Running five seasons with a sixth an final soon on the way, "Republic of Doyle" has quite a nice following of fans who over the past years have championed the show enough that when the opportunity to catch the first season on DVD in the US arose, I had to jump at it. A Canadian production through and through, the series is the brainchild of creator/producer/star Allan Hawco, a Newfoundland native who has crafted the Canadian equivalent of the minor police procedural all too common to its neighbor down south. Set in Hawco's native province, "Republic of Doyle" focuses on Jake Doyle (Hawco) a former cop turned PI living with his retired father (a former cop, naturally), Malachy (Sean McGinley) solving cases, often thanks to the inside info from, you guessed it an Inspector in the local police force, Leslie Bennet (Krystin Pellerin) who, surprise, surprise serves as Doyle's romantic foil.
Apart from its 12-episodes seasons, US viewers will find little groundbreaking or even outstanding to set the series apart from countless exercises foisted upon them time and time again over the last decade or so. Doyle's role as a PI merely serves a plot device to create a closely intertwined family unit, which at the end of the day is the heart of the series. Complicating matters is the notion that this isn't a straightforward drama/procedural, but equal parts comedy and that's where "Republic of Doyle" falls flat for me; very, very flat to be precise. It's no real fault of the actors, but rather the writing (the often cheap production value, very visible on interior sequences, is a real mood killer), which is very generic and cliché ridden to the point of annoyance. It was tough to stomach the pilot episode, even though many pilots tend to be forgettable. Yes, it contained all the characteristics of any other series opener: characters are introduced in very intentional fashions in order to make an impression on viewers and paint a broad portrait of their personality. However, when you add to that merely mediocre humor that is sometimes ill-timed and written more for a show utilizing a laugh track, you get a series that makes you question its longevity.
If one can stomach the so-so comedy, what's left is pretty by-the-numbers storytelling. When the Doyles aren't solving your textbook procedural cases: cheating husbands and the occasional murder, they're solving your textbook familial drama problems: relationship woes, parenthood or at least potential parenthood, rocky relationships, blood-bound and otherwise. To the show's credit, things don't feel particularly rushed, but they also don't feel particularly inventive. The relationship between Doyle and Leslie has been done to death and the only real reason to care is whether one is invested in the performances of the cast, which to its credit, as stated previously, do the best with what they have to work with.
Thankfully, the 12-episode debut season didn't drag too much and the unique setting does offer a clever spin on the procedural. The Newfoundland setting is its own unique culture and it shines nicely on the series, with not only your standard Canadian accents but a healthy mix of Scottish and Irish (most frequently from Malachy); to this American it is a welcome change seeing a show filmed in Canada be about Canada and embrace its pride justifiably. Allan Hawco might not have reinvented the wheel with "Republic of Doyle," but with so many similar offerings that have come before and since, he's given Canada their own crack at plate. Sadly, there's something lost in cultural translation for this American and a return to St. John's with the Doyle clan is not in my foreseeable future.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is perfectly serviceable sporting natural colors that highlight the unique atmosphere and landscape of Newfoundland splendidly. Detail is above average and there's a nice minor layer of natural grain/digital noise that's only marred by some occasional edge-enhancement.
The Dolby Digital English stereo audio track is quite pleasant, with no distortion and a pitch-perfect mix, a perfect balance of dialogue and occasional musical interstitials. English SDH subtitles are included.
Extras include audio commentaries on two episodes and a making-of featurette that runs right around 20 minutes.
Very much a by-the-books offering, "Republic of Doyle" struggles to set itself apart from other procedurals and also fumbles at its blend of comedy and drama. Only the most passionate fan of the procedural or Canadian culture is going to find something of real value here. Rent It.