Due South Season 3: What's with the wackiness all of a sudden?
It's been a while, but I finally tracked down the last season of "Due South." While it makes some rather drastic changes, for the most part it maintains its central spirit, and what changes it does make help more than they hurt.
The biggest change this season is the loss of David Marciano as Ray Vecchio. As the first episode explains, Ray is called away to work undercover in the mob in Las Vegas. He is replaced by Callum Keith Rennie, who plays another police officer named Ray (well, Stanley, but since his last name is Kowalski he prefers to go by his middle name) who has been tasked to impersonate Ray Vecchio for the interim. It takes a few episodes to get used to Rennie in the role that Marciano did so well, but he has great chemistry with Paul Gross, who is still everyone's favorite Mountie. Ray Kowalski is very different from Ray Vecchio, being somewhat more crude, less mature, and significantly more incoherent, but he serves roughly the same role as the perplexed American who is confused by Fraser's bizarre Canadian ways. The fact that Rennie himself is Canadian (and his accent slips sometimes) just makes it all the funnier.
Ramona Milano also has an expanded role as Francesca Vecchio, replacing the minor character of Elaine played by Catherine Bruhier as the civilian aide in the 29th precinct office. Presumably the writers wanted to make sure we got enough Vecchio in our season with Ray gone, and Francesca's expanded role is a treat. Her running gag involves her inability to get police idioms correct (As an example, she asks if Ray and Fraser are going to "broil" a subject, rather than "grill"), which sounds like it might be tiring, but surprisingly works with Milano's delivery, actually making the joke rather funny. A scene where she essentially breaks a stonewalling criminal by constantly doing this is particularly funny.
Speaking of funny, this season seems significantly funnier and wackier than the previous two. Seasons 1 and 2 had their goofy moments ( such as the singing from the season 2 episode "All The Queen's Horses") but this season seemed to me to have a lot more of them. It's rarely excessive (the only time I was really annoyed by it was a return of Leslie Nielsen's character of Buck Frobisher which seemed to mostly revolve around really terrible flatulence jokes), but it is noticeable. The show does still manage to have plenty of dramatic moments (many of them quite good), but the balance has definitely shifted more to comedy this time around.
Finally, I must mention Paul Gross, who continues his role as RCMP Constable Benton Fraser. This season has him gaining two catchphrases: first, a long explanation of who his is and why he came to Chicago, and the second him constantly repeating Ray's name to get his attention. The first is a neat little addition, as it finally addresses the oddity that no one really comments on Fraser's Mountie-ness as needing explanation. It's also cool how most of the time it's interrupted or finished by someone other than Fraser which keeps it from becoming old while also making the whole thing seem more realistic, both that someone in Fraser's position would memorize something like it to explain themselves, and that all of his colleagues would know the speech back to front pretty quickly. The second catchphrase, used less often, is significantly more annoying and I'm kind of glad it's used sparingly, as it's just as annoying to the viewer as it would be to Ray.
If you liked the first two seasons of "Due South," you should like this one. The funny for the most part does not drown out the drama, and all in all this is a fairly solid season, with Rennie stepping into Marciano's shoes and reinventing the role to make it his own. I loved this show, and this season did not disappoint me.