When Republic of Doyle premiered on the CBC on January 6th, viewers approaching it with a certain trepidation could be forgiven. The unbridled hype generated by the press didn’t always help. Was this just another example of the “local is good” mindset that squanders any hope of intelligent criticism and artistic growth?
More importantly, now that the show has actually started, is Republic of Doyle any good?
For that last question, the short answer is “yes.”
Allan Hawco stars as Jake Doyle, a private investigator who is more like the nitwit Columbo pretended to be than an actual PI. It’s a solid detective show with a lively performance from Hawco. The pace is fast and there are some great one-liners. That the first episode makes reference to Polka Dot Door instantly puts me in its good graces.
The series also boasts a refreshingly uncool lead character, for the genre. Jake Doyle is not tortured, he’s not all-knowing, or even tragically flawed, he’s just a guy with a few skills trying to get by. After years of CSI characters who seem to solve crimes by reciting exposition to each other for an hour, Jake is a nice change.
Though Doyle makes for an entertaining hour with a winning sense of humour, there are few stumbles evident in the first episode. The most obvious offender being the music, as evidence by the sub-CSI theme tune and an unimaginative musical score, dominated by accordion. For a show that thankfully doesn’t put on airs with obnoxiously fake accents or caricatured writing, the music is a disappointing descent into “Newfoundlandsturbation.”
It’s also a bit off-putting to see the show’s female supporting cast given nothing to do. Naturally, the program will not have taken shape by the end of the first episode, so this will likely not be the case forever. The same could be said about the sitcommish relationship that Jake has with his ex-wife, which will hopefully lead somewhere more interesting than seeing the two of them alternately sniping and/or snogging.
So! To those who have yet to see it, put your minds at ease. Republic of Doyle is good enough to partially erase the foul memories of previous local TV productions, and may even give CBC a much-needed hit.