Canadian... Sorry, "Metropolitan" Cops

Well, Flashpoint is doing pretty well down there, isn’t it? Or at least, it has a chance. CBS is moving it from Friday to Thursday — a promotion if there ever was one — and Advertising Age, which after all speaks to the people who actually run television, recently pegged this show as one for advertising folk to keep an eye on:

Ratings for “Flashpoint,” CBS’s latest cop caper. After a surprising, if not stellar, start, it moves from Friday to Thursday night. It’s unlikely to be a breakout hit, a Rosetta stone for the network, but if it performs well, it could become one of the cornerstones of the fall schedule.

I was asked, based on some of the U.S. reviews that complain about Flashpoint‘s slowish pace, whether I thought that would be a problem for U.S. audiences in the long term. I don’t know, but I think that a CBS show doesn’t need to have the kind of rapid-fire pace that other shows do; some CBS shows are fast, but with the oldest audience on TV, they also have some of the most leisurely-paced shows. (This is a network whose flagship hit was Everybody Loves Raymond, which practically prided itself on having the longest scenes in network TV.) Besides, compared to some shows on cable, like the traditionally-shot, deliberate Mad Men, a Canadian show seems lightning-fast. I don’t think U.S. audiences necessarily require a nonstop pace, and indeed I think that some recent drama flops, like Bionic Woman, suffered from the mistaken impression that audiences want everything to be faster and choppier.

I don’t know if Flashpoint will continue to make it in the U.S.; based on what I’ve seen of it, it looks like a decent procedural drama, maybe a little too low-key to follow the more spectacular CSI (which will precede it on Thursday), but it certainly has a good cast and real potential. But I don’t think the pacing will be a problem; it’s more that the premise doesn’t necessarily lend itself to bigger and splashier stories, and future episodes may wind up looking a bit drab. Also, it seems to rely a bit heavily on what the Television Without Pity crowd calls “Taking! It! Personally!,” the idea that nobody can solve a case unless at least one member of the team has a personal emotional connection to the circumstances of the case.

But let’s root for it; a Canadian series doesn’t have to succeed in the States to be validated, but it seems fair to note that many of the Canadian series that become enduringly popular in Canada are also the ones that at least get some favourable attention in the States. It’s not a matter of validation, so much as that Canadian shows have had a habit of being behind the U.S. product in terms of production values — watch a typical Canadian drama from the ’90s; most of them, especially the ones that aren’t co-productions with the States, look like they were made a decade or two earlier — and U.S. attention is a sign that a show’s production values are up to the current standard.