About the Show
No Major Spoilers
Mounty. The world of Television is a big place. With thousands of programs spanning multiple genre's, it is sometimes hard to find new TV programs to watch.
For many years, I had little interest in crime/police programs, but my mother recommended to me one particular show because it has a different spin on the genre.
The show was called Due South. And this is three reasons why I still think it's a classic:
Reason 1: Meet Fraser and Ray – one is from Canada, one is from America
Constable Benton Fraser is part of the royal Canadian Mounted police. The original TV movie (of the same name) featured his father, Buck Fraser being murdered in Canada, which his son goes to Chicago to find his killers. Because of complications of solving this case, Fraser is assigned to Chicago indefinitely. He befriends the cop assigned to this case, named Ray, who helps him with his “enquiry”" anyway they can. Because Fraser is stuck in Chicago, he decides to help Ray with any cases he has open, which they solve with a big success rate.
This is your “normal” crime show, but there's a bit more too it than that. In essence, you have a Mountie in Canada, partnered with a typical Chicago Cop. These different types of characters and chemistry between both actors works brilliantly. Ray is a loud mouth cop with little manners who sticks to his tricks and his short temper frequently almost blows each case. Fraser on the other hand, is kind, generous, and with his “unorthodox” methods of crime busting, coupled with Ray's know how of the street, they solve hundreds of crimes over the course of the series. But with Fraser in completely new territory, Fraser still needs time to adjust to Chicago. Thankfully Ray is there every step of the way.
Reason 2: Wait! Don't forget Dief, the deaf wolf, a 1972 Buick Riviera and Fraser's Dead Father...
I can't mention the main cast without mentioning Diefenbaker. Played by three main Huskies during the course of it's lifespan, like KITT from Knight Rider, one of the best aspects of the show is how he is treated like a main character, just like Fraser and Ray. Diefenbaker is Fraser's Wolf, who has stuck by his master's side since he saved Fraser's life in the freezing conditions in Canada.
Being also deaf (or is he?) Dief is always present in most the stories, and even featuring as the main character in a few episodes. These episodes offer something a little different, and it's great episodes like these that keep Due South from going too stale. I still reckon that Dief is the best trained and most entertaining animal on any TV show, with Dief performing new stunts and more tricks as the show progressed. No wonder he was the first cast member to receive fan mail!
While Fraser's faithful companion is an animal, Ray's in contrast isn't an animal - it's a car. One man and his car can have a strong bond between man and machine, and it shows with Ray and the 1972 Buickek Raivea. It gets blown up, shot at, and stolen at various points, but Ray won't hesitate to go in pursuit of the bad guys. With me being an avid viewer of Top Gear, it didn't take me long to appreciate the car. It's certainly a looker, and better still, we see a few car chases over the years too!
So let's recap: A polite Canadian, a rude American, a deaf wolf, and a similarly indestructible car. You think the show can't get weirder than that? Well you would be wrong, here comes the clever part. Remember at the beginning of the pilot, you see Fraser's father getting shot? Well that isn't the last we see of him. And I don't mean flashbacks, because there aren't any. Fraser's father reappears as a ghost.
We think. While it's never fully explained, Fraser's father only appears to his son at random points in the series. There is never a pattern on when he appears, so each episode there is always “will his father appear today?” One thing that is guaranteed is it's always really funny, either by his comments or the point he makes his entrance. He sometimes specifically appears to certain other characters, with no explanation. The problem is that other characters can't see him, so it always looks like Fraser is talking to himself. What a clever way to keep a character in a series...
Reason 3: It had the odds stacked against it… and still succeeded
One of the worst things that could befall a TV show is when one of the main stars either leaves or can't/won't return to the show. It's happened countless times, and generally the results are usually… less than impressive. Due South had this same predicament at the end of the second season. The original actor of Ray (played by David Marciano) could not return, so how does the show go from there?
Well the answer was in the form of Callum Keith Rennie, who took over the role but he would be playing the same character. Eh? I hear you say. This isn't just a simple recasting, they did it more cleverly than that. The original Ray goes into deep cover and so the new Ray goes into deep cover too by pretending to live old Ray's life. With the same job, partner, car and “family”. This new dynamic brings something different to the show, without changing the core formula too drastically.
Season 3 (or 3 and 4 in America) of Due South does feel a little different, but in a good way. The stories are just as good, there's still loads of great moments between Fraser, Dief and Ray, and most of the characters from the first two seasons make a comeback. Fraser's Father, Lieutenant Welsh and Francesca have bigger roles, which for me works in the show's favour. With the series feels semi-rebooted, but don't worry as it loses none of its original charm and does not become stale, far from it.
It's more impressive when you delve into the show's history. It aired for three seasons, but we were lucky to get that. You see, CBS cancelled the series after the first season, because the ratings weren't as good as they had hoped. But with fan support and some extra funding, season 2 got underway. The show got cancelled a second time, but this time the BBC and several other companies backed the show to bring it back. How many shows do you know that got cancelled twice and still managed to be brought back? This show just refused to die...
Due south is one of my favourite TV shows of all time. I have never come across a TV show with such consistent quality. Every episode manages to hit the mark every time, either through good stories, clever camera work, or great interactions between it's characters. No matter what season or episode you watch, you are always guaranteed slightly “wacky” adventures with a Mounty and a Cop in Chicago. This is a prime example of a show knowing when to end, before the quality drops...
My One Big Highlight
After a little thinking, it was obviously going to be one episode. An episode that showcases the best of what the show has to offer more than any other - All the Queen's Horses. With Buck, Fraser, Fraser's Dad and Inspector Meg Thatcher all on board a train that gets high-jacked, its up to all of them and Ray to stop a major disaster.
Elephant In the Room
Due South is an excellent TV show, and there is very little I can say bad about it. The niggle I can come up with is the lack of episodes. How did such a clever different take on the crime show get cancelled… twice? I just don't get it.