Normally it’s a cliché to start a review with a quote from The Bard, but with Slings and Arrows it’s practically required. Despite the contemporary setting, Shakespeare is essentially a main character. Not a scene goes by without a mention of, an allusion to, or a quotation from the playwright himself. This is television’s ode to Shakespeare, and a beautiful one at that. The best part about the show however, is that you don’t need to have read a word of his works to enjoy the series. While it’s true that familiarity with his plays is rewarded throughout the series, the fundamental core of the show can be appreciated by anybody.
The show depicts a Canadian Shakespeare troupe struggling to keep their personal drama from affecting their stage drama. It does this without ever verging into melodramatic territory, and this is where the success of the series lies: in its effortless ability to highlight the subtle theatricality of life, and the profound and human experiences the theater provides. This is also a show about people stuck inside a profession that they love, even while it consumes them whole. Their biggest accomplishments in life are just a collection of fleeting moments that are over before they even begin . . . much like life itself. Also like life itself, the show is filled with plenty of humor, and rivals even some of the best comedies at times.
The talent is excellent across the board, but the show’s leading man is the real gem of the series. Paul Gross stars as Geoffrey Talent, a somewhat mentally unstable washed-up theater actor who hesitantly returns to his old theater troupe. Outside of the protagonist however, Slings and Arrows knows that “there are no small parts,” because every character gets their moment to shine within a given episode, and just about all of them receive a satisfying ending by the time the show ends. With only three short seasons (six episodes each), it’s hardly time-consuming, and is more rewarding than most network dramas that lasted over 100 episodes.