Due South Season 1: The Adventures of Canadian Batman

I'm beginning to love Paul Gross. The Canadian actor keeps turning up in unexpected places, and with each role I see him in he steals the show and keeps on running. So when I found the first show he was really famous for, I had to check it out.

"Due South" is a Canadian TV show that ran in the mid-90s. It revolves around Gross' Constable Benton Fraser, an almost impossibly devoted and effective Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer. When his father, played by Gordon Pinsent, is murdered and the trail points toward Chicago, Fraser is able to get a transfer to the consulate there in order to pursue the killer. There Fraser, accompanied by his pet wolf Diefenbaker and teaming up with Chicago police officer Ray Vecchio (played by David Marciano), chases down the crooks. After the case is solved, ending with much of the RCMP brass being quite peeved at Fraser, he decides to stay in Chicago and assist Vecchio with his crimefighting.

The series is a surprisingly effective mixture of comedy and drama.Episodes of high-intensity violence, chases, and daring escapes are still peppered with humorous conflict between Fraser and Dief (who never listens--because he's deaf) or Vecchio's exasperation of how inhumanly nice his de facto partner is.

Gross and Marciano really bounce off of one another well, with Vecchio's world-wary cynicism clashing with Fraser's almost impossible politeness and faith in humanity. Vecchio is the voice of the audience as a whole as we watch in fascination as Fraser shows either his impossible determination (he very rarely gives up a chase, for example) or his unbelievable love for his fellow man (he never fails to hold doors open for people or to help old ladies cross streets).

It is to Gross' credit that Fraser appears to be a believable human being, who (especially as the series goes on) is shown to have flaws. Even though Fraser is so polite and self-sacrificing, we still see him angry, sad, and defeated on occasion. As with Gross' other roles that I've seen, Fraser is like a magnet for your attention, impossible to ignore (helped by the fact that he wears the eye-catching red RCMP dress uniform frequently).

There are a few issues I had with this season of the show, but mostly they are quibbles. Fraser's consular duties are largely forgotten (there's one episode where he has to deliver a Canadian fugitive to the authorities in Winnipeg, and another where he's trying to deliver a consular invitation, plus a few episodes which show him on guard duty outside the consulate), and more often than not he's treated as basically an unofficial member of the Chicago PD. This just seemed like they were intentionally skipping over stuff to simplify the story, which bothered me a little. What little we see of Fraser's fellow consular workers (mostly his boss who wants Canada to be seen as an intimidating world power) merely whets appetites which are never sated. It also bothered me that jurisdiction is rarely brought up: technically Fraser shouldn't be able to be as involved in police procedure as he is in the show, as he's from another police force. But like I said, quibbles.

All in all, this is a fun and fascinating show. I loved Gross and Marciano playing off each other, the brilliant mix of comedy and drama, and the stunningly good writing. Definitely check this show out. And now, I must go to the library to get season 2 to watch, as soon as I can.

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