Wait, When Did Canada Get Guns? Flashpoint

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Wait, When Did Canada Get Guns? Flashpoint

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | TV Reviews | January 23, 2013 | Comments ()


I have a confession to make. Late at night, when the cold wind blows, and the informercials take over most television stations, I huddle in the dark, hoping no one wakes, and watch Canadian television. It's a shameful but somehow comforting thing, if only because all the series are shot in Vancouver, which means that every other guest star has been on a SyFy channel series at some point. Hell, "Cold Squad" is practically a "Battlestar Galactica" prequel. I toyed with making up a drinking game, but whatever rule governed Cylon sighting would have you dead of alcohol poisoning before the opening credits finished rolling. Plus, the lead is played by Enrico Colantoni, who I can never see without yelling lines from Galaxy Quest, so it's got that going for it to.

And that's how I ended up watching "Flashpoint" which has surprised me as being one of the most consistently entertaining procedurals that you can find on television. That might be because it doesn't really operate as a procedural so much as hour long miniature action movies. See, there's this crack team of police officers called the Strategic Response Unit, which is apparently Northern-speak for fancy pants SWAT. And they're not mounties. They are called in whenever hostage situations or big violent events go down. So instead of reserving those items for very special episodes, those are all the episodes. It almost feels like the first season of "24", except without the continuous story and Kiefer Sutherland isn't growling at everyone. So, nothing like "24", except that sort of cinematic fast moving feeling.

The team has a nice tension between the first and second in command, who are respectively a negotiator and a shooter. Plus, the Pink Power Ranger is on the team, and I like to pretend that being a police officer is only her day job, and that in the evenings she still fights giant aliens.

A few seasons of the show apparently ran on CBS a few years back, making some noise as the first Canadian television series broadcast in primetime on an American network. I have no memory of this event. Surprisingly though, not all shows involving uniformed men with automatic weapons can succeed on CBS. Who would have guessed? It turns out that for most people, suspension of disbelief involving the premise breaks down right around the 41st parallel. I know that I only accidentally watched it when nothing else was on, despite the interminable commercials on Ion in the evenings during every commercial break. Amazingly, the presence of Enrico Colantoni monotonizing that we should "watch the excitement unfold" just didn't make me set an alarm to turn the television on.

Yet despite the constant threat of violence, the series does not have a casual approach to it, and nothing like a celebratory one. The deployment of lethal force is agonized over, both before and after events occur. The show returns again and again to that decision point, of when to kill, both with the officers and with the stories of the week. There's a particular moment, when the officers shoot an abuse victim who is about to shoot her abuser, that generated significant controversy at the time. But it was exactly that dialogue that it sought to start, and it did so starting with the characters, some of whom simply could not accept that it was the right decision, no matter that it was exactly what the law said should happen. It's significant that the repeated line of the show, the mission of the police force, is essentially alien to American television. Rather than the familiar "to serve and protect" it is "to keep the peace". The distinction is both narrow and monumental. "Flashpoint" comes from a place where what the police defend is not the citizens but the idea of a peaceful society. Violence is only the solution of last resort it insists, and no one has the right to deploy it except in the moment of self-defense. While less morally objectionable to our focus on the primacy of the individual, the show argues for a morality in which even violence we deem individually acceptable is an affront to civilized society.

It's not exactly something we would expect to see on American television, except in a very special episode before returning to casually shooting down the bad guy at the end of the next episode.

It's a show that manages to make shooting the bad guy the worst possible outcome. And that makes for captivating television.

Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Bodhi

    So I should actually watch this instead of rolling my eyes? Noted.

  • kirbyjay

    Couldn't tell if that was Tom Bergeron or Corbin Bernsen on the left. I guess it's neither.

  • Peeps

    What is funny is the "non-aggression principle" in relation to force and morality is the bedrock of libertarian philosophy, a line of thought that puts the rights of the individual first. You have it completely backward.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    We had our televised weapons to bring to the tangle brunch:

    Canada is the 'Hey, Mon' of continental North America. Our Prime Minister not only insults us, but he's also a jobbing actor who's never too busy to take up all of the leftover cameos in his wake since cutting arts funding, he's involved in television development (by telling people to write about hockey) and is a strong CBC Radio-1 presence. He pulls that one off by insulting it and managing to get them to talk quite a bit about his book...about hockey. Quite the taskmaster. There's only 35 million of us, we each have to pick up several slacks and freak out the foreign dignitaries with his spooky Rasputin eyes. There's your deterrent.

