Thursday, April 29, 2010

Republic of Doyle season wrap-up

Normally at some point during the day Cathy asks what I'm going to blog about. And pretty much every day for the last three weeks I've said, "I guess I should do the season wrap-up on Republic of Doyle." When I said that this evening, she suggested it might be time to "piss or get off the pot."

And she's right. I've been procrastinating quite a bit on this. So let's have a go at it.

How was the first season of Republic of Doyle? It was, well, fine. It's not the greatest show on television right now (Right up until this evening, I would have argued that it's Fringe, but god, I gave up after 15 minutes trying to watch the musical number this evening. What a ghastly misfire). It's probably not the greatest show on in Canada right now. But it's fine. It's an entertaining little TV show. It does some things quite well, but needs to work on some others.

But let's not be batshit crazy like some of the people on Twitter claiming that it's the greatest TV show in Canadian history. Um, no. For that matter, there were people after the very poor episode involving the horse saying it was the best one yet. Um, no. And go back and take your meds.

So let's take a look at the pros and cons.

The Cast - It mostly works. Jake, Mal, Rose and, even after a disastrous start, Bennett all are entertaining characters. They work well together and are obviously comfortable working with each other. Is there room for improvement? Sure, and I'll get to that in my suggestions for next season.

The cinematography - The show looks great. God, I can remember those hideous days when it was easy to spot a Canadian production because it looked like it was filmed using the cheapest, crappiest equipment that could be found. However, the look of the show is fantastic. St. John's looks so good I'm trying to remember if I ever actually lived in a placed like that. But full props to the crew. The show looks fantastic. It's a high quality production, so we can all be glad about that.

The writing - I'm not saying there weren't a few clunkers and there have been times when they haven't been up to quality I would like. But for the most part, the show's writing has been quite good. There's a nice zip to the humour, there's normally a half dozen great one liners or exchanges in each episode and even the mysteries are normally pretty good. It's not, you know, Chinatown or anything, but for network TV writing, it's not half bad.

The Mixed Bay
Tinny and Des - I'm starting to warm up to them, and lord knows Tinny has come a long way from the beginning of the season, when I was close to begging the producers to get rid of her. And I understand that Des has a fan club. I admire the fearlessness of the performance, even if I cringe most of the time he's on the screen. The good news is there's some real spark and fun between the two of them. Here's hoping they continue moving forward with them next season and don't slip back into Tinny being a stupid, annoying brat again.

The Guest Stars - For every Gordon Pinset there was a Victor Garber. For every Mary Walsh there was a (shudder) Greg Malone. Not to mention many of the supporting and background characters were iffy at best in terms of their acting ability. I realize this isn't Law and Order, with a near infinite supply of New York actors to dip into, but still. It was a real mixed bag this year.

The Music - I kind of wish it was better, or at least more distinctive. The "Oh Yeah" got annoying in a big hurry, and I could really do with a little less fiddle music, although I guess that's just going to be a signature of the show. And I'm not saying every song played during the show has to be by a Newfoundland band. But I think the music could be better used. There could be more power to the song selection. There was only one "All right, that's cool" use of music this season, and was Ron Hynes "No change in me" at the end of the season.

The Bad
Nikki - No surprise that I hated the character. Not the actress, who I think probably did the best with a character the writers never had a clue what to do with. There's only so much you can do with a crazy ex-wife character. She was annoying and was well on the way to becoming a "Three's Company" extra by the end of the season. You know, when you need a character to do or say something annoyingly stupid for no reason? Well, you have Nikki.

The use of Walter - I honestly thought Walter was going to be a bigger part of the show. Certainly the previews at the start gave that indication. But he never was and I have no idea. If you can't find comic gold with a sleazy rogue lawyer who is well connected, then you're clearly not trying very hard as a writing staff.

Next Season
So how do they improve things for next season? Some suggestions.
1. Let Nikki go. Don't get cute. Don't have Jake suddenly realize he needs her in his life. If Aaron Sorkin realized he made a mistake in the first season of the West Wing with Mandy, you guys can own up to Nikki. Just let her go.

2. More Walter. 'Nuff said.

3. Tighten up the writing. It's good, but there's still too much stupid and lazy stuff that creeps in there from time to time. It's writing. It's not meant to be bloody easy. It's meant to cause you pain. So if there's the choice between doing something quick and easy, or beating away at it until you get it right, then do that. In other words, if I see one more scene with a character walking in at a bad moment and misinterpret what's going on, I will smack people.

4. More Jake and Mal. I honestly don't know what was going on the last third of the season, but the father-son dynamic between the two is a blast. So I have no idea why they essentially abandoned it towards the end of the season. It was weird. More of Jake and Mal works.

5. More on Bennett's relationship with the RNC. That was interesting towards the end of the season. For that matter, the on again, off again thing with Jake, there's only so long you can pull that off and you're rapidly coming to the expiry date on it. Thing of where you're going with the characters because right now it feels like they're making it up as they go along, which will burn them in the long run.

6. For that matter, it's time to delve a bit more into the history of some of the characters, especially Jake. Here's the thing, everyone tends to view him as a bit of a scumbag. But except for one big act (sleeping with a client's wife) he wasn't that bad a guy. That's a bit of a fault of the writers, who wanted to make Jake bad, but lovable and never really pulled it off.

So in lieu of making Jake more of a bad boy next season (it actually worked towards the end of the season when everyone treated him like dirt, even though he didn't really deserve any of it), perhaps more of his history. What did he used to be like, and why did he change? For that matter, more on Mal's history would be good.

7. Watch the guest stars. I know Victor Garber is supposed to be coming back, which is a mistake. But hopefully there will be more Gordon Pinsent. However, I swear to god, if you bring Greg Malone back, I will be forced to harm people...

8. Ignore the griping from some online looking for trips to Gander or whatnot. Look, it's not a Newfoundland show, it's a St. John's show. If you want CSI: Dildo, go get the funding to film it. It's not a damn Newfoundland Tourism ad. Focus around St. John's area and you'll be fine.

And that's all I can think of. It's a good start to the show. With some tweaks and dodging some pitfalls I think the second season could be great. I guess we'll see in January.

Last Five
1. Hammering in my head - Garbage
2. Superstition - ESTELLE
3. Exactly like you - Diana Krall
4. Real world '09 - Rob Thomas
5. Ball and biscuit - The White Stripes

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