded landlady, and a competitor aiming to buy the store from under them.

Review: Almost Heroes is really, really charming, and that makes a lot of the issues here forgivable.  Those issues sadly include a basket full of cliches, a smattering of weak jokes, and a deeply annoying co-lead. So, it’s a tough call.

The real star here is Paul Campbell, who has got exactly the right mix of overconfidence and smoothness to make Terry work. Because they keep him to a realistic, yet funny, scale, he’s enjoyable to watch as he stumbles his way through this crisis. This is in contrast to Ryan Belleville, who would probably be a fun character if he weren’t a neurotic manchild composed purely of nerd cliches. Every time they go to the well of ‘nerd manchild’, from playing with action figures to getting nosebleeds around beautiful women, he barely survives on his chemistry with the rest of the cast.

(Although a moment where the two brothers have a real-life discussion via action figures is actually really effective, so I’m willing to overlook the first, even with the horrific ‘Sargent Fabulous’.)

I don’t know why Almost Heroes feels so much funnier, and cohesive, than the similar-at-the-bones Dan For Mayor. Dan has also got a good cast with strong chemistry and also flails with few laughs, but doesn’t have the skill to elevate them like Heroes does. I laughed at scenes in this pilot I shouldn’t have, and the cast chemistry and strong direction and comic timing made it work. There are scenes and jokes here I’ve seen a hundred times before, and yet the show landed them. That should have been impossible.

The cast them around them works well, too. Lauren Ash is adorable as old friend Bernie, who has a crush on Terry and feels like a complete loser for being stuck in the same dead-end job for years. Dave Hemstad‘s Dan works as a delightfully grounded, yet suitably over-the-top, villain as a rival sports store owner who wants to convert the comic book shop into a lacrosse-centred spinoff of his store. Meghan Heffern takes an odious role as Bernie’s horribly cruel boss Candi, and yet is hilarious, even as you cheer when she gets a headbutt to the face. The only outliers at the moment are Athena Karkanis‘s landlord character Rayna, who was strong but restricted to a couple of moments, and Colin Mochrie, whose security guard Boyd is a little too overly quirky to be a laugh riot.  Still, we’ll see whether these two fuse into the cast better once the show’s established.

Now, the question remains: will it be able to grow creatively and build some momentum? There were a lot of jokes in the pilot that weren’t especially funny, so the show will have the double task of building its cast and strengthening its humour as it moves forward. That said, Almost Heroes feels like it will be a worthwhile half hour every week, and I hope it succeeds.

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