One thing I actually like about living in my new small city is that when you walk downtown, you will always bump into people you know. This I actually find very uplifting now that I have learned it’s impossible to just sneak out to the corner store and make sure that I am sufficiently unstinky and out of egg-stained pyjamas.
This past week, when bumping into buddies, there was one topic of conversation one was sure to engage in:
“Did you watch Republic of Doyle?”
“Of course, b’y.”
“So, what did you think?”
“It was great, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah. I liked it.”
“Were you in it?”
“I was an extra on the street,”
“I saw you, you were great.”
“St. John’s looks good, too.”
“Yeah, the photography is beautiful.”
Republic of Doyle is a big deal in town. Just about everyone in the TV, film or arts community has had a hand working on CBC’s new TV show as cast, crew or background performer and with 13 x one-hour episodes shot in and about town since last August, it is understandable that everyone is sufficiently anxious. We all want this baby the village raised together to be good. We all want it to be something we can be proud of.
And it is.
I did not work on the show but have lots of friends who did. As a filmmaker and actor, I am always hoping that Canadian TV and film productions will be hits and super successful. It’s good for the industry, good for morale, but more importantly it’s fun to watch stories on TV that I can relate to.
This is not often the case for me with Canadian TV, as I have not witnessed many “blue murders” in my life, and find most of the comedy too broad and hence unfunny, or just strangely pretentious. (Exceptions are The Newsroom and Made in Canada, which I found brilliant.)
So, did I like Republic of Doyle? Yeah, I did, and that’s a big “phew” for me. It would really suck not liking something that has touched this much of the town. It’s much more fun to be rooting for something.
The new show didn’t creep me out at all. I was worried that it would have that Canadian “smell” that I have thus far identified as the result of dull/wooden acting, spiritless and censored dialogue, plus a weird sound mix. The first two just make the show boring while the last adds an eerie and vacant quality that makes it distant and unrelatable.
Though the first episode had its moments of frozen acting, and a few icky musical stings that made me clench my jaw, for the most part I was able to enjoy the show without thinking about the technical or creative deficiencies. And that’s pretty good for me.
I was also worried that I would hate the female characterizations, as most of the casting calls I saw were looking for strippers, skanky bar maids and party ravers. I hate stereotypical or two-dimensional depictions of women in the media – it’s my biggest pet peeve. But for the most part the female leads in Doyle (as it’s now affectionately known) have some brains written into their parts as well as some guts, and thus far haven’t sat around the table lamenting their lack of boyfriends, babies or shoes. Not crazy about the over-the-top ex-wife role though, it’s a little cliche, a lot ridiculous, and I don’t buy her as a doctor. Hope that scenario fades out quickly.
However, by far the best comment and compliment to the show has been “Republic of Doyle is not embarrassing.” For most of my friends in town this means the show does not embody the much-hated Newfoundland stereotype of a bumbling but lovable set of characters with strange accents living in a backward province AKA the butt of every joke. The series depicts St. John’s much more accurately – as a thoroughly modern city infused with a regional charm.
Best comment yet. “Alan Hawco is doing us proud.”
Will I keep watching? You bet. Word on the street is “it gets better.” I have taekwondo on Wednesday nights, but the CBC is streaming full episodes off its web site.