JOHN DOYLE: TELEVISION
It’s our Republic – and we like it
The other day I was interviewed for BBC Radio. I wore a tie, it being the BBC and all. It felt like the right thing to do.
Not that it’s the first time I’ve been on BBC Radio. I’ve done punditry on soccer for its programs on a few occasions. Once during a live program, yours truly and pundits in several far-flung parts of the world had to shut up because there was a breaking news report about some cricket game going on at that very time. For several minutes a man somewhere in England talked in a very, very calm voice about the cricket. It was hard to believe that something major had happened. But that’s the BBC for you.
Anyway, those BBC moments were in a studio in Toronto, and this interview was in person, hence the tie. The topic was Canadian TV. A BBC program is doing a series on defining TV shows in various countries – shows that are clearly emanations of the local culture and distinct from American-made TV that turns up all over the planet. In my case, and for the Canadian example specifically, I was talking about Republic of Doyle.
Yes indeedy, as listeners to the BBC World Service are soon to discover,Republic of Doyle is the distinct, defining Canadian TV show of the moment. How is this so? Let us examine the season finale of Republic of Doyle.
We see St. John’s in all its sunny, colourful glory. We meet Des (Mark O’Brien) and Jake Doyle’s niece Tinny (Marthe Bernard) who are goofing around at the Doyle place. Next thing, Paul Gross bursts in. Literally bursts in. Gross is playing a no-goodnik who, it turns out, is a former cop partner of Jake (Allan Hawco) from his days on the local police force. He’s back, he’s bad and he wants revenge.
Meanwhile, Jake’s former love biscuit Sgt. Leslie Bennett (Krystin Pellerin) is being interviewed by an investigating police inspector about her relationship with the now-disgraced mayor (Rick Roberts). “Obviously I ended my personal relationship with the mayor when I arrested him,” Bennett says drolly. This doesn’t cut much ice with Inspector Tarrant (Daniel MacIvor).
Stuff happens. Des and Tinny are locked up, which affords them an opportunity to discuss their feelings. Jake and his dad Malachy (Sean McGinley) are checking out security at a place where the money for local ATMs is stashed. Jake flirts with the lady in charge. Soon, they’re back at his place. There’s a rendezvous, the first of several at Deadman’s Pond, up near the Battery Hotel, overlooking St. John’s. A gun is wielded and then put way. There’s a chase and scenes of people in a bar. Fellas get whacked on the head.
The episode has several key plot points, apart from the developments just listed. Bennett tells somebody: “I’m in love with Jake, ya know that, don’t ya?” Malachy has a bit of a crisis about his endless work with Jake. But what’s truly memorable is the gusto that Gross and MacIvor bring to episode. All snappy charm and barely suppressed venom, Gross is a powerful figure, rattling the entire Doyle clan. And then there’s MacIvor, who is delicious as Tarrant. Dripping sarcasm and unctuous wit, at one point he surveys the tangled story and asks, archly: “And how is our plucky little PI connected to all this?”
It’s a fine episode, nicely crafted for a finale (it’ll be back next year) and notable for having Gross and MacIvor, two of our best actors, in scene-stealing roles. But it’s much more than that.
There’s no point in overanalyzing the show. But it is a hit and a rare homegrown one at that. It’s the drama equivalent of Corner Gas, I think – it’s us, our show and we like it for that. While set firmly in St. John’s, it’s set in a Canada of the mind. The violence is very limited, more shenanigans than murderous mayhem. The humour is low-key but sharp, the people are essentially decent and most of the criminals are closer to being rogues than they are the violent serial killers who populate U.S. network crime shows. Instead of the grim forensics scenes of those shows, we get the sunlight of St. John’s and sudden leaps into absurdist humour.
Or so I told the BBC anyway. Was I right?
Oh, and there was a small fib here about the tie. I was wearing one, yes, but only because I felt like it. It’s a Doyle thing.