Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Review: Republic of Doyle

The most important thing to remember about the first episode of Republic of Doyle is that it's the pilot episode. So, in a sense, it means nothing. They're just hoping they've hooked you hard enough to make you want to come back the next week while they try to figure out what the hell they're doing. The pilot is as much a chance of the people making the show to see what works and what doesn't as it is for those watching it for the first time.

The pilot episode of MASH bears little resemblance to how the show eventually evolved. It also wasn't that great. On the other hand, the pilot for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is one of the best I've ever seen, and the show went catastrophically off the rails after that. I still get upset thinking about that show and want to punch Aaron Sorkin for managing to fuck it up so totally.

Anyway, back on track here. I liked Republic of Doyle, I did. There were times when I laughed out loud at stuff, it looks beautiful and from a pure Newfoundlander perspective it was nice to see St. John's look quite that good on national television. Plus the lead character of Jake Doyle is a fun guy to watch. And really, you need the like the lead on a show like this or you're doomed from the start.

I do have problems, though. I'm not going to complain about the story or anything like that. They've made it very clear from the start that the origins of this show are based on programs like The Rockford Files and Magnum P.I. I'm looking for fun, not high art. Yes, there were one or two awkward bits of editing, but that's easily over-looked. And all right, some of the writing needed to be tidied up. The story recap and important lesson learned towards the end was just a touch awkward.

My main problems are with the acting. Yes, some of the guest actors and bit players won't be winning any Gemini awards. However, there are two instances in particular that worry me. The first is the relationship between Jake and his father. Allan Hawco and Sean McGinley are both good actors, but in the pilot they don't seem entirely comfortable with each other. If that was meant to be the dynamic of their father and son relationship, that would be fine. However, it feel more like they're not entirely 100% in synch with each other yet. Like they're still trying to figure out the relationship between the two men.

I'm not too worried about that yet. That'll come with time, however it is the key relationship in the show. So you have to believe they are father and son in the way they play off each other. Right now it feels more forced than smooth.

My other big concern is Krystin Pellerin, who plays the RNC constable who gets mixed up with Jake as a possible love interest. She gets better, right? Because not only is there zero chemistry between the two of them, she showed all the acting range of a deep freeze. A very pretty deep freeze, but a deep freeze all the same. Seriously, she gets better, right?

Let me make this clear...I like this more than any of the other recent TV offerings out of Newfoundland. There's tons of potential for a lot of fun. I like a show with sharp, quick, intelligent dialogue and as long as they emphasize that and work on the main characters, I'll forgive the odd bit of clunky plot and supporting actors still learning the trade. There's also some smart people involved in the show and I'm willing to bet they already know the flaws. I've mentioned - plus probably a bunch I missed - and are working on the fixes.

It's good enough to get me to come back for the next couple of weeks to see how things progress. I just hope they keep on working to tighten things up. It's good, but it has to get better if it's going to last.

Last Five
1. Know your rights (live) - The Clash*
2. God, Part 2 - U2
3. The hardest part - Coldplay
4. You can't get what you want - Joe Jackson
5. The best is yet to come - Tonny Bennett and Diana Krall


WJM said...

showed all the acting range of a deep freeze.


I can't imagine anyone, not even me, ever coming up with a better insult than that.

BayGirl said...

Agreed...I thought that they seemed more like mere co-workers with one of them happening to be in a kind of mentoring role. The father/son dynamic just doesn't seem to be there...hoping it will come...

Wm. Murphy said...

I just hope they keep on working to tighten things up.

Not quite sure what you mean? It is my understanding that the 12 shows are in the can and they have have finished working.

Wm. Murphy

Steph said...

The woman who played Sean McGinley's wife is a mainlander. When will that be addressed? Her accent was jarring and I kept thinking, "When are they going to say she's a CFA? Why didn't they hire a Newfoundlander?"

towniebastard said...

Wm. traditionally a pilot is shot, then pitched to a network and then they start filming the series if it is picked up. I don't think that's how things worked in this case, but as the cast gets more familiar working with each other, as they sit down to edit the show and piece it together hopefully they'll get better and figure out what works for the show.

