Toronto's Barbelle Series Premiere: A Recap

Credit: Valentine Smith

Credit: Valentine Smith

Season one of new web series Barbelle premiered in Toronto on July 23rd and I'm already in withdrawal (catch the trailer here!).

This show is good. Really good.

Co-leads Gwenlyn Cumyn and Karen Knox (who also served as writers and producers) have fantastic chemistry. They take viewers on a roller coaster ride of queerness as bandmates Alice (Cumyn) and Veronica (Knox) surprise themselves by becoming girlfriends just as their careers are taking off, only to break up before they're set to record their sophomore album as Canadian pop duo Barbelle. Their record label explicitly requires them to do public appearances as a couple, but without $15 million to buy out their contract our heroines are stuck in the most expensive fake relationship AU of all time.

Credit: YouTube

Credit: YouTube

Credit: YouTube

Credit: YouTube

Each episode opens with an absurdly catchy intro that I would never willingly skip even if I wasn't watching all ten of them back-to-back in a theater in downtown Toronto. Director Kelly Paoli easily weaves the ice cream and pop tart motif of the intro (from graphic designer Anna Cumyn) throughout the series — both wardrobe and set design are the epitome of 90's nostalgia done right. If you're one of the series' 200+ Indiegogo campaign backers, you know that the leads have the musical talent to anchor a project like this. Thankfully, the episodes have very specific credits so you aren't left wondering which damn song is stuck in your head (and I promise you they will get stuck).

Recurring stars Kiana Madeira, Naomi Gaskin, and Cynthia Hicks round out a fantastically female-heavy cast (not to mention a guest appearance by everyone's favorite lesbian vampire), and the series isn't shy about its Canadian roots. Mentions of Toronto neighborhoods and hangouts, deliciously familiar to local viewers, are sprinkled throughout the season, so keep an ear out for those as well as name-drops of some very recognizable Canadian talents.

The matinee screening eventually transitioned into an evening after party where Cumyn and Knox extended thanks to essentially "everybody in [our] phone contacts list" for helping get the season made. And with a creative team like this — not to mention a promise to never kill off any gay characters — I'm betting it's the first of many.

Credit: Valentine Smith

Credit: Valentine Smith

You can catch the series in two weeks on BellFibe TV's Video on Demand service and on YouTube in September.

Written by Nicole Duguay
Original art by Valentine Smith