Buy Due South: The Ultimate Collection – Three Complete Seasons on Amazon || Buy Due South: The Original Television Soundtrack on Amazon || Buy Due South, Vol. II: The Original Television Soundtrack on Amazon || Download Ride Forever from Amazon
Due South is an award-winning Canadian television police comedy-drama created by Paul Haggis and produced by Alliance Communications, that first aired in 1994. Due South started off as a made-for-TV movie that aired on CTV in Canada and CBS in the United States. After higher-than-anticipated ratings, Due South was turned into a reoccurring TV series – making it the first Canadian-made series to have a prime-time slot on a major US network. The show lasted for four seasons and, despite the show’s rocky reception in the US, it gained world-wide acclaim and has been show in over 150 different countries since first airing.
Due South follows the story of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer – Constable Benton Fraser (played by Paul Gross), who conveniently reiterates the plot of the show several times throughout the series, especially in later seasons when he says, “My name is Constable Benton Fraser. I first came to Chicago on the trail of my father’s killers and, for reasons that do not need exploring at this juncture, I’ve remained attached as liaison to the Canadian consulate.”
Fraser is the epitome of the stereotypical Mountie – loyal, kind, dependable, truthful and dogged. Many times during the series Fraser’s idealism is tested against Chicago’s corruption and criminal world.
Fraser’s best friend and partner is Ray Vecchio (played by David Marciano), a street-wise Chicago PD detective who likes to play that he’s tougher than he is. He’s a stark contrast to Fraser and the two compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Many times the humor or story line plays off Canadian and American stereotypes and the relationships between the two countries.
Due South takes it’s main set up from a cop/prodecural, but breaks the mold with intense characterization, deadpan comedy, Fraser’s almost super-human abilities and long running character arches. Fraser’s ability to track suspects is part of the super-human skills he has (in one episode he tracks the bad guy by smelling a rat’s breath). He also has the tendency to pick up things off the ground and lick them (much to the disgust of Vecchio).
There’s also elements of fantasy as Fraser is often visited by the ghost of his father – Bob Fraser (played by Gordon Pinsent), who first visits Fraser at Christmas. As a ghost Sgt. Bob Fraser can apparently eat french fries (which he says taste like nothing), give sage (or irrelevant) advice, and appear or disappear at will.
In the third season, Callum Keith Rennie joins the main cast as Stanley Raymond Kowalski. If you’re a Battlestar Galatica fan you’ll recognize Callum as the cylon: known as Leoben Conoy. Michael Hogan, who portrays Colonel Saul Tigh in the new Battlestar Galactica, also appeared in an episode during Season 3.
Other famous appearances including Leslie Nielsen, Melina Kanakaredes (who you may know as Stella on CSI: New York), Carrie-Anne Moss (who was Trinity in the Matrix films), Jane Krakowski (from 30 Rock), Milton Berle, and Amanda Taping (who starred as a woman working for a secret government organization looking for extra terrestrial life, and later went on to star in Stargate SG-1 — a show about a secret government organization looking for extra terrestrial life).
There’s a level of comedy throughout the series and the writers do well to keep up the witty banter and deadpan delivery style. There are also numerous in-jokes used in the series. Most notably are the names of characters, which are jokes from Canadian culture and politics.
Constable Fraser displays intense courage (bordering on stupidity at times) and almost child-like faith in good and justice. His idealism doesn’t mean he’s an idiot, many times Fraser can tell more about people’s true feelings than the rest of our characters. When it comes to love Fraser is unable to express his true feelings without a lot of help and when he does, it’s the wrong girl.
For Vecchio he’s a jaded Chicago-city cop with a big Italian family and an even bigger heart. He’s got a smart mouth and no real “super powers”. This sometimes leads to hilarity (in one episode Vecchio runs up at the end of a long chase scene entirely out of breath whereas Fraser doesn’t seem to have broken a sweat).
The relationship between Fraser and Vecchio is what makes this series work. Fraser and Vecchio are family and they have an almost brotherly affection for each other that leads both of them to willingly put themselves in danger to help the other. This relationship is never entirely perfect, leading to squabbling (mostly over Fraser’s do-gooder attitude that leads the pair into trouble) and comedy hi-jinx.
The beloved characters don’t stop at the humans. There’s Diefenbaker, the half-dog, half-wolf, companion to Fraser, was actually the first character to get fan mail for the TV series. Even Diefenbaker has his own plot arches including finding a girlfriend and siring puppies. Another iconic, non-human character is Ray’s car, a 1967 green ___ which is Ray’s pride and joy.
Series creator Paul Haggis is not afraid to kill a long-standing character. While I won’t spoil who dies, I will say as a fan who watched the series on TV, I was quite upset by the character’s death. If the name Paul Haggis isn’t seriously familiar to you, he also created Walker Texas Ranger and the Black Donnellys. Haggis also wrote the screenplay for Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Casino Royale, and the upcoming Terminator Salvation film.
One of my favorite elements is the music in the show. Paul Gross who plays Benton Fraser sings within the series twice (one story involves a group of mounties on a train breaking into song). Music is a big part of the show and there are two Due South soundtracks that were produced. There’s two soundracks available for the Due South series and Paul Gross has his own album that’s also available on Amazon or other online retail stores.
While the series is funny, there are extreme emotional points. Many of them dealing with Fraser’s strained relationship with his now dead father, the character’s relationships with each other and the stunning tragedy that they face together.
Due South is available on DVD, with the third and fourth season inexplicably packaged together. I will point out that the DVDs themselves are horribly made to the point of looking childish, but worth picking up for any fan.