Above: The Title Card for Due South
Among the ironies of my life is that, although I have not had satellite or cable television service for years, I have watched more quality television programming on DVDs after giving up those services since than when I had them. During my days prior to cutting the cord I watched perhaps one episode of Due South. Now that I can, time permitting, arrange for binge watching due to the fact that I possess the complete series set, I have come to appreciate the series fully.
Due South aired from 1994 to 1999. It started as a stand-alone television movie for CBS, which made the series. The network broadcast the show for two seasons, cancelling it at the end of each season. Star Paul Gross doubled as then Executive Producer during the third season (or, depending on how one counts, the third and fourth seasons), when the show was a joint Canadian-British production. The series, fortunately, left the air without wearing out its welcome.
Above: Paul Gross’s Credit from the Third Series Opening Montage
The main character in Due South is Constable Benton Fraser of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Fraser is the uber Mountie. He has an ironclad sense of morality, is polite, can track a suspect across hundreds of kilometers in the wilderness, and has heightened senses of hearing and smell. In one episode he obtains a crucial clue by smelling the breath of a rat. By means of that method Fraser learns what the rat had been eating then proceeds to the restaurant where the rodent obtained that food.
Above: Fraser and Diefenbaker from The Wild Bunch
Above: Diefenbaker in All the Queen’s Horses
Above: Diefenbaker and Fraser in Dead Men Don’t Throw Rice
Fraser’s faithful companion is Diefenbaker, the half-wolf who saved his life prior to the pilot movie. Diefenbaker, named for Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker (in office 1957-1963), is both loyal and sometimes independent. Diefenbaker the half-wolf lost his hearing by saving Fraser from freezing cold water. Fortunately, Diefenbaker reads lips in several languages.
The saga of Due South begins with the murder of Fraser’s father, Sergeant Robert Fraser, also a Mountie,in the frozen northern region of Canada. Our hero tracks the killer to Chicago and learns that he (the killer) took orders and payment from one of Robert Fraser’s longtime friends and fellow Mounties. Our hero exposes this fact, thereby becoming persona non grata. His new assignment is therefore at the Canadian consulate in Chicago.
Above: Gordon Pinsent as the Ghost of Robert Fraser in Call of the Wild
Above: Leslie Nielsen as Sergeant Duncan “Buck” Frobisher and Gordon Pinsent as the Ghost of Sergeant Robert Fraser in All the Queen’s Horses
Fraser’s father (often listed in credits as “Fraser Sr.”) appears in the series as a ghost after a while. His comments range the profound to the ridiculous, but father and sun bond post-mortem. Few mortals perceive Fraser Sr.’s presence. His former partner, the flatulent Duncan “Buck” Frobisher, and his daughter (also a Mountie) by a woman other than Fraser’s mother are among the the only others who come to my mind. In the third season (or, depending on how one counts, the third and fourth seasons) Fraser Sr. dwells in a log cabin accessible via the closet in his son’s office at the Canadian consulate. Only those who can perceive Fraser Sr. can see the cabin.
Above: Melina Kanakaredes as Victoria Metalf in Victoria’s Secret
Fraser, despite his too-good-to-be-true character, is flesh and blood. In the two-part Victoria’s Secret from the first season he falls in love with Victoria Metcalf, whom he had arrested years ago and who has recently completed her prison term. She, alas, has not turned over an honest, new leaf. Fraser nearly runs off with her.
Above: David Marciano as Detective Raymond Vecchio in the Second Season Opening Montage
Fraser works with Detective Raymond Vecchio during the first two seasons. These men are opposites; Fraser looks for the best in people, but Vecchio expects the worst. Vecchio is also a stylish dresser, whereas Fraser has a much simpler wardrobe.
Above: Callum Keith Rennie as Detective Raymond Stanley Kowalski, a.k.a. Raymond Vecchio in Dead Men Don’t Throw Rice
During the last season (or two seasons, depending on how one counts) Fraser works instead with Detective Raymond Stanley Kowalski, whose former wife is, of course, Stella. Vecchio has gone undercover as a mafia accountant, so Kowalski is working under Vecchio’s name.
Above: The Two Rays from Call of the Wild
The two Rays meet in the series finale.
Above: Ramona Milano as Francesca Vecchio in Dead Men Don’t Throw Rice
Raymond Vecchio’s sister Francesca is a fun character. She is irrepressible, enthusiastic, and sometimes not very helpful or informed. She mishears “Pavlov’s Dog” as “Pamela’s Dog” and thinks that a snitch is a “sniff.” She also throws herself at Fraser, but, to her disappointment, never gets for first base.
Above: Camilla Scott as Inspector Margaret Thatcher and Ramona Milano as Francesca Vecchio in Call of the Wild
Fraser’s boss from the second season to the end of the series is Inspector Margaret “Meg” Thatcher. She is a no-nonsense Mountie who starts by seeking to transfer Fraser out of Chicago yet comes to respect him and even to desire him. This personal relationship does not go far either.
Above: Inspector Thatcher from All the Queen’s Horses
Above: Camilla Scott’s Credit from the Final Season’s Opening Montage
Above: Inspector Thatcher in Call of the Wild
Character names are frequently fun. Many relate to Canadian, American, or British figures in the realms of sports, politics, or popular culture. Thus we meet, for example, a reporter named Mackenzie King (for Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King), Inspector Margaret Thatcher (named for the Iron Lady herself), police officers Wilson and Harding Welsh (named for U.S. Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Warren G. Harding), et cetera. In one of the later episodes we even meet a character named Aaron Gobrah. Then there are Detectives Jack Huey and Thomas E. Dewey, depicted in the image above.
Due South, which is both serious and funny, runs the gamut of emotions. The series plays stereotypes of Americans and Canadians for laughs while making legitimate points about goodness, justice, and morality. It contains ridiculously funny episodes such as All the Queen’s Horses (in which Fraser carries on a conversation with Frobisher on a hijacked train through a toilet) and serious one such as Ladies’ Man, in which Fraser and Kowalski race the clock to save an innocent woman from an execution by the State of Illinois. (A corrupt law enforcement officer had framed her to cover up his affair and advance his political career. He maintained the cover-up for eight years, until Fraser and Kowalski exposed it, over initial opposition from other officers of the law.) In another episode Fraser, undercover, is playing a game of poker. He is such a naturally honest man that he cannot bluff, but the other players mistake his honesty for bluffing, so he wins every hand.
My only complaint about the complete series set is that the picture quality is like that one would expect from a VHS tape. That did not prevent me from enjoying the episodes, though.
I recommend the viewing of Due South in a method both legal and ethical.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
DECEMBER 28, 2015 COMMON ERA
All images in this post are screen captures I took via the PowerDVD program.