Just when you need it, along comes Jonny Harris, trekking through another struggling small Canadian town, introducing you to the people who continue to live there despite the rough patches, and offering all of us, along the way, a huge dose of courage and hope.
Hubby and I are great fans of the CBC series Still Standing. The series showcases its always engaging host, Jonny Harris, (whom you may know also as “Crabtree” on the ever popular Murdoch Mysteries series) against the backdrop of towns all across Canada, some with only a handful of residents, that are but a glimmer of the thriving communities they used to be. But, oh, how bright that glimmer is!
Those hamlets are not unlike many of our here in the US, towns that thrived as their factories and mines did, paving the way for several generations to go to college, seek their own American dreams, and, ultimately, move away… even as the factories were underpriced by competition elsewhere, their products became obsolete, or the market for their natural resources dried up. There’s been no going back.
Harris seeks out these little enclaves of silent main streets and vacant buildings and ferrets out the small town heroes intent on restoring at least some of their vibrance. He does this with such natural warmth and curiosity, such laugh-out-loud good humor, that you quickly find yourself right there with him, cheering on the moms trying to keep their schools, the intrepid folks working to revive commerce on Main Street. Harris is a Newfoundlander, and his intro to each show indicates that he knows what it’s like to live in a struggling town. The people he interviews and interacts with can obviously sense that personal experience. Watching Still Standing is like being there on the street with him, as he searches out tidbits of local history and their hopes for the future. He’s as friendly and likable as the kid who grew up next door. We love seeing him sit in on a jam session (Canadians are musical!), take to the hockey rink, or join in the fun at a simple community potluck. And, of course, he can inspire a hearty laugh at every turn, round every corner.
Last night, in a desperate bid to lighten the psychological load, I turned on the Fort McMurray episode of Still Standing. I remembered that I’d really liked it but couldn’t recall exactly why.
Fort McMurray, Alberta, was the exception to the show’s mission to highlight only small towns and villages. About a year before this episode was shot, there’d been a horrible wildfire in Fort McMurray, resulting in a mass evacuation and many, many displaced residents. I watched the people talking about the horrifying experience of fleeing the fires of hell (as they were aptly described), of leaving homes and possessions—and jobs—behind… about the fact that their sense of time and history had now become “before the fire” or “after the fire.”
As I said, I don’t know why I randomly picked that episode, but I’m so glad I did… because it was another one of those “Aha!” moments. Another way of putting that is ” just what the doctor ordered”. Or, just perhaps, it was my guardian angel leading the way. Because a year after that horrible fire, despite their struggles with the nightmarish task of rebuilding, there were the people of Fort McMurray, talking about lining up at Tim Horton’s for coffee, looking forward to feeling safe and settled again, and laughing about it all with Jonny Harris. Many things in nature, in humanity, are astounding. Resilience—the ability to recover and rebound—may be the most astounding of all.
We’ve gone through all four available seasons of Still Standing, via Amazon Prime, multiple times. It’s the perfect thing to settle down with when you haven’t got much in the tank and can’t stand the thought of 24/7 bad news. Or if you’re just in the mood to learn more about our wonderful neighbors to the north. Since we can’t access the CBC here, I’m hoping we’ll be able to see the fifth season on Prime soon.
#StillStandingTV, #JonnyHarris, #FortMacToday
Jonny Harris photo courtesy of CBC Media Centre, for media use only.