Episode 101

Preview: Young Drunk Punk a sweet, funny postcard from the 80s

In 1980, the year Young Drunk Punk is set, I was nine. Old enough that—previewing Wednesday’s debut episode on City—I recalled the fashion (spiky hair, striped jackets, pornstaches), the music (Loverboy) and, most importantly, the small-town vibe.

I grew up in the smallish city of Brantford, Ont., a 30-minute drive from Hamilton and a whopping 60 minutes from Toronto. I lived far enough from those metropolis’ that visits were a big deal for me, a window to possible dreams and promises in my future. Certainly bigger opportunities—I thought as I got into my early teens—than I could ever have in Brantford.

So I totally related to Ian McKay (Tim Carlson, Flashpoint) and Archibald Shinky (Atticus Mitchell, Fargo), two kids just graduating from high school in 1980 Calgary and without a damned clue what to do next. Created by Kids in the Hall veteran Bruce McCulloch and inspired by his life (the sitcom was shot in and around the same Calgary townhouse complex he grew up in), Young Drunk Punk is certainly a wistful look back, but it certainly isn’t dated. The issues Ian and Shinky deal with in the first 30 minutes are the same every high school kid wrestles with: fitting in, kissing someone, distancing themselves from their parents and deciding who they are as individuals.

Adding to the laughs in Season 1 are Ian’s dad, Lloyd (McCulloch), who is the head of security at the complex, Ian’s mom Helen (Tracy Ryan, Nancy Drew) and his sister, Belinda (Allie MacDonald, Lost Girl). Belinda plays a large role in tonight’s bow, as Ian is planning to move into her place until she shows up at the family home with all of her belongings; she’s left her boyfriend. Ian and Shinky attend a party where they try to fit in, don’t, and get chased by local punks. The humour is there, but it doesn’t hit you over the head like most shows today. Instead, it’s subtle, heartwarming and family oriented. You get the idea that McCullogh is looking back fondly on his past rather than mocking it.

Sandwiched between The Middle and Modern Family on Wednesday nights, I would have rather seen it paired with Sunnyside for an hourlong block of Canadian comedies on City. That may eventually happen, but in the meantime I’ll enjoy Young Drunk Punk for what what it is, and cringe every time I see a piece of clothing I used to wear.

Young Drunk Punk airs Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET on City.

Greg David
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Greg David

Prior to becoming a television critic and partner at TV, Eh?, Greg David was a critic for TV Guide Canada, the country's most trusted source for TV news. He has interviewed television actors, actresses and behind-the-scenes folks from countless programs. Survivor winners, Donald Trump, Jerry Bruckheimer ... he has interviewed (literally) hundreds of TV people over the course of his career. He is a past member of the Television Critics Association.
Greg David
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