And Steph, I thought she was one of the better parts of the show. Her accent might have been a touch wobbily, but she can act, which is more than can be said of a few of the people in the show. I also don't care if she's from away. McGinley's from Ireland. My criteria, especially after seeing some of the sloppy performance from "locals" is that they can do the job.

WJM said...

My criteria, especially after seeing some of the sloppy performance from "locals" is that they can do the job.

Then you, Basard, are a traitor.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree, especailly with your comment about Krystin Pellerin. After her first scene my boyfriend turned to me and said "I really hope she's not a regular character".

The show has promise though.

towniebastard said...

Or a Quisling at the very least.

The Traveller's Eye said...

Regarding the role played by Krystin, the issue there is likely directing more than acting. I've seen her do amazing things and I suspect she wasn't allowed much latitude here. Probably a directorial decision made in an attempt to make the last scene a big contrast.

Hopefully she'll get to show us what she can do in later episodes. Did you see her in the Tudors?

Anonymous said...

This show is NOT a pilot. The pilot was done last year, and shown to the execs....and from that came this series....which now has finished shooting for this season. 12 - 1 hour episodes. The pilot will not be aired.
Just to give you the facts!

nadinebc said...

She was very flat, I had a similar reaction to her and the show. I am hoping it gets better. I wonder how long the CBC will give them to get it there.

towniebastard said...

I knew she was in the Tudors, but I haven't seen her performance. Again, I'm hoping this is a one off thing, that they were going for ice queen, but got zombie instead.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmmm. Are you naive enough to believe they shoot the episodes in sequence Craig? And they get to know each other better as they progress through time towards the end episode? Interesting.

'All the acting range of a deep freeze'

'Sloppy performance from locals'

How about, 'well done everyone, it's a good show' ?

Morena said...

Nice to know someone other than me watched Studio 60. I like all bad tv so I loved all the episodes anyway but I agree, it went downhill from the beginning. I'd love to know what you thought of the West Wing... My favorite show of all time.

WJM said...

Oh yeah, maybe you're a Quisling.

But is you a Protestant Quisling, or a Cat'lic Quisling?

Winston Smith said...

I thought the acting was pretty good overall, especially when compared to other Canadian-made series. It's hard to tell from just one episode, but the show could be in danger of having a split identity, somewhere half-way between a drama and a parody. The episode was kinda funny and kinda gritty; if this mix is going to work, the show will have to get grittier and wittier.

While it was nice to see all the beautiful shots of sunny downtown St. John's, the panoramas seemed more like tourism promotion than anything else. I hope that future episodes feature shots that actually match story-lines, and show the gritty side of St. John's. The walking-on-sunshine motif reminded me of a Great Big Sea pop song, which I guess was the point. But even a little bit of film noir, perhaps some rain and fog once in a while, would help set the tone and give the characters more depth and believability. I know everyone is supposed to be officially happy and optimistic in Newfoundland these days, but all sunshine all the time is going to hurt the show if it continues.

Winston Smith said...

p.s. As for the alleged deep-freeze acting, I thought the point of her character was to be reserved. Chemistry takes two, and Hawco needs to find his inner Snook. He did a good job, but for the part to really work, he has to be more of a sleeveen. It would have been better if he had driven a beat-up Pontiac Sunfire rather than a GTO, and the storyline would have had more traction if some of the scenes were shot near a housing project, or one of the city's low-end suburbs, rather than the pristine confines of the gentrified downtown. As a former regular of the Duke, I was pleased to see it featured so prominently, but the scene would have worked better in a seedy George Street dive.

towniebastard said...

Winston, every promo interview I've ever read about the show cites Magnum P.I. and The Rockford Files as influences....they're essentially trying to transform St. John's into a chilly, North Atlantic version of Hawaii. So while you might get the occasional dip into the scummy side of town, I expect them to "Hawaiinize" St. John's for most of the show.

Keeping in that line, they're not going to make Doyle into a sleeveen, they're going to make him a charming rogue. You can argue the difference, but that's what they're aiming for.

And the GTO is clearly a nod to Magnum's Ferrari.