    Since the shows had no budgets, a good 18.4 minutes of the half hour would go towards interminably long theme tunes (The Littlest Hobo, Stop The Smoggies! and entirely forgotten newer crap like Sharky And George (The Crime-Busters Of The Sea) and Albert, The Fifth Musketeer) or replayed musical interludes (Rocket Robin Hood). We were the ur-noise aggressors and could out-Panama Panama if it came to it.

    I know that foreigners fear our PSAs. I remember all of the various gnashings about burnt chefs and what-have-you. They shock the children into safety and we never come back. 'I'm Astar, a robot. I can put my arm back on, but you can't, so play safe', 'Drugs, Drugs Drugs: Which Are Good, Which Are Bad?', 'Don't You Put It Your Mouth!' Which one was the one where they showed that boy's legs bending and about to break because he got his by a train while playing chicken? I don't feel like shooting anyone for the next .7 minutes after seeing that.

    Train 48 was truly the automobile of above-ground transit

    Secret Codes: The Plouffe Family made the Quiet Revolution silent to your people and how could you even respond to the Passe-Partout of it all? There's your Enigma, babes! I'd show you what Bonhome of the Clan Bonhome de neige can commit, but your eyes would already be gone. Haven't you heard of Bonhome The Bulgar Slayer?

    Subsidized Espionage: The Beachcombers and The Kids Of Degrassi Street (yes, the franchise stretches way the fuck back) looked that grainy because no one below the 49th had the secret decoder health cards and couldn't decipher our maple-steeped plans...for a while. I want my free eye doctors back.

    An otter ate our registry. A Danger Bay otter ate our registry.

    We don't need the guns when you've got the glitz and we have the nubile bodies of eager up and comers who want your money. Maury Chaykin, Andrea Martin and Colm Feore are some notable exceptions, but we shipped you our Avrils, our Justins, our Nickelbacks, Mysterys, Caillous, post-wreckage Pams, Vegas Titanic Go-Go-era Celine, and slitted sanity-era Myers. How do we manage it so elegantly? Well, here's my number, call me a Satan, because he's the only one to give a damn about where that leaves you! A-ha, hosier slaggery!

    Cynthia Dale fatigue. She just keeps coming back and we have no fight left in us. There's no fight for guns and not the strength to adjust our eyes to the new-found sun for her skyscraper Street Legal-era shoulderpads. Take back the Stratford!

    I know Casey would be down with it, but I ask you, how could anyone pull the trigger on the dearly departed and naturalized Ernie Coombs, aka Mr. Dressup. The Friendly Giant performed in a medieval jazz trio with a body-less purple giraffe and a semi-paralytic rooster that lived in a booze bag on a wall, he is so better than any of us or our tools.

    Our TV is our superpower

  • EmalynnEleriel

    I don't know about their dramas, but Canadian children's shows? Gold.
    When I talk about Tumbletown Tales, everyone thinks I am making it up.

  • Spaceraptor

    It was a good show, and an exciting one that other Canadian shows should try live up to. Unfortunately it's last episode was in December but if you're only on Season two you have two more seasons to enjoy.

  • spoobnooble

    What's with the line about the 41st parallel? Did you mean the 49th parallel, which is the traditional reference for the Canada-U.S. border?

  • I could either say that I mixed up the numbers, or I could just go with arguing that I was implying most Americans think of the Dakotas as just south Canada anyway.

  • mograph

    In contrast to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," Canada's system is based on "peace, order and good government." Just saying. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P...

  • citizen_cris

    Actually, a lot of Canadian series are shot in Toronto. Including Flashpoint.

  • Blake

    And Vancouver... Fringe and BSG to name a couple.

  • Louise

    The timing of this post is interesting, since ION showed the series finale last night. They'll continue the reruns, of course, but that was the first showing of the finale. Good episode!

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I'm mildly embarrassed to admit I'm addicted to Lost Girl. Unfortunately there's no way that I know of for me to watch season three till it's released on netflix.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    The 2 last episodes of season 2 were abysmal, as was the first one of this year's. Probably had the same director.

    But yeah, I'm hooked, too.

  • periwinkled

    Spot-the-Canadian-Actors-From-All-of-the-Sci-fi-Shows is my favourite game. I can tell when something was filmed in Vancouver based on Stargate alums alone. When I saw Cabin in the Woods, we had the theater to ourselves, which meant my friend and I could loudly point out every sci-fi face we knew.

  • SeaKat Stabler

    You see the Pink Ranger, I see Julie Emrick from Felicity. Still smarting from Felicity and Ben's betrayal, and torn up over her birth mother's choices, Julie fled north and went to the police academy.

    Or that's the backstory in my head, anyhow.

