It’s good news this week for fans of the Canadian Mountie who always got his man (and more than a few women) in the mid-1990s: Paul Gross, aka Benton Fraser, is back on the BBC in a repeat run of the comedy-drama, Due South.
Due South followed the exploits of Fraser as he left the far north of Canada on the trail of his father’s killer and headed to the mean streets of Chicago. On his arrival, Fraser finds himself unwittingly teamed up with a fast-talking cop, Ray Vecchio (David Marciano), the pair searching Chicago’s seamier side to uncover the truth.
Created by Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis (Crash), Due South was an instant hit in the UK when it first aired here in 1995. The mixture of clever scripts, witty dialogue and genuinely heartfelt moments as Fraser discovered a new connection with his dead dad (Gordon Pinsent) and attempted to understand life in the big city, made it unmissable telly.
Sadly, audiences in the US, where series need to do well if they’re going to survive, never quite got Due South: producers noted that for many people it wasn’t gritty enough to be a “proper” cop show and not overtly funny enough to be a comedy, falling somewhere between the two. The fact was that Due South wasn’t really either, a bizarre mash-up of genres which somehow just worked.
Viewer and TV Network confusion led to numerous cancellations and revivals for the programme over the years, which led to the departure of Marciano between seasons two and three and the arrival of Callum Keith Rennie as Stanley Kowalski, the ersatz Vecchio. For me, the series became a shadow of its former self around this time, the humour levels taken to ludicrous heights and the drama lost in the mix. To this day I still haven’t watched many of the episodes such is the stark difference between these and the glory days of Hawk and a Handsaw and Victoria’s Secret.
I still maintain that this first season is one of the strongest of any series I’ve seen, the actors, writers, directors and entire team pulling together to make TV gold. There’s barely a dud in this run, even the weaker scripts benefitting from the pairing of Gross and Marciano, the latter’s constant disgust at his friend’s behaviour always a delight.
Interestingly, Due South began trending over on Twitter this afternoon, as the nation began realising that the programme was back. I can’t help but wonder if the BBC are missing a trick by not scheduling it later in the evening, but for the moment you can find it on BBC 2 for the next month or so, or you can bookmark the BBC iPlayer page to see what I’m going on about.
I’ll also be mentioning Due South on Twitter in the coming weeks, so please come and say hello.
Finally, for the hardcore fans out there, I’ll mention that a Due South convention, Duesers Day Off, recently took place in Toronto. The organisers have just made available a DVD of the event, featuring Paul Gross and various other actors/production team members, which can be bought from the website.
Thank you kindly.
Image copyright BBC