The good, the funny, and the ugly

Canadians have endured a zillion promos for CTV’s three new shows—The Bridge, Dan for Mayor and Hiccups. Are they worth watching?

The Bridge

Premiere: Friday, March 5 at 9 pm (its regular time slot is Fridays at 10 p.m.)

While the idea of another cop show might not sound appealing, The Bridge delivers with a crisp concept designed to dazzle everyone jaded by the plethora of procedurals that dominate the airwaves. The show focuses on Frank Leo (Aaron Douglas of Battlestar Galactica) and is based on the life of Craig Bromell, the controversial and confrontational former leader of Toronto’s police union.  The Bridge flips the traditional police drama on its head by focusing not on a crime of the week, but rather on the behind-the-blue-line relationships and politics that shape life within a metropolitan police department. And everyone has a dirty little secret or two, including Frank Leo. Douglas’s nuanced performance in The Bridge is even better than his role in BsG as Chief Galen Tyrol. Douglas is the perfect NCO: authoritative yet not arrogantly commanding and with a presence that steals every scene. Originally the pilot was going to be just 60 minutes long, but then CTV re-cut it to a two-hour format. It was a smart move as the extra time gives the plot and characters enough time to gel. By the end—and it’s a shockingly unexpected last few minutes—viewers are left eager for more. And that’s a good thing, because the Canadian network is taking a gamble, airing their drama, which is shot in Toronto, before its American partner, CBS, finds room on its schedule for The Bridge. If the pilot is any indication, CTV has a sure bet on its hands.

Dan for Mayor

Premiere: Monday, March 1 at 8:30 p.m.

Take a look at Dan Phillips’s apartment, and you can instantly tell that he’s a 30-something slacker who’s drifted through life. The furniture is from the 70s—not in a cool retro way but in a scuffed, second-hand DOA way. The brown, green and gold rec-room sofa has seen too many drunken parties while the Ikea bookcases are on their last legs. But the bartender (Fred Ewanuick, playing a more grown up version of his Corner Gas character Hank) finally gets a wake-up when Claire, his ex-girlfriend, announces she’s engaged. Desperate to prove he’s not a loser, Dan surprises even himself by declaring that he’s going to run for mayor of the fictional mid-sized city of Wessex, Ont. Then he realizes he needs $1,000 for an electoral deposit. Unwilling to be humiliated in front of his hometown, he sells his beloved Pac-Man console for the deposit and recruits his oldest friend to be his campaign manager.

Dan for Mayor, created by three former Corner Gas writers, is a sweet surprise. Though it starts slowly, by the end of the pilot—and viewers are warned: the last minute of the show contains a totally unexpected twist—it’s settled into a quietly funny patter that bodes well for the next 12 episodes. And most importantly, the series has a dramatic narrative running through all the episodes: Dan running for city hall. Finally, we get a wannabe politician who understands everyday life, and, even better, he knows how to pour a beer.


Premiere: Monday, March 1 at 8:00 p.m.

Being the star in the new much anticipated comedy created by your husband, comedian Brett Butt (Corner Gas), is pretty cool. But arguably even better was having tickets to the Canada-U.S. gold medal women’s hockey game. And that’s where Nancy Robertson—wearing a maple leaf T-shirt—and Brett Butt were on Wednesday, after taking in the bronze medal match earlier in the day. It was a much-needed break for both comedians after shooting 13 episodes of Hiccups in their hometown of Vancouver.

Fans of Corner Gas have been waiting for the return of Brett Butt ever since the Saskatchewan comedic hit ended its run last spring. He’s back on air, but a lot has changed. And while he’s the show’s creator, head writer and an executive producer, he’s taking the back seat in the acting department. This time Robertson’s the star, playing Millie Upton, a popular children’s book author living in the big city, not a small Prairie town.

The secret of Millie Upton’s literary success is that she’s never grown up. She thinks and acts like a six year old. And, since Canada is a mini-Japan in the way our society values non-confrontational polite behaviour, Millie is a tall nail that refuses to be pounded down into conformity. So when a boy gives her lip and starts pushing her, Millie pushes back since Millie doesn’t see the age difference. To her “obnoxious is obnoxious,” explains actress Robertson. Alas, the lawsuits caused by her “hiccups” are piling up in her publisher’s office, so Millie seeks out a staggeringly unsuccessful life coach (Brett Butt).

There are plenty of laughs in Hiccups, especially the first scene of the pilot when Millie explodes after a ditherer takes too long placing his coffee order. (Robertson admits she’s usually “the pain in the ass” person holding up the coffee line-up with her complicated order of a “double short, extra dry non-fat cappuccino.”) Alas, for viewers, the verbal and visual tics that made Robertson a stand-out as a know-it-all on Corner Gas, quickly become tiresome in Hiccups. And, in an interview with Maclean’s, Roberton made it clear Millie isn’t going to change: “She is how she is.” That’s probably fine for viewers who adored Corner Gas, but will quickly turn off everyone else.

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