Starring Veronika Slowikowska, Eman Ayaz, Siddharth, Logan Aultman, and Kevin Healey
CBC’s new streaming series, “Homeschooled,” is available on the CBC Gem platform. Created by homeschooling veterans Karen Knox and Gwenlyn Cumyn, the series takes a whimsical approach to a vision of modern schooling in Canada, both at home and in the public school system. More to the point, those are the settings for examining female friendship, precocious adolescence, and the coming-of-age tribulations of gifted 21st-century teens in the current day.
“Homeschooled” follows the talkative and “adorkable” Farzanah (Eman Ayaz) and her best friend, the intense perfectionist Greta (Veronika Slowikowska). The duo is working on a magnum opus: a revolutionary documentary that will enlighten the public on the primarily misunderstood topic of homeschooling. The documentary and their friendship dramatically turn when Greta discovers that Farzanah is leaving homeschooling to attend a “real high school” instead.
Farzanah’s interest in the documentary wanes as she becomes acquainted with the joys of cafeteria cheese fries and drama-club extracurriculars. Betrayed, Greta comes to terms with the fact that her best friend is now part of a world she doesn’t understand. As both heroines carve out identities through the endearing process of teenage art-making, they realize all relationships change, but the good ones endure.
At times it feels like a low-key Brechtian gender-swapped and Woke production of the underrated 90s TV sitcom “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose.”
The narrative, performances, pacing, and production all owe a heavy debt to talky teen comedy dramas such as “the Gilmore Girls,” “Clueless,” “Daria,” and even “Bob’s Burgers.” The series takes the form of short episodic vignettes (each episode coming in under fifteen minutes long) framed in the style of Wes Anderson films. The result production begins as if theater kids were staging a reading of a first draft pass.
The show combines the influences mentioned above, all hyper-verbal, self-aware monologues and dialogues performed with awkward fluency aimed at the cheap seats. Later episodes temper the performances and even out into a slyer, more nuanced style of production. At times it feels like a low-key Brechtian gender-swapped and Woke production of the underrated 90s Fox tv sitcom “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose.” (I mean this as praise).
The result is very much an acquired taste. Perfect for clever ‘tweens and awkward teens, meant primarily for theater kids at heart, whatever their age, “Homeschooled” is an intelligent and ambitious high school comedy for the post-pandemic 21st century. It heralds in a new generation of multiethnic Canadian talent. I am excited to see what the show’s creators and stars will do in the future.
“Homeschooled” is an intelligent and ambitious high school comedy for the post-pandemic 21st century.