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Flashpoint is packed with wit, depth ... and clichés Add to ...

  • Country USA
  • Language English

Pity those poor folks in Rosedale. The stereotypes they are burdened with. When Canadian television writers want to spice up their plots with some unearned entitlement and unfettered privilege, they always go marching up to the doors of a mansion - it's never a house - in Rosedale.

So, on tonight's episode of Flashpoint (CTV, 10 p.m.), there are the veteran Canadian actors Andrew Gillies and Brenda Robins hard at work playing, respectively, an authoritarian Rosedale lawyer who instructs his sons to "Remember who you are!" and his enabling wife, never far from her inevitable wine glass.

The plot follows the two abused offspring of this taut pair as the scapegrace older son (played by Tyler Hynes) triggers an intervention from our heroes on the Strategic Response Unit when he shoots his father with a handgun that belonged to some venerated family ancestor.

If the American critics who have harrumphed about the identifiably Canadian Flashpoint as it simulcasts on CBS in the United States don't have a clue where Rosedale is, they will have no problem recognizing the democratic scenario: Hard-working cops teach the over-privileged to show some respect. It's a much repeated theme on Law & Order, to name just one example.

And that's the ongoing frustration with Flashpoint as it continues to enjoy strong ratings on both sides of the border and looks likely to deliver a second season for both CTV and CBS. The show is often cleverly plotted but always seems to get bogged down in the clichés of the genre.

It has wit: "Woods. My people don't like them," an Italian cop says to a colleague as they stalk their quarry through Toronto's ravines. "Your people ... from Woodbridge?" (He is actually referring not to Italian-Canadian suburbanites but to the Romans, who apparently got beaten by the Huns in the trees.) It has cleverly plotted action: Tonight's young shooter, who has just been expelled from a military academy, has several good tricks up his sleeve. It has richness, especially in the performances of Enrico Colantoni and Hugh Dillon as two of the lead cops on the SRU, an outfit based on Toronto's real emergency task force. And it has depth: It is currently featuring some particularly strong portrayals of troubled young people, including Landon Liboiron as tonight's peacemaking younger son, and last week's Kristin Fairlie, in a chillingly convincing performance as a teenage bully. But Flashpoint's conventionality always seems to undo it.

Last week, in an episode squarely situated on the other end of the social spectrum, it dealt with a shooting in a mall when a gang of girls retaliated against a schoolmate (played by Sarah Gadon) who had accused one of their boyfriends of attempted rape.

The initial chase through the crowded mall was very satisfyingly staged, but the victimized young woman, who is the child of an alcoholic single mother and lives in a public housing development, winds up on a billboard tower over Yonge Street threatening to jump.

You know she is going to be talked down by the SRU's token female officer (Amy Jo Johnson), but you also know that first there will be a supposedly gut-wrenching moment when she slips. On the way there, the soapy pep talk Johnson has to give the kid is excruciating.

It is refreshing to see Yonge Street on something other than the TV news; hey, it's refreshing to see Rosedale on TV (even if the overhead shots of the mansion were clearly shot in some neighbourhood with a lot more acreage). I had begun to think Canadian TV drama was something that could only be set in the courts of English kings - or possibly Vancouver. But Flashpoint needs to surprise in other departments besides urban geography if is going to deliver on its dramatic potential.

Check local listings.

John Doyle returns on Aug. 26.

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