Friday, January 4, 2013

Republic Of Doyle Is Finally Back

I seemed to spend last fall fielding questions from readers of this column about the sad and sorry state of Canadian TV.
"I just don't see much Canadian TV on Canadian TV," wailed one elderly lady behind me in the grocery line.
And she was right: Global had zero scripted Canadian series and CTV had but one --the series finale of Flashpoint.
But be of good cheer for 2013. Help is on the way.
First up there was the return of the very fine all Canadian series Bomb Girls starring Meg Tilly --on Global.
And CBC retorts with a bevy of watchable Canadian hour dramas starting Sunday night at 9 with the fourth season premiere of Republic Of Doyle.
Let's see how this good hearted Newfoundlander show fares smack dab against PBS's heavily hyped return of Masterpiece Theater's Downton Abbey.
For years CBC had this thing of trying to jump start a show from Newfoundland --all justified because of its national mandate.
Sometimes the results were painful --I'm thinking back to Hatching, Matching And Dispatching.
But Republic Of Doyle is never less than watchable.
Allan Hawco is very winnable as private eye Jake Doyle and the plots exploit the eccentricities of living on the rock.
I had a chance to chat up Hawco at last fall's CBC launch and he's very personable as well as multi-talented --he co-created the show and was then involved heavily in writing this season's episodes.
In content the show sports the same insidious humor evident in Due South and such U.S. shows as Simon And Simon and Harry-O. Meaning it doesn't take the sometimes convoluted plots seriously at all.
And while Hawco is winning he often yields the spotlight to his equally personable co-stars including Sean McGinley (Malachy Doyle), Mark O'Brien (Des Courtney), Lynda Boyd (Rose Miller).
The accents are all there and completely unfaked and the writing plays up the geniality of these folk without turning them into obnoxious caricatures.
The pacing is right on and never was St. John's presented as beautifully starting with the rolling introductory shots of those colorfully painted row houses and winding streets.
Last season there even was the guest appearance in the first  new episode of Robin Hood's Russell Crowe, Kevin Durand and Scott Grimes.
There's just no way Hawco can come up with another lively threesome like these guys.
Hawco was telling me he'd had this idea along with writing partner Perry Chafe for more than a decade and the model was always a kind of Rockford Files set in St. John's.
Hawko says he wrote Jake to show his great confidence --"it's something that I really lack which is why it's such a joy to play him."
In the first new episode Sgt. Leslie Bennett (Krystin Pellerin) goes missing from headquarters--she gone undercover and Jake must try to find her.
Also Tinny Doyle (Marhe Bernard) enrolls in the RNC cadet program --she's still coming to grips with the knowledge Kevin Crocker (Paul Gross) is her father.
And there's a new face in Officer Monica Hayward (Patricia Isaac)--other new faces include Angus Macfayden, Erin Karpluk and Robert Joy as guests.
And if the first new episode (titled From Dublin With Love) plays so effortlessly remember the director is respected veteran Stefan Scaini.
MY RATING: ***1/2.


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