Due South: Season 1
R2 - United Kingdom - Network
Review written by and copyright: Rob Hunt (21st January 2006).
The Show

If you were to ask about Paul Haggis' career you would no doubt find the two recent critically-acclaimed films "Million Dollar Baby" (Clint Eastwood, 2004) and "Crash" (Paul Haggis, 2004), both of which he penned the screenplay for and produced, and the latter of which he also directed. Both of these two -arguably very impressive- pieces of work, with Haggis on great form, have pushed him into the limelight, but just ten years before he created a not-so-well-known TV gem in the form of Due South. Again, he was a writer and producer (and an occasional director) for the series; Haggis' not-quite-so "million dollar" baby. What could have turned out to be a lacklustre and average 'buddy' cop series ended up being a warm and gentle piece of escapism, mixed with great chemistry and subtle humour.

Due South begins its story following the life of Canadian mountie Constable Benton Fraser (Paul Gross) and the intriguing pairing with Chicago-based Detective Ray Vecchio (David Marciano). Like all great pairings the two complement each other; where Fraser is slow and patient, Ray is quick to question and easily irritated; where Fraser is set to tradition and blissfully unaware of some of Chicago's traits, Ray is more casual and knows all too well about Chicago's darker side of life... Both Gross and Marciano are fantastic in their respective roles, and it's a wonder how Gross could deliver a lot of his lines without either of them breaking from a straight face (there's got to have been a tonne of outtakes for this TV series...). The two are aptly joined by police officer Elaine (Catherine Bruhier) - who finds Fraser complicated, yet a very attractive man (as, no doubt, do a lot of Due South's female audience) and the two 'rival' detectives, Huey and Louis (Tony Craig and Daniel Kash respectively). Other notable recurring guests include Ray's sister, Francesca (Ramona Milano) and Fraser's father, Robert Fraser (Gordon Pinsent).

One of the most enjoyable features to Due South -as with the film "'Crocodile' Dundee" (Peter Faiman, 1986)- is watching the lovable and innocent lead actor (Fraser and Dundee respectively) respond to the most innocuous of situations and also some of the more confrontational, and at times dangerous, ones - offering up a solution or comment that is not immediately apparent. Combined with a character like Ray is an inspired choice, and one which provides a strong bond between the two that matures over the course of the season. Each of the episodes covers smaller events which lead to bigger events, sometimes sparked off by Fraser's obliviousness to the culture around him, and always resulting in a satisfying ending. Despite this fairly generic formula each of the episodes offers up something new, and the relationship between Ray and Fraser, combined with the humour, certainly makes it a worthwhile watch in my opinion, and one I would highly recommend.


The complete first season...

DISC 1 contains the feature-length Pilot and episodes 1 and 2, with each of the subsequent ones (DISC 2 to DISC 6) containing the next 4 episodes of the season. Altogether there are 22 episodes as well as the feature-length Pilot. I won't go into much detail as most of the episodes have a fairly simple story, which would be difficult to explore without giving away the ending. As such I have used the brief episode synopses from the TV.com Guide, with my own summation of the Pilot.

**Possible spoilers may ensue.**


DISC 1:
- "Pilot" (feature-length) (88:18)
Constable Benton Fraser's father is killed, and Fraser tries to find out why. His search takes him to Chicago, where he meets Detective Ray Vecchio and an improbable bond is made between the two. Ray helps Fraser in his search for his father's murderers, and Fraser eventually uncovers the truth. As a result, he is no longer held as welcome in Canada and so he returns to Chicago once again. And so the series begins...
- "Free Willie" (45:08)
After a young purse snatcher named Willie sees an armed robbert, Fraser is determined to prove the boy wasn't involved. Ray reluctantly agrees to help Fraser prove the boy's innocence as well as find the true criminals, even though he's risking his own job to do so.
- "Diefenbaker's Day Off" (45:13)
Lucy Pike asks Fraser to help her father, who seems to be having a lot of accidents lately. Ray and Fraser realise that Charlie injuries himself as part of a scam involving personal injury lawsuits. With the help of reporter Mackenzie King, Fraser investigates the worlds of personal injury lawsuits and boxing, and tries to get a wolf license for Diefenbaker.

DISC 2:
- "Man Hunt" (45:17)
When Buck Frobisher (an old friend of Fraser's father) goes missing a week before his retirement, his daughter Julie asks Fraser to find her father before something happens to him.
- "They Eat Horses, Don't They?" (44:45)
When a little boy gets sick from eating meat purchased from a local grocery, Fraser investigates and learns that it's actually horse meat. He begins making the rounds of the auction houses, and not only does he find out who the culprit is, he also finds romance with an attractive horsewoman.
- "Pizzas and Promises" (44:51)
When a young pizza boy named Lenny has his car stolen, Fraser and Ray go undercover at a used car lot to prove that there is something fishy going on, which works...until Ray finds himself underwater WITH the fish!
- "Chinatown" (45:23)
Fraser and Ray need to protect David Lee, the son of a local Chinese restauranteur, first from a gang of local extortionists, then from two well-meaning yet over-bearing FBI agents.

