Review: ‘Due South’

Viewers in search of a lighthearted romp need to look no further than "Due South," a harmless ditty of an action comedy that, as long as its writers keep the story light, should have solid legs.

Viewers in search of a lighthearted romp need to look no further than “Due South,” a harmless ditty of an action comedy that, as long as its writers keep the story light, should have solid legs.

While the mismatched-buddy pairing is certainly a well-traveled premise, and the teaming of Canadian Mountie Benton Fraser (Paul Gross) with wisecracking, street-smart Chicago cop Ray Vecchio (David Marciano) has several precedents, scripters Paul Haggis and Kathy Slevin do their best to bring it their own take.

In the bow, Fraser and Vecchio team to solve a robbery at a brokerage house by a gang of gun-touting grunge rockers.

Tapped into the crime by a purse-snatching street urchin Willie (Christopher Babers), the trio — assisted by a Mountie’s best friend, the part-wolf/part-dog Diefenberger — track the bad guys and close the case.

There’s plenty of harmless action assisting the plot, with car chases and “A-Team”-like gunplay. A beefy, rock soundtrack also is used to complement the visuals.

Low marks are earned for the ubiquitous angry Captain (Beau Starr), who chides and criticizes Vecchio’s motives and methods, and for the writers’ use of Babers, who despite his importance to the episode, is given little more character than Street Kid 101.

But Babers makes the most of it.

Deficiencies aside, show’s charm lies in the scripters’ working of the relationship between the two leads, which are convincingly and skillfully played , and by exploring, not exploiting Fraser’s good-hearted nature.

Director George Bloomfield elicits solid, enjoyable perfs from his cast, while production designer Harold E. Thrasher uses a varying palette to support what the dialogue attempts to convey.

Series opener, however, never clearly explains the linking of Fraser and Vecchio, apparently expecting viewers to instantly accept the premise, or to have watched the two-hour pilot.

For the record: the pilot, which aired last season as a telefilm, showed Fraser ostracized by fellow Mounties for implicating one of their own in the murder of his dad; he was relocated to the Canadian consulate outpost in the Windy City.

It seems at odds with what the RCMP stands for, but, hey, it kicks off the series.

Due South

(Thurs. (22), 8-9 p.m., CBS)

Production

Filmed in Toronto by Alliance Communications Corp. for CTV and CBS. Executive producer-creator, Paul Haggis; co-exec producer, Kathy Slevin; supervising producer, Jeff King; director, George Bloomfield; writers, Slevin, Haggis.

Crew

Camera, Malcolm Cross; editor, Eric Goddard; production design, Harold E. Trasher; music, Jay Semko, John McCarthy, Jack Lenz.

Cast

Cast: Paul Gross, David Marciano, Beau Starr, Daniel Kash, Tony Craig, Catherine Bruhier, Christopher Babers, Ed Sahely, Domenic Cuzzorcrea, Christina Cox, Djanet Sears, Elena Kudaba, Todd Schroeder, Matt Birman, Michael Donaghue, Steve Whistance-Smith, Bobbi Sherron, Dolores Ettiene, Rummy Bishop, Danny Phillips, Gine Bertoia, Marty Umanetz, Ed Sahely.
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