After a delay long enough for the entire first season to air north of the border, CBS gives Canadian co-production “The Bridge” a vote of no confidence with a Saturday evening summer timeslot. Not as bad as the network’s scheduling suggests, the cop drama isn’t arresting enough to become the sort of self-starter necessary to succeed in the ghetto of broadcast television.
Based on the real-life experiences of executive producer and former Toronto police union head Craig Bromell, “The Bridge” casts “Battlestar Galactica” alum Aaron Douglas as hardworking cop-turned-unlikely union leader Frank Leo. The two-hour pilot, shot in 2008, convincingly tracks Leo’s evolution from an officer who just wants to keep his head down to a dedicated crusader out to expose institutional corruption.
Although filmed in and clearly inspired by Toronto — titular bridge is modeled after a landmark dividing its wealthy and poor neighborhoods — the action unfolds in a nondescript urban environment carefully designed to be U.S. audience friendly. Core ensemble, confidently rendered by the full-time cast, could be at home in any city. Only below-average production values and subpar acting in secondary roles betray the series’ Canadian roots.
While “The Bridge” benefits from Bromell’s insider viewpoint, there are hints his identification with the lead character may make the drama less complex than it could be. Leo faces numerous challenges in the series opener, but he’s always one step ahead of clueless or corrupt superiors. Series seems to be begging for a more nuanced treatment of police hierarchy but too often settles for one-dimensional heroics.
That said, there’s something intriguing about a summer show that is at once too complicated in storytelling and too simplistic in aesthetics to comfortably mesh with CBS’ flashy procedural-stacked lineup. “The Bridge” at least makes a stronger first impression than the summer’s other new Canadian cop import, ABC’s “Rookie Blue.”
Whether U.S. audiences respond may be a moot point. Canada’s CTV has already ordered a season two.