100 Greatest Television Series

99: Due South

Posted in 1990s,Dramas,Greatest TV Series by Kirsten on July 24, 2009
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Canadians like myself love to mock our television industry. It’s easy- the top rated Canadian program of all time is Hockey Night In Canada. Our homegrown industry has not been without it’s successes, but the failures are spectacular. There was 20 years between truly successful sitcoms in Canada.

We do, however, do hour long drama better ( think- Flashpoint,  the multiple  Da Vinci series, the multiple Degrassi shows, which are truly half hour dramas and not sitcoms, Street Legal),  and occasionally, we hit one out of the park. Due South is the one we hit out.

It’s a TV show that is very Canadian- the references alone are hilarious ( Forbisher, Fraser, Diefenbaker, the Jay Semko music, Dawn Charest, Mackenzie King, hockey, Esther Pearson, Red Green did a guest spot, ” Northwest Passage”, the veritable who’s who of Canadian actors in the four seasons) . I always have an amusing time watching episodes with non- Canadians and having them stare at me blankly while I’m laughing my ass off.  But tone and inside jokes aside, it’s not like the show is wildly groundbreaking in theme. It’s a cop show ( granted, one with a lot of humor and even some supernatural influences, and one mighty red serge). The crime of the week was always a bit over the top ridiculous, and then there is the suspension of belief you needed to think that Chicago PD would let a Mountie help them.

The true highlight in the series was the characters. Start with the headliner, Paul Gross’ charmingly straight arrow, by the book Benton Fraser. He would stand outside the consulate like a Beefeater, stone faced and dutiful, while people would have complete conversations with him. He was law abiding to a fault ( he would never shoot a gun, as he had no permit to do so… in the US, but cross the border on the Great Lakes, all bets are off, man). His trusting nature got him into many a sticky situation. Then there was the dirt tasting… among other things. He was a good cop who was also completely uncynical, a rarity on a cop show. Match him up with Ray Vecchio ( played by David Marciano), the more typical TV cop, and you got yourself a sweet buddy-cop pairing. Oh, and then the fabulous Diefenbaker, the deaf half wolf who can read lips. Genius right there.

Due South had been picked up by CBS to air in the States and the first season did air there. But they cancelled it due to low ratings. The show continued on for three more seasons in Canada, where it remains one of the top rated homegrown shows of all time. It left the air in 1999, due more to Gross’ desire to do other projects than anything else ( he would later produce and star in the now classic Canadian cable theater drama Slings And Arrows,  the movies Passchendale and Men With Brooms,  and is showing up this fall on US television as the devil in Eastwick). It remains in constant rotation though on Canadian cable networks specializing in classic TV ( it aired at one point on TVtropolis).