“The Return of the Grievous Angel”
January 13th, 2010
Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of speaking with Angela Antle of the Newfoundland and Labradour Weekend Arts Magazine on CBC Radio One in order to offer some mainland perspective on CBC’s new series, Republic of Doyle. My review of the show was quite critical, although Angela was more interested in my reading of the show’s cultural depiction of the province as opposed to my frustration with its formulaic 80s throwback structure. You can download the interview in podcast episode form at this link (Opens in iTunes), and hear how I spent about fifteen minutes discussing my way around a central question: what kind of cultural statement does a show make when it proves that St. John’s is just as capable of Toronto of housing a generic procedural private investigation series?
My argument is that it isn’t a cultural statement at all. I’ve written thesis chapters on how Corner Gas and Little Mosque on the Prairie can be read as cultural statements in regards to the position of both rural communities and Muslim populations within Canada’s national identity, and this is achieved through stories that challenge and question stereotypes. The problem with Republic of Doyle is that it has no such cultural statement: while I don’t think the show needs to scream Newfoundland every episode, right now it’s not actually saying anything at all.
While I would argue that part of the reason for this shallow representation of place is inherent in the show’s genre, I think the show’s execution is only exacerbating these concerns. By focusing on, and convoluting, the show’s procedural structure, the characters aren’t coming into focus, and whatever chance the show has to actually say anything substantial about St. John’s, Newfoundland, or even Canada as a whole remains absent beyond a Great Big Sea theme song and some pretty scenery.
And that’s not a cultural statement. Or, speaking more critically, a statement at all.