Lather up for MVP

Jan 10th 2008

CBC shoots for hockey version of 'Footballers' Wives' and scores with off-the-ice soap opera

by Vinay Menon

Toronto Star

A cautionary note: the action does not take place on the ice.

So watching MVP (CBC, 9 tomorrow) for the hockey would be a bit like watching Law & Order for the musical theatre.

Consider the new drama's piquant slogan, "The Secret Lives of Hockey Wives." Or the title sequence in which a crosscut blur of hard bodies, male and female, are getting dressed: shoulder pads strapped to bulging torsos, bras snapped over breasts, skates laced to feet, garter belts clipped to thighs, low-rise jeans pulled over taut buttocks.

Get to know these bodies. Because these bodies - even when isolated and shown without corresponding heads - are everywhere.

MVP provides a melodramatic portal into a chamber of professional hockey most of us never broach: the glitzy parties, the puck bunnies, the sprawling estates, the backroom dealing in the front office, the drug problems, the locker room hierarchy and the primal sexual attraction between the players and the women who lust after them.

The Mustangs, the team at the centre of this salacious vortex, are fictional, though members of Leaf Nation may be forgiven for pointing a conspiratorial blue thumb at the striking similarities. (The Mustangs haven't made the playoffs in five years yet sell out every game? Wow, I'm surprised nobody on this team is named Nats Zundin.)

The show begins with the players driving their Porsche and Ferrari convertibles to the mansion of veteran captain Adam McBride. Inside, his wife Evelyn (Deborah Odell) is hosting a lavish soiree. Upstairs, his daughter Molly (Natalie Krill) is seducing a teammate.

Adam fusses alone in his bedroom, his face tinged with despair. The camera focuses on a mirror and the platinum Amex card he's using to cut lines of blow. (I'm guessing this wasn't a paid product placement.)

Moments later, as Evelyn and Molly stand in an upper stairwell, addressing their guests below - "Nobody is to go home hungry, sober or alone!" - Adam appears across from them, looking glassy-eyed as he nurses a cocktail.

Then just like that, he stumbles over the second-floor railing and plummets into the foyer, his motionless body framed by a red rug that's emblazoned with the team logo.

(If only the Mustangs were a team of trampoline experts Adam might still be alive!)

His sudden death serves as the narrative starting point. How will the players react? What will become of Evelyn and Molly? Will management find a way to profit from this tragedy?

Other significant characters include: Gabe McCall (Lucas Bryant), the team's new captain and borderline stalker of the virginal Connie Lewis (Kristin Booth). Trevor Lemonde (Dillon Casey) is the team's No. 1 draft pick, a sweet kid from Loon Lake who must adjust to life in the big city, far away from his girlfriend Tabbi (Anastasia Phillips).

Damon Trebuchet (Peter Miller) is the Mustangs' enforcer whose compulsive - and surreptitiously filmed - conquests of nubile women belie a painful secret. And Malcolm LeBlanc (Matthew Bennett) is the team's morally ambiguous chief executive.

Another element that warrants mention is the soundtrack. Any show that can slot Sloan, Claude Debussy, Norman Greenbaum, the Mohawk Lodge and Jets Overhead into one episode deserves season tickets to my heart.

With an inspirational nod to Footballers' Wives and a wink at Melrose Place, MVP is as soapy as a bucket at the car wash. It is a confection to be devoured by retinas, a book with only captions and pop-up pictures.

Put it this way: if your reasons to watch television include ripped abs, romantic tension, scandalous intrigue or steamy bedroom scenes, you won't be disappointed.


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