Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Flashpoint: The End Is Near

"Sure, it was tough that last day on set," says Sergio Di Zio who stars as explosives expert Mike "Spike" Scarlatti on CTV's Flashpoint which starts its fifth and positively final season Thursday night at 10 on CTV.
"The decision to end after five seasons was mostly the producers but the actors had a say, too. We wanted to end on a high note without repeating what we'd already accomplished. We could have made a lot of money by agreeing to a sixth which is what CTV wanted.
"But why not go out winners?"
The well made police procedural will have wracked up 75 episodes before it closes --a feat accomplished by only a few scripted Canadian dramas over the decades.
Part of the success was the early buy to CBS which initially carried the show when it debuted on July 11, 2008. And having CTV back it all the way was also completely important.
Past CTV regimes tended to disregard its Canadian content shows --I remember how ill treated the fine Vancouver made series Neon Rider was --CTV kept giving it bad time slots, eventually killing it off so that creator/star Winston Reykert was forced to syndicate new episodes on a station to station basis.
And I remember when decades ago I asked CTV President Murray Chercover why he never had a fall TV launch he said "Our big Canadian series is Littlest Hobo. How can I promote that?"
But Flashpoint got the big CTV push from the star.
Not that Flashpoint was the first CTV series to hit CBS.
That honor goes to Night Heat  (1985-91) which ran on CTV plus late nights on CBS. Later on CTV's Due South had a prime time CBS run.
The problem with CTV shows also running on CBS? The American network dictated the time period so CTV could simulcast the series.
When CBS eventually dropped the series that might have meant Flashpoint's demise but CTV decided to continue production and these days the series runs in the U.S. on ion television cable network.
And Flashpoint certainly is going out with a big bang bang.
Thursday's first new episode Broken Peace (well directed by Kelly Makin) is an excellent vehicle for all major cast members including Hugh Dillon, Enrico Colantoni, Amy Jo Johnson and David Paetkau --it concerns an estranged husband going after his wife by stalking her through the corridors of the Royal York hotel.
"We pinpointed Toronto from the first,"Di Zio is telling me on the line from his temporary base in Los Angeles. "You could see the city every week, the Canadian flag, the streetcars. We never disguised the origins."
Having an L.A. writers strike in full swing in 2008 when Flashpoint was green lighted certainly helped. "But we wanted to show good cops, cops at their best rather than bad cops which had become fashionable on TV."
Di Zio jokes he was very cooperative the first year of shooting. "I even let them set me on fire for one scene. I remember the smell of the lighter fuel being poured on my back and wondering why I had agreed. It was all well executed by the stunts team but I'm not sure I'd do that ever again."
In Flashpoint the cast are in perpetual motion and Di Zio says he's certainly in his best ever shape after five seasons."You have to be or you'll be left behind." But where will he now go to get his daily exercise?
Strangest moment for Di Zio has to be the appearance he made on CTV's The Listener --as  Flashpoint character Mike. It was back to those days when Angela Lansbury wound up on Magnum  or Marcus Welby and Owen Marshall traded guest bits.
"Mike needed stitches so he went in. " Di Zio said he felt like the Fonz on Mork and Mindy.
Of course I'd noticed Di Zio both on TV and on the stage for years. But I agree with him that his Flashpoint exposure "moves a career forward." That's why he was phoning from L.A. where he's currently taking time to meet the top casting directors.
"They're fully aware of the series  and how well it is made."
But Di Zio (who just turned 39)  won't be lingering in L.A. He has to return to Toronto at year's end for a new play, Hannah Moscovitch's This Is War slated to begin previews at the Tarragon Theater in December.
MY RATING: ***1/2.

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