Finally, as for Pellerin, she was flat even in scenes without Hawco. As I said, it's one thing to thaw the heart of an ice queen in a show like this, quite another to breathe life into a reanimated corpse. And right now, Pellerin is dangerous close to the later. But the next few episodes will tell.

SRD said...

"Hawco needs to find his inner Snook." That is the most fabulous line. Must use it. Must dig out my copy of Snook's children's songs CD. Gosh sometimes I miss home.

Winston Smith said...

I take your point about "charming rogue," but Hawco's character is much more charm than rogue.

But I would have pegged the GTO as a nod to the Rockford Files' Pontiac Trans Am Firebird, rather than Magnum's Ferrari. Magnum's borrowed Ferrari became a running joke in the series, so perhaps the writers will introduce something to explain why Hawco is the only dude tooling around Town in a GTO.

As for Hawco's character, he is much more Magnum than Rockford, who lived in a trailor home. Hawco is too young and smooth to be a Rockford-type character with echoes of Bogart. Even when he used violence in one scene, Hawco didn't seem very angry or dangerous.

I guess the writers are placing a heavy bet that Hawco will have the sex appeal of Tom Seleck. I didn't read the promo interviews, but if you're right about the goal to "Hawaiinize" St. John's, then the series could become a Coffee Crisp -- a nice, light snack -- which means that an awful lot will come down to Hawco's curb appeal.

A cross between Magnum and Snook would have been more interesting, though.

Wm. Murphy said...

I still have issues with the comments pertaining to the actors "getting better"....It is what it is going to be. The shows have been shot, the actors have moved on and there will be no change based on what we want it to be.

It is all wishful thinking if people are expecting change. I too wish for some change in characters and their relations to each other... but to think that commentary will somehow resonate to the writers and actors is foolishness. what's done is done!

Wm. Murphy

towniebastard said...

Do I think when they were in post-production of ep. 1 and in the middle of shooting ep. 5 (for example, I don't know the actual shooting schedule) that they noticed some things weren't work as well as they hoped? Of course I do. Again, smart people will notice things on a show that is working and is not working and will make adjustments. Plus, there's every possibility the CBC was sending little production notes down asking for changes. Because networks do that sort of thing.

So if by post-production of episode 4 they notice that things are really not working with Pellerin do I think they start to reduce her role when filming later episodes? Yes, of course, because smart show runners make these adjustments all the time.

And my comments and others online might not impact the show this season, but they might in the future if the show gets picked up (which is not a lock. Hatching, Matching and Dispatching launched with 600K and didn't last long). You don't have to do what your viewers say, but your fools to at least listen and see if they have a point.

So why not offer up criticism and say I hope these things get changed. Because there is always the possibility they might listen and things might improve. And what's wrong with that?

towniebastard said...

Morena, sorry, I forgot this post what with my other ramblings.

I consider the first two seasons of The West Wing to be the finest TV I've ever watched. It's as close to perfect as I can think of with television, with hardly any misfires along the way.

Seasons 3-4 were still quite good, but there were more up and down shows. And the way Sam was written out was ludicrious. Season 5 was a horror I try not to think about too much. Season 6 was rocky, but picked up nicely towards the end. And Season 7 was really quite good. Not 1-2 level, but still a nice way for the show go out on.

BayGirl said...

Hey, I've been keeping up on the comments here and some of them have been misinformed. Please see: (yes, that was a shameless plug for my blog :0)...however, I did write to address these misinformations in my latest post...)

BayGirl said...

By the way, I am with you on your second last post...things that have been already shot obviously are what they are...however, we have only seen a snapshot of that and so it is completely reasonable to wonder if they change and develop over the course of the first season.

BayGirl said...

...correction, I've updated my blog and so now the Doyle post is second last and not latest ;)

RustyNail said...

Forced myself to watch it to the end. It was a sporty car with no power. Dead, bland acting suspect and no good looking women.

HonestGarge said...

This show is on the level of a local concert put off at the local school. Not one actor had any presence. Also They looked like they were acting. Is this on because of local content rules? At least they could have gotten good looking actors who couldn't act.

RustyNail said...

Show is getting better. Joanne Kelly on tonight. Her good looks and great acting will drive up the show a notch.