Monday, December 31, 2012

David Sutcliffe Returns To Canadian TV

I thoroughly enjoyed that afternoon in 2005 I spent on the set of the TV flick Murder In The Hamptons interviewing Canadian actor David Sutcliffe.
It was a sunny, summer day with Oakville unsteadily subbing for Long Island and the location was a $10 million mansion situated snugly up to Lake Ontario.
Sutcliffe was then a rising TV name. And he's still rising.
After studying English at University of Toronto he jumped into acting starting with small parts in such Toronto series as Forever Knight and Nancy Drew.
I remember his first U.S. TV series was Cold Feet in 1999 --TV critics loved it but a bum time slot (Saturdays at 8) was its ruin.
But Sutcliffe is better remembered as wayward dad Christopher Hayden on the long running Gimore Girls (2001-07).
A bigger break came with the amiable sitcom I'm With Her (2003-04) loosely based on the real life romance of creator Chris Henchy and Brooke Shields but it petered out after a season.
And after I spoke to him he had a terrific season on Private Practice (2007-08) as the blue collar boyfriend of star  Kate Walsh.
When we chatted Sutcliffe was adamant about maintaining his L.A. roots --he didn't want to lose career momentum in a Canadian series.
But in seven short years the TV universe has changed --Canadian made shows like Flashpoint and Rookie Blue are getting on the U.S. webs and enjoying some measure of popularity.
So when I talked again to Sutcliffe on the phone he was philosophical about his return to Toronto to star in the new series Cracked.
The first hourlong episode premieres on CBC-TV Tuesday January 8 at 9 p.m.
Snagging Sutcliffe is a big plus for the 13-part series guaranteeing it will eventually sell to a U.S. network.
And Sutcliffe is excellently cast as a cop on the edge most of the time. The creator is writer Tracey Forbes (Flashpoint) plus Toronto Emergency Task Force veteran Callum de Hartog.
Veteran Peter Raymont (The Border) and Karen LeBlanc are the respected executive producers for White Pine Productions.
"It wasn't the kind of role I'd ever done," Sutcliffe is saying over the phone this time. "It really is a 10 p.m. show, very edgy and challenging. We shot the pilot and then went back months later to spend four days of reshoots."
Sutcliffe  as Detective Aidan Black is  effectively co-starred with Stefanie von Pfetten (NCIS) as Psychiatrist Dr. Daniella Ridley.
"Definitely, an odd teaming," Sutcliffe says. "They have to learn to trust each other. He's instinctual, she is scientific. When they find out how to cooperate they'll make a great team."
Co-starring are Luisa d'Oliveira as Detective Poppy Wisnefski, Dayo Ade as psychiatric nurse Leo Beckett, andKaren LeBlanc as Inspector Diane Caligra.
Cracked is the second White Pine series to hit CBC --the first, The Border, ran for three season and was sold to 21 countries.
Cracked is unremittingly Canadian from its all Canadian cast to the extensive use of Toronto locations which thankfully are not disguised. One positive is the seamless photography of  Norayr Kasper which shows off Toronto neighbourhoods far from the downtown core.
The show worked for me although the pilot sported the usual bumps in plotting. Sutcliffe seems right into his character, a troubled Toronto cop who has killed two people in the line of fire and is suffering from mental anguish. It's interesting watching him and von Pfetten sort each other out as a new team and presumably over the 13 weeks they'll bond because the characters truly need each other.
Do we need another procedual. No we don't but Cracked uses the procedural motif to get deeper into characterizations than other cop shows. The focus is on psychotic crimes which could get scary if not properly handled.
And the idea to be resolutely a Toronto show and not set in some pretend part of the U.S. (like Night Heat and many successors) is a huge plus.
And I know I'm intrigued enough to want to see more.
MY RATING: ***1/2.

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