THE YARDEpisode 1
With gritty cinematography, foul language and turf warfare, you’d be forgiven for thinking that HBO Canada’s new series takes place in a maximum-security institution. But instead of weights and orange jumpsuits, this yard is marked by swing sets and juice boxes. Most importantly, Nick, the gang leader, is 12, and his voice sounds more like Miley Cyrus than Bruce Willis.
Played by Quintin Colantoni, spawn of Flashpoint’s Enrico, Nick is a shaggy-haired mini Mafioso who kind of looks like a troll doll and speaks with the same brusque Brooklyn accent as his real-life father. His posse includes Johnny, a sidekick who carries a magic wand and likes holding girls’ hands, and Suzi, the brawn of the operation, a gangly tough chick who wears cat-themed T-shirts and wets the bed (“My mom gives me a buck for every time I don’t piss in the bed. Last month I made, like, 12 bucks”), a fact she’s blackmailed with in episode 1. Nick’s two brothers round out the gang: J.J. is a painfully earnest math whiz who became a vegetarian after reading E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, and Adam is a first-grader who just wants to play. “That’s all most kids want to do,” says Nick wistfully. “Just play and eat snacks.” Isn’t that what we all want?
This hilarious new mockumentary tracks the dirty dealings of the yard, as Nick and his crew struggle to keep its complex system afloat, ruling with a firm utilitarian hand. “Sometimes you gotta give one kid a wedgie to save 20 kids from getting wedgies,” he postulates. Words of wisdom, kid. Jeremy Bentham would be proud.
After the jump, we break down the playground politics as Nick and his gang struggle to maintain order in an uncertain world.
The Set-Up: After a long run as leaders of the lunch racket (also known as stealing kids’ lunches), rival gang leader Frankie and his temporary-tattooed heavies—named Porkchop and Mickey, natch—have their eyes on Nick’s turf.
The Scheme: If trading cards are the cigarettes of this delicate microcosm, Jujimon cards are the Marlboros. Kids trade them for money, food, haircuts and even future assets (for example, five Jujimon cards for a “porno mag,” two for fries, one for Jell-o). Frankie stirs the pot by introducing a new economy card to the yard at astronomical prices ($5): Ho Ping Kong, Korean import cards endorsed by celebrity tastemaker Mona Arizona. “It could mean the collapse of our entire financial system,” predicts J.J.
The Upshot: In a flash of brilliance, Nick purchases Ho Ping Kong in bulk from a nearby Korean supplier at 50 cents per pack, then reintroduces the cards into the market to be traded at par with Jujimon, bringing the economy back into a healthy equilibrium. Man, we weren’t that smart when we were kids. Hell, we’re not that smart now.
Most Valuable Player: Episode 1’s king of the playground is Jujimon master and world-class dork Alistair, who proves a basic tenet of the yard: by working hard (or, you know, trading a lot of cards), anyone can be cool. (He also performs a killer rap, rhyming “nerd” with “turd.”)