DISC 3:
- "Chicago Holiday Part One" (43:27)
Fraser is hired to protect Christina Nichols, the daughter of a visiting Canadian diplomat. Christina is determined to get rid of the latest in a long line of chaperones, but she runs into Janice DeLuca in a bathroom, and ends up with something that Eddie Beets wants desperately...and will kill to get.
- "Chicago Holiday Part Two" (45:23)
While trying to protect Christina Nichols from not only the killers after her but also herself, Fraser spends some time in a bondage club, and even gets to have a wild ride down an escalator while he tries to teach Christina the value of growing up.
- "A Cop, a Mountie and a Baby" (43:56)
The guys think a baby found in Ray's car was destined for black-market adoption.
- "The Gift of the Wheelman" (45:23)
Fraser and Ray try to help out Del, a witness to a bank robbery, only to learn that he's protecting his father, who they need to convince to show a good front for his impressionable son.

DISC 4:
- "You Must Remember This" (45:22)
Ray finally finds the woman of his dreams only to find out she's an illegal arms dealer.
- "A Hawk and a Handshaw" (45:13)
Fraser poses as a mental patient to investigate strange occurrences in a mental institution.
- "An Eye for an Eye" (44:58)
A mugging victim turns vigilante after Fraser and Ray teach self-defense to senior citizens.
- "The Man Who Knew Too Little" (45:13)
Fraser and Ray pick up a lonely guy who poses as a fugitive to get companionship.

DISC 5:
- "The Wild Bunch" (45:06)
Diefenbaker, straying from the apartment, is impounded.
- "The Blue Line" (44:25)
Fraser's childhood pal, an egotistic hockey player, is bribed to throw a game.
- "The Deal" (45:23)
Fraser and Ray help a shoemaker terrorized by a mobster.
- "An Invitation to Romance" (44:25)
Fraser lands in hot water with a suspicious fiance.

DISC 6:
- "Heaven and Earth" (43:27)
Fraser takes an interest in a homeless man who accuses him of kidnapping a young girl.
- "Victoria's Secret Part One" (51:03)
When a woman from Fraser's past shows up in Chicago, he is drawn to her again, but not only is she hiding a secret, she's running from another man.
- "Victoria's Secret Part Two" (42:56)
When a woman from Fraser's past shows up in Chicago, he is drawn to her again, but not only is she hiding a secret, she's running from another man.
- "Letting Go" (45:12)
In the aftermath of 'Victoria's Secret', Fraser finds himself hospitalized, recovering from Ray's bullet. The two friends try to get past this bump in their friendship. Meanwhile, Fraser and his physical therapist, Jill Kennedy get drawn into a blackmail and murder case, partially witnessed through Fraser's hospital window.


Due South may not mean anything to most people, but for the majority of those who watched it all when it was first broadcast (or otherwise) it is a highly enjoyable show, eminating a real warmth and humour that has garnered it the attention and acclaim it has. A hidden gem.

Video

The visuals provided for Due South varied from my TV to my computer. On the computer there appeared to be a lot of rainbow shimmering, especially on darker colours, but this was not visible on my TV. The image is crisp and fairly sharp, and is in better shape than I thought it would be. There doesn't appear to be any edge enhancement, although as a whole the episodes look like they've been transferred from a very good quality VHS tape (which they may well have!). Original title locations are all present and are clear, and colour levels appear very good, and in tone with the show - colourful, but not too saturated.

Audio

The audio is presented in the original 2.0 Stereo English track as televised and it's pretty darn good. Dialogue levels are well balanced in relation to the other sounds and the track is free of hiss or other noticeable interference. The theme song sounds as catchy as ever and I was very pleased with the track as a whole. The occasional scene in some of the episodes may have sounded better still in 2.0 Surround, but nothing here warrants anything more than that - and Stereo suits the episodes just fine. No subtitles of any kind are provided here.

As the issue crops up regularly over music changes I thought I would point out that all the contained music sounded like it belonged to the show, and nothing felt out of place - I would not have thought anything has been edited from these episodes, at least not musically anyway.

Extras

None.

Overall

The complete first season of Due South has finally been release in the UK by Network, including the excellent Pilot episode. Sadly no extras are on this, but as none were on the R1 editions by Alliance (or Platinum Disc Corp. for that matter) this could be a worse situation. The only negative thing I really have to say about this DVD is the lack of subtitles on another Network DVD (I'd feel more sympathetic to Network, but the RRP [59.99] is a little steep, considering the lack of subtitles and extras). Despite this I am ecstatic that Due South has finally begun its venture in R2 land and cannot wait for subsequent seasons - this is one -if not the only- of my favourite shows of the 1990s. Die-hard Due South fans who have not yet succumbed to purchasing the R1 will probably be very pleased with this, especially since it contains the Pilot too - and unlike the R1 sets does not contain the abomination that is double-sided DVDs, or cramming six 45-min episodes onto one disc. Others who are interested may fare better by waiting for this to hit the sales at a cheaper price.

The Show: A+ Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: F- Overall: B

 


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