The risqué genre tagged the "dirtbag comedy" sitcom has typically been set in regrettable American venues: the trailer-trashiest hangouts of Southern California (MY NAME IS EARL), say, or a piece of suburbia unaccountably relocated to Colorado's Western Slope (SOUTH PARK), or the parts of Philadelphia's South Side from which tourists are vigorously warned away (IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA). But that changed in 2010, when one of the rudest, most scabrous, profane, -- and funny -- of the dirtbag lot started production in Canada. The lead character? Not an economic also-ran but the self-described "best used-car salesman this side of Detroit" and his more-than-dysfunctional family. Played by Jason Priestley, who heretofore offered us one of TV-land's most virtuous characters on Fox's long-running BEVERLY HILLS 90210, Richard Fitzpatrick is a strutting, arrogant, sharp-suited, moderately intelligent but almost unconsciously seductive playboy who casts himself in the Frank Sinatra mold, Rat Pack "Ring-a-Ding-Ding" and all. His career gives him ample access to vintage GTOs and Eldo's, as well as the more generic cheapsters he is forever pushing at "thousands over book" with business ethics that would make Bernie Madoff blush.
CALL ME FITZ opens when Fitz and a more-than-willing female customer are out for a test-drive in one of his swank convertibles. Fitz swerves to avoid a rabbit and the car crashes, leaving his intended customer dying but Fitz barely bruised. In the immediate aftermath, a tall, awkward man appears at the crash site: he introduces himself as "Larry" (Ernie Grunwald) and explains that he is Fitz's conscience who has been liberated by the crash and is out to save Fitz's soul. Since Larry is heir to Fitz's knowledge and experience, he raids Fitz's secret stash of cash, buys into the family car lot, and pesters Fitz at every opportunity to be less cynical, avaricious, suspicious, and libidinous, reforms which Fitz isn't the least interested in having, especially since they interfere with his plans to build a Rat Pack-retro bar called "The Summer Wind" on the edge of town. The Fitz - Larry struggle becomes the motivation for the series, something like the apology list for the title character in MY NAME IS EARL. In the first year we are introduced to Fitz's equally dysfunctional family, which include a profane patriarch, a sniveling divorcee of a sister and a gleefully malicious mommy played by Joanna Cassidy, the "snake lady" in the movie BLADE RUNNER, who was so delightful in a one-off in this first year that she became a regular in later seasons. In this tortured family dynamic, the show's writers and producers more than achieved their goal of creating some sympathy for the preening Fitz, the boy who can't and certainly never wants, to say no.
If you are repelled by vulgar language, kindly stay away from CALL ME FITZ. Insults and profanity are to this series what a cleverly turned phrase was to Restoration comedy. Most of the name-calling I can't repeat here; a couple of the less dirty ones in the series are "buttmunch" aimed at anyone who gets in the way, usually Larry, and "tard card" to indicate a handicap parking permit. The satire in CALL ME FITZ is free-ranging and generally vicious: like SOUTH PARK it often swings at vacuous liberals but the targets also include snobs, media mavens, the unctuous and avaricious Pakistanis who own the competing used-car dealership across the road, and (especially in this first year) the tortured family dynamic.
If you like this kind of thing, as I do, you are apt to find CALL ME FITZ very funny. Each DVD set contains a year's worth of episodes, generally 13, and some supplemental material at the end. The price is right, enabling CALL ME FITZ to be enjoyed not only in Canada and on the USA's DirecTV, but by anyone who wants to take a chance on the series and has a DVD player.
FASCINATING FACTOID: Most of CALL ME FITZ, exteriors and interiors both, is filmed along the commercial strip of little (5,100 pop.) New Minas, Nova Scotia.