Sunday, April 17, 2011

'Flashpoint' Season One (2008)

Starring Enrico Colantoni, Hugh Dillon and Amy Jo Johnson
Created by Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern

Flashpoint - The First Season"Flashpoint" is a Canadian TV series that has the honor of being one of the few Canadian series to air on American primetime.  It focuses on a fictional elite police unit known as the Strategic Response Unit (SRU).  The SRU is called in to deal with hostage situations, bomb scares and other situations which require special tactics or equipment beyond normal police.

Team leader Sergeant Greg Parker (Enrico Colantoni, late of the excellent "Veronica Mars") heads up the SRU, which also includes snipers Ed Lane (Hugh Dillon), Jules Callaghan (Amy Jo Johnson) and rookie Sam Braddock (David Paetkau), as well as demolitions expert 'Spike' Scarlatti (Sergio Di Zio), entry and less-lethal specialist 'Wordy' Wordsworth (Michael Cram).

In the pilot episode, the team deals with a hostage situation in a crowded square which ends in the sudden death of the suspect.  The fallout of this incident will echo through the rest of the season for Lane, who fires the shot that kills a distraught immigrant.  Though most of the episodes stand alone, this incident comes up again and again as Lane deals with the emotional fallout, as well as the legal as the unit is later sued for wrongful death, and then comes face-to-face with the immigrant's son, who was an elite sniper in his home country.

But each episode involves the team dealing with some dangerous situation or another, doing everything they can to avoid using force.  Sometimes, this works, and they can manage to talk their suspects down, and sometimes it means opening fire in order to save other lives.

"Flashpoint" is a solidly entertaining, if unremarkable police drama.  It does a good job creating tense, dramatic situations for its characters, and there's a lot of focus on the technical aspects of the SRU which give the series an excellent sense of professional atmosphere.  The cast is comprised almost entirely of recognizable character actors like Colantoni.  I may not know a lot of their names, but I've seen just about every guest character on this show in other Canadian productions (a number of faces are familiar from the "Stargate" franchise, which I'm sure has actually employed every Canadian actor at some point or another over the last fifteen years).  But they all do a fine job, with nary a flat performance coming out of anyone.

The real problem with "Flashpoint" is that for all its tense sequences, there's not a terrific amount of character development.  Of the SRU team, only Parker, Lane, Jules and Sam get any kind of focus or humanization.  The other guys are just sort of there to do cool things like blow holes in doors or operate the bomb disposal robots.

So it might not be the deepest drama, but it is well produced and fun to watch.  It's easy to throw back a couple episodes at a time and not feel bored - though you will quickly start to pick up on the show's patterns.  Each episode begins the same way - in the midst of the action, and then rewinds backwards a few hours to show the start of the situation and the SRU getting called to action.  This is not something the show does occasionally or frequently, but every episode.  It's effective, like just about everything else, but the show feels limited by sticking to this particular format, even though the situations the SRU tackles have a reasonable amount of variety.  There's a bit too much of a reliance on distraught people taking hostages (a highlight episode features a father taking over an ICU ward to get his daughter a heart transplant) but again, this isn't that much of a problem.

"Flashpoint" is fairly notable for being produced during the famous writers' strike a few years ago.  CBS, desperate for programming, bought the show from Canada to air in primetime where it did decently well, but unremarkable ratings.  I know the series has been renewed for a fourth season, but I'm unsure as to whether it will air in the United States.  Still, I look forward to watching seasons two and three.  Though I wish there was a bit more character development, "Flashpoint" is an easy drama to digest.

See Also
Season Two