Yes, B’y: Republic of Doyle’s Got Promise

allan hawco and sean mcginley
Do you feel like Allan Hawco is following you? Do his mysterious, brooding blue eyes appear to gaze after you as you walk down the street? If you’ve waited for the street car or bus lately in Toronto, your answer is likely to be “yes!” since Allan Hawco appears to be on every bus shelter in Toronto in a publicity campaign for his television series Republic of Doyle (2010), for which The Way I See It gives the CBC two enthusiastic and impressed thumbs up!
The best part is that Republic of Doyle deserves all the publicity that it can get because it is a really great new Canadian television program filmed in St. John’s, Newfoundland headed by a talented and almost uniformly Canadian cast and creative team. The show is a nice mixture of Magnum P.I and CSI: Newfoundland, centering on Jake Doyle (played by Hawco), a true Maverick ex-police officer who works as a Private Investigator with his father Malachy (played by Sean McGinley). What is interesting, and creates an added dynamic of conflict and tension, is that while Doyle attempts to solve the crimes he has been hired to investigate, he is working in opposition (and facing much resistance) from the local police, headed by the feisty Leslie Bennett (played by Krystin Pellerin). It is akin to when, on Law and Order (1990), the work of the police officers ends up being sabotaged by the lawyers of the defence; there is always the possibility on Republic of Doyle, that one side could ruin the case for the other.
Much of Law and Order’s appeal is that it is so strongly rooted in its community and New York City, and its sights, sounds and attitudes, has always played just as strong a character as Lennie Briscoe, Jack McCoy or Ed Green. Republic of Doyle is just as tied to the location of St. John’s and it is extremely refreshing to see a Canadian city being depicted not as a weak representation of some distant place, or some fictional town, but as the real community out of which this particular story has emerged, and all the culture, the traditions, conventions and fun accents remain nicely intact. It’s sad that we keep needing to legitimize ourselves, but I think that many Canadians still have difficulty in embracing their own image being reflected back at them on TV without feeling like it is somehow inferior. I hope the more Canadian stories are told, as these programs continue to put their best actors, writers and directors forward, in time, we will all be able to watch ourselves and feel proud and confident that we are just as interesting as anyone else anywhere in the world.
I found the pilot episode of Republic of Doyle had engaging dialogue and that the relationships between the characters were interesting, but also held a strong element of realism that I really appreciated. Marthe Bernard, who I was so impressed with in Sex, the Rules Of at the 2009 Atlantic Fringe Festival, plays Jake’s teenaged niece, Tinny Doyle, and she and Hawco have a nice mix of banter and protectiveness that feels safe and homey. Rachel Wilson plays Jake’s estranged wife, Nikki Renholds, with whom Jake still has an explosive relationship and indecisive future. She is erratic and passionate, which I hope provides more humour in the upcoming episodes. Krystin Pellerin’s Leslie Bennett seems young and overwhelmed, a strong, smart young woman who tends to overcompensate for both her age and (perhaps) her gender within her position of power as a police officer. This dynamic is really interesting, and I hope that her character will continue to show such inner tension, strength and wry perceptions and not simply act as an object for Jake Doyle’s charms. As Toronto theatre audiences know, Krystin Pellerin is far too talented for that! Allan Hawco is the ultimate in charming in his role as Jake, which works wonders to captivate audiences. He has a brilliant mixture of daring pluck and sense of justice and a delightfully coy sense of mischief. Thankfully for the show, Hawco not only has great presence, but when he says his lines, you actually believe them.
Republic of Doyle is one of the most promising primetime Canadian television programs that I have seen in a long time. I hope that the writers will continue to create imaginative and fresh storylines, ones that relate strongly to the community of St. John’s but also connect easily to the world beyond its shores. The writing could be a little sharper, with some tightening of the humour and some weeding out of anything trite or clichéd. The cast is strong and filled with many veteran performers of stage and screen, so I think it is likely that their characters will only find more depth as the season continues. It takes honing and care to create a hit TV show. I hope the CBC will nurture and tender this one so it can rise to its potential and grow to the best it is capable of and then thrive.

Republic of Doyle airs Wednesdays at 9pm (9:30 NT) on CBC Television. Check local listings and visit this fun website.

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