The Yard is a Canadian mockumentary comedic series that originally aired on HBO Canada in 2011. The show is set in a school yard, and the series depicts the interactions of two rival gangs of elementary school students. The plot of each episode winds up serving as a parody of a cross between an adult-oriented crime drama (think The Sopranos or The Wire) and a reality TV show (Big Brother, Jersey Shore). Here in the U.S. it is available for online streaming exclusively on Hulu in both “censored” and “uncensored” versions as well as in digital download format at the iTunes Store.
The six-part half-hour episodes stars a bunch of kids and takes a very interesting and thoroughly entertaining approach to prison drama mentality by bringing the mean streets of the “real” world to the schoolyard with a bunch of pint-sized thugs running the show. The show revolves around a pair of rival schoolyard gangs that struggle for supremacy on their local playground. As with many of these “reality” shows, their actions are being recorded by an unseen Documentarian, (voiced by Paul Gross — who also serves as one of the show’s executive producers), who provides both a “behind-the-scenes” footage as well as interviews with the kids that are inter-cut with the main drama.
The main players include Nick (Quintin Colantoni), the 11-year-old Capo of the Yard, who is the leader of the crew that runs the Yard. Johnny (Shemar Charles), who is Nick’s oldest friend, going all the way back to Kindergarten. J.J. (Alex Cardillo) and Adam (Devan Cohen) are Nick’s brothers. J.J. is the second smartest kid in school and the brains of Nick’s outfit, while Adam just wants to play. Then there is the opposition, run by Frankie Miladic (Daniel Lupetina), who while he is Nick’s opposite number, just doesn’t quite have the juice to take over the complexities of running the Yard. Of course there are also the molls, including Suzi (Keana Bastidas), who is the toughest kid in the yard and Nick’s enforcer, because — being a girl — she can hit both boys (without fear of retribution) and girls (in one episode she even punches out the interviewer off camera), and Mary (Sarah Cranmer) who is not only Frankie’s sister, but is sweet on Nick (although she and Nick try to hid that from the others).
Nick is a quintessentially cool and a hard-nosed realist; who is also an astute reader of human nature. Even as a kid, his is clearly wise beyond his years, and is fiercely loyal and exceedingly fair to his lieutenants. Above all, he is very self-assured and possesses an easy charm that allows him to rule the Yard and keep the peace. Comedicly (and perhaps unfortunately) his lieutenants aren’t quite a suave as him. Take Johnny, for instance, this lad believes himself to have magical powers, however his tricks (especially his “invisibility”) only work some of the time. Still, he’s trying to become a great magician, but he is also something of a perv, sniffing girls’ hair, spying on them in the bathroom, and is hoping for a girlfriend to become his assistant.
Suzi’s one flaw is that she is a bed wetter and is given a dollar by her parents for every night she doesn’t wet the bed (one month she made $12). She also hates Mary because after a sleep-over where she peed in Mary’s sleeping bag, Mary told others about Suzi’s bed wetting.
Each episode presents a new problem that cause Nick and Johnny to face off against each other as each strives for control of the Yard. In one there is the issue of some North African students who want to play soccer, but Johnny’s crew won’t let them (resulting in a funny bit where they are denied use of “this” water fountain and have to you use another). In another episode the kids are smuggling in Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches (which are banned because of peanut allergies). While yet another dealt with a new trading card game in the yard. In yet another episode one of the boys is kicked in the groin by a girl and Johnny comments that the boyu was “Kicked in the Yarbles” indicating a knowledge of Anthony Burgess by, if not the lad, by the show’s writers at least).
Yes, this is a very entertaining show, and we hope that it will get picked up for more episodes (if it hasn’t been off the air too long already as these kids will simply grow out of the grade school environment).
Robert J. Sodaro has been writing professionally for some 30+ years. He came of age not only watching TV, but reading comicbooks and going to the movies. Subscribe to receive regular articles and reviews about TV programs.