Watching the Detectives - Due South

In a series of articles, Susan Omand and Steve Taylor-Bryant are going to remember the policemen, spies and criminal specialists that entertained them over the years. Today Steve looks back at Due South....

I've never visited either the United States of America or Canada but I do have the pleasure of friends from both nations. My friends are all polite, lovely people, except Nate who is so feisty and honest I consider him part of my English family, and so, whilst I'm aware of the much used trope of Canadian people being ultra nice compared to their American cousins, I've not seen it myself. However it is quite a common element to stories that involve both countries and sometimes the humour of it gets a bit lost in translation over here, which is daft considering we all speak a version of the same language. We are as guilty of stereotype comedy, mind you. We often play the Irish up as alcoholic thickos and they liken us to grumpy buggers (neither uses the Scots in humour shows due to them being deep fried, vindictive, shouty folk.) When the characteristics are done well though, when everyone from writer to cast buy into it, when it's there to drive another narrative and not just to be madly xenophobic, it can be a joy to behold and in the mid 1990's creator Paul Haggis (Casino Royale/Quantum of Solace) unleashed Due South upon the world.

On the surface of it Due South could have been just another buddy cop show. Reluctant detective teams with outsider blah blah blah but, with Due South, there was genuine emotion threaded through each individual episode and the whole series. Paul Gross as Constable Benton Fraser was a joy to watch as the often naive and humourless Canadian. He was the butt of the joke on many an occasion but rarely succumbed to anger, choosing instead to rise above it all which, when you consider he was hunting the murderer of his father, was no mean feat and maybe a life lesson to us all about not letting the archaic bullies win. His journey from the wilds of snowy Canada into big city Chicago saw Fraser get to know his father better through his journals and visions of his father's ghost, played by the wonderful Gordon Pinsent. Fraser was the typical outsider, mocked by his own constabulary, posted to a city far from his home, different to the Americans he would meet and his penchant for tasting anything and everything would disgust many, yet become a wonderful tool in crime solving. The relationship with Ray Vecchio, the hard nosed Chicago detective portrayed by David Marciano, was a strained one at first but, as the show went on, you bought into this genuine friendship they had, you laughed with them not at them, you mourned their losses and celebrated their wins and, when the show came back with Vecchio written out and someone else pretending to be him, I'm sad to say you missed the chemistry the two guys had and I wasn't surprised to see the show come to an end shortly afterwards. The power in that series was the Fraser/Vecchio relationship and, when that was taken away, no writing in the world would make Due South any more than a generic cop show which was a shame as the first two series were something special, a televisual delight we haven't really seen since.

Friendship, love and loss, crime fighting, a big dog, licking garbage, stereotyping that actually works, what more do you want in a Saturday evening watch?

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