  • zyzzyva

    Since The Boyfriend recently chose to shave his head instead of balding ungracefully, we like to call "Flashpoint" the Baldest Show on TV. He appreciates that unlike American TV/movies, Canadian and British programming aren't ashamed of having actors in varying states of hair-loss.

  • Guest

    Yes! I love that BBC and CBC actors look like everyone else. I just wish the writing and directing and acting weren't so not-even-trying. BBC combines the best of both, so we have no excuse.

  • par1964

    Ahhhhh ...... but alas, it is not a CBC show ..... it is a CTV show. BIIIIG difference. Ya see, CTV shows are barely watchable, but CBC shows are absolutely 100% unwatchable.

    It's all crap!!!

  • Guest

    Ha! Well, at least we can laugh about it...

  • Blake

    I disagree... Being Erica is an exception show for CBC. Is the CBC as good as the BBC or other networks?, NO. It suffers from being a public broadcaster which means no money.


    Being Erica has Erin Karpluk, enough said.

  • kushiro -

    Fun fact: The guy on the left, Hugh Dillon, was in a (sort of) punk band called the Headstones (sample lyric: "I went down to the cemetery/looking for love/I got there but my baby was buried/I had to dig her up), and his trademark stage move was to spit high up in the air and catch it in his mouth. Their shows were great.

    He was also in a couple of really great cult classic Canadian flicks (Dance Me Outside, Hard Core Logo), both of which I recommend highly.

  • Lillimae

    AND he played Craig Manning's abusive doctor dad on Degrassi TNG. The man is amazing.

  • Bert_McGurt

    The Headstones are also well-known for their cover of "Tweeter and the Monkeyman".

  • gnibs

    As a Canadian, I take exception with the comment "The Headstones are well known".

  • Bert_McGurt

    Fair point! As a fellow Canadian, I suppose I meant "well-known among other fans of Canadian rock".

  • gnibs

    Agreed! Now I'm going to listen to the Tea Party.


  • kushiro -

    I agree. The Headstones were very good, but not well-known. The second they got any national attention, they broke up.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I think they took up arms as soon as the most recent NHL lockout was announced.

  • Stina

    Naw, we just complained about the lockout which led into complaining about the weather... our 2nd favourite past-time.

  • Guest

    See, I will round on anyone who insults our literature, film, or radio, but the quality of our television (Kids in the Hall and Trailer Park Boys excepted) is pretty indefensible, so mock away. You are made of stronger stuff than I, SLW!

  • Bert_McGurt

    Our comedies in general are pretty decent. Dramas, on the other hand...I think the last Canadian drama that I paid any (read: small) degree of attention to was Da Vinci's Inquest. Though I have heard mostly positive things about Flashpoint.

    Edit: Less Than Kind is actually quite good as well. And I was almost an extra in one of the episodes this season (filming went long and the scenes were postponed).

  • Guest

    Haven't even heard of Less Than Kind--thanks for the tip. I haven't seen Da Vinci's and have been meaning to because I've heard good things ("good" by Canadian standards). I trust SLW, so will def give Flashpoint a try. Some day.

    I made the mistake of watching a Republic of Doyle episode and it scarred me. Didn't like Erica, either. So I'm a bit tender. But I will admit to a soft spot for The Road to Avonlea and (as you say: comedy win), Codco/This Hour has 22 Minutes.

  • Brenton

    Intelligence was a very good (if a tad long) show about the drug trade in Vancouver. Very worth your time.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    Are you still living in Canada? If so, I think it's CityTV.

  • Guest

    Thanks, JMB!

  • Bert_McGurt

    You probably haven't heard of it because it's on HBO Canada. It's sort of a coming-of-age series about a teenager growing up in Winnipeg. The first couple seasons starred the late Maury Chaykin as the father.

  • Mitchell Hundred

    'Being Erica' was alright. Not normally my thing, but I liked it for the sci-fi content.

  • BierceAmbrose

    "Less morally objectionable to our focus on the primacy of the individual..." Says you. So, what is the secret of the grail, who does it serve? We have ourselves a civilized society... says who? Who decides what's civilized in general? Who resolves whether any particular piece of here and now was "civilized?"

    You can't get away from people, even when they're embedded in institutions and talk constantly in the third person.

    Also again with the straw Uncle Sams. Under every US SWAT protocol I know of, they'd have to shoot the abuse victim, just like in the Kanuckistan you ideallize with false contrast. That's legally. In attitude try "violence we deem individually necessary & unavoidable is still regrettable and an affront."

    So, I'd be happy with a bit more of the moral ambiguity in the US SWAT-heroes shows - there's what 37 NCI-IS these days where the Mark Harmon role never hesitates to take the righteous shot & sleeps just fine - to build your America Sux false contrast, again, you're just makin shit up, again.

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