Featured TV on DVD Review: Due South: The Complete Series
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Due South started in 1994 and was a rare beast. It was a Canadian TV movie that debuted on American TV, as well as up here in Canada. The TV movie was a hit and it was turned into a series. However, while the ratings started out well, the American network kept moving it about the schedule and soon it was no longer pulling in the numbers needed to thrive and it was canceled in America and sadly mostly forgotten. Echo Bridge Home Entertainment has the rights to the show and recently re-released The Complete Series on DVD. Is it worth picking up for fans of the show? Will those who never saw it originally enjoy it?
The series begins with a Mountie traveling by foot through the snow in the Northwest Territory. The Mountie is Benton Fraser, Sr. he sees someone and tells them if you shoot a Mountie, they will hunt you to the ends of the Earth. He is then shot. (He does return in later episodes, as a ghost.) We then meet his son, Benton Fraser, who is a Mountie, just like his dad. He learns his dad was killed and at first they think it was a hunting accident, but they learn he was murdered and their only lead leads them to Chicago. Once there, Fraser connects with Detective Ray Vecchio. At first they don't get along. (Fraser accidentally blows Ray's cover and Ray dismisses the importance of the lead, because he has many more cases to deal with.) They do become a good team and even solve the case. Normally this would mean Fraser had to return to the Canadian north; however, the case involved corruption, including a corrupt high-ranking Mountie, and so Fraser doesn't have a lot of friends and instead returns to Chicago as the liaison to the Canadian consulate.
The show is mostly a police procedural show with Benton Fraser and Ray Vecchio as odd-couple cops. The supporting characters include Lt. Harding Welsh, Ray's boss; detectives Huey and Louie, Ray's rivals; as well as Elaine Besbriss, a civilian aid at the police department, who has a crush on Fraser. We also meet some of Ray's family, including Francesca Vecchio, who has a crush on Fraser. Later we meet Fraser's boss at the consulate, Margaret Thatcher. And of course there's Diefenbaker's Fraser's half-wolf half dog, who happens to be deaf, but can read lips.
I didn't watch every episode on the DVD before I started the review. The DVD is 50 hours long, so watching all of it is asking a lot. However, I watched the show when it was first on and so I only needed a refresher. I just needed to check to see if the show was as good as I remember it was. And it is. The show won 17 Gemini Awards, which is the Canadian equivalent to the Golden Globes. Paul Gross is iconic as Benton Fraser and he probably did a lot to boost the Mounties' reputation worldwide. He and David Marciano have great chemistry together, so it is a shame he left the show after the second season. Although, his replacement, Callum Keith Rennie is also good. I also really like a lot of the supporting cast, including Gordon Pinsent, Ramona Milano, etc. There's a good balance of different stories within the framework. Cases could involve a heist, organized crime, criminals with a personal vendetta, etc. There's also amazing consistency. The third season (or third and fourth, depending on how you look at things) had a serious shake-up in terms of cast, but the quality remained high right till the very end.
On a side note, there is a huge number of guests appearances on this show. Jane Krakowski played a bride who kept complicated what should have been a very simple assignment for Benton Fraser. Leslie Nielsen played a fellow Mountie, Sgt. Buck Frobisher, in a few episodes and was always great. Amanda Tapping is best known for her work on Stargate SG-1. In this series, she has a small part in an episode that deals with U.F.O.s, sort of. Melina Kanakaredes plays Victoria, the only woman Fraser ever really loved, but who is not a good fit for a Mountie. Carrie-Anne Moss, Mark Ruffalo, Maria Bello, etc. The list of guest stars just goes on and on.
There are no extras on the DVD. In fact, this is a bargain DVD release in every sense of the word. The video quality is basically broadcast TV, nothing more. Additionally, there are eight episodes per disc, but only four selections, so if you want to watch the second episode, you have to skip through the first one. On the positive side, they didn't use flipper discs.
Due South is a great show, and while I would really like a fully loaded Megaset, that's just not going the happen. The Complete Series DVD we do get is a bargain release, one that doesn't live up to the show. On the other hand, it's $30 for three full seasons, which much cheaper than most catalog releases on a per-minute basis. Hell, it is cheaper than some single-season catalog releases.
- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Date posted: 2014-03-29