Friday, January 13, 2023

Doug and the Slugs and Me, on CBC

They had a number of top 40 hits in Canada, but Doug and the Slugs’ greatest exposure in America might have come when their song “Too Bad” was used as the opening theme of Norm Macdonald’s The Norm Show. (It was a Canadian connection.) Despite having the original video for “Too Bad” in heavy rotation on early, music video-playing MTV, they never really caught on down here, despite their label charging back the costs of several expensive attempts. However, Teresa Alfeld only thought of lead singer Doug Bennett as her best friend’s dad, while growing-up next door to the family. Alfeld chronicles the band’s ups and downs from a half-inside half-outside perspective in Doug and the Slugs and Me, which airs Sunday night on CBC.

Bennett didn’t exactly look like Mick Jagger, but he wrote catchy tunes. The Slugs became known for a brand of pop that combined upbeat melodies with sly humor. The Barenaked Ladies cite them as an inspiration, which totally follows. Regardless, to Alfeld, Bennett just seemed like another suburban dad, as indeed he was, even though he still toured pretty regularly while she and her friend were growing up.

A lot of the inter-band drama is not unlike so many other
Behind the Music stories. There were jealousies and creative control issues. Alfeld never mentions drugs, but she certainly documents Bennett’s problems with alcohol. Still, they managed to stay together nearly forty years, long outliving many of their contemporaries. Weirdly, Bennett also wrote a terrific Canadian country song, “House Without a Soul” that he ultimately had Suzanne Gitzi record, but, of course, that musical detour also ended awkwardly. However, Gitzi is quite gracious discussing Bennett.

In addition to her family, the Bennett family, and Gitzi, Alfeld interviews all the surviving Slugs at length. We also hear from Sir Bob Geldof, the Slugs’ former publicist, and Ed the Sock, the former sock puppet VJ, who certainly livens up the doc. It is sort of like having Triumph the Insult Comic Dog as a “talking hand.” Yet, it makes sense, given his connection to Canadian music video broadcaster MuchMusic.

Alfeld definitely becomes a big part of the film. That isn’t always the best strategy, but in this case her connection to the Bennett family really helps put Bennett in proper perspective. As a result, he emerges as a rock star on a human scale. Viewers can relate to him, because he was literally the guy living next door. Recommended for anyone with a taste for 1980s and 1990s pop,
Doug and the Slugs and Me premieres Sunday (1/15) on CBC and CBC Gem.