Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Another Homegrown Cop Show

It's hard to believe but at one time the very notion of a homegrown police series seemed , well, unCanadian.
Security issues was an American thing due to the open gun policy in the U.S.
But wasn't Canada supposed to be a mosaic and not a melting pot where guns were regulated?
Way, way back CBC had a cop show starring Jonathan Welsh and Donnelly Rhodes titled Sidestreet and it barely lasted three seasons (1975-78).
I guess CBC's Wojeck (1966-68) all about a Canadian coroner played by John Vernon was partly a police show and later there was CBC's DaVinci's Inquest made along the same lines.
And let's not forget Global's Blue Murder with Jeremy Ratchford who jumped to CBS's Cold Squad.
But recently Canadian cop shows seem all over the place. Is this creeping Americanization or what?
CTV has Flashpoint up and running. The Movie Network has The Line. Global (and ABC) will soon debut Copper.
And now comes a second CTV police procedural The Bridge.
First the title: it's a reference to the police precinct which supposedly is near the Bloor St. viaduct.
Only the viaduct is never actually named. Neither is Toronto. But it's clear from the skyline where the series located. Streetcars buzz by. People gather in Queen St. eateries.
The opening is a boldly structured two hour feast of action and human drama that gripped me for more than its first hour.
Then things began dragging along as the story had to be explained and there were too many pat coincidences. But subsequent episodes will be an hour.
Starring is Aaron Douglas(Battlestar Galactica) who has the burly build to competently play a tough but compassionate streetbeat cop. Starring as the police union head Frank Leo, Douglas is hardly a conventional lead. He has the bulk to beat up any bully. Plus he's devoted to his old man, how can he not be a likeable antihero?
His partner , Tommy Dunne, is played by Paul Popowich who has grown up since I interviewed him on the set of TV's Nancy Drew.
Other Canadian names in the sprawling cast include Frank Cassini as Bernie Kantor, Frank's mentor, Inga Cadranel as comely Jill, a detective, Theresa Joy as police constable Billy and Pna Grauer as prosecutor Abby St. James.
Michael Murphy is the gnarled chief of police Ed Wycoff and here's a surprise-- Emmy winner (Rockford Files) Stuart Margolin is Frank's father Vic --it's the same sort of father figure that Ken Howard played so winningly on Crossing Jordan.
The first episode was excitingly shot on Toronto streets by director John Fawcett (Whistler) and cinematographer Thom Best (Queer As Folk). Even the exterior of the police precinct seemed jarringly real and not a TV set.
And if the dialogue rings true that comes from veteran executive producer/writer Alan Di Fiore (DaVinci's Inquest).
One minor cavill: the effort to mask the Canadian origin which is probably due to a desire to sell the series to a U.S. network.
So many locations are used in the first two hours one wonders what parts of the city are left for future episodes? Toronto standing in for Toronto --there's a novel concept in itself.
This one will succeed if you can get into Frank Leo's mindset and understand where he's coming from, his blue collar rage. And if you understand him then you'll be eagerly waiting for his next heart-to-heart with his aged father.
The Bridge could become CTV's bridge to strong Friday night ratings over its 12 week run.
MY RATING: ***1/2.

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