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Reviewed by Will Harris
ore than a few jingoistic eyebrows were raised when, in 2008, it was announced that CBS had picked up the series “Flashpoint,” a production of CTV. It wasn’t as though it was the first time a US broadcast network had aired a series produced for a Canadian network, but it certainly had been awhile. (Anyone remember “Due South”?) And what, pray tell, would Americans think of a show which was – gasp! – set in Canada?
Fortunately, in the case of “Flashpoint,” the locale scarcely matters, as it’s a show which offers equal parts action and emotion by focusing on the activities of an elite tactical unit called the Strategic Response Unit, or SRU.
The SRU is led by Greg Parker (Enrico Colantoni), who also tends to serve as the primary crisis negotiator for the unit’s cases; as you’d expect, he’s a guy who prefers to resolve tense situations through dialogue rather than force. As such, Parker manages to maintain a strong, almost fatherly – or perhaps brotherly – relationship with the members of his unit: team sergeant and lead sniper Ed Lane (Hugh Dillon), secondary sniper Jules Callaghan (Amy Jo Johnson), weapons operator Lew Young (Mark Taylor), demolitions expert Spike Scarlatti (Sergio Di Zio), and CQB expert Kevin "Wordy" Wordsworth (Michael Cram). New to the unit is Sam Braddock (David Paetkau), who’s recently returned from Afghanistan and, as such, begins his tenure with the team by having little interest in establishing a dialogue with the targets. In the pilot episode of the show, Braddock’s presence is perhaps necessarily heavy-handed: it’s clear that both Braddock and the viewers are getting a lesson in how important it is to be able to talk people down from a ledge – both metaphorically and, in some cases, literally.
“Flashpoint” starts off feeling highly reminiscent of the “Law & Order” franchise, with the majority of Season One offering as little information about the personal lives of the SRU members as they could possibly get away with. Conversely, we learn a tremendous amount about the various victims of the week. “First in Line” shows a father whose daughter is, due to a clerical snafu, dropped in priority on the heart transplant list, leading him to decide that his only option to save his daughter is to hold the doctors at gunpoint until the transplant takes place as promised, while “Backwards Day” focuses on a woman who has been desperate to have a baby, but when her latest in vitro attempt fails on the same day she learns that her husband has gotten another woman pregnant, she loses it. The episodes follow the same approximate formula: they start with a snippet of heart-pounding drama, then rewind to show how things got to that point, and from there we watch as the SRU tries to save the day without any bloodshed.
Somewhere around the two-thirds mark of the season, we begin to get a bit more information about the regulars: Parker has a son he hasn’t seen in years; Lane has an occasional tense relationship with his wife because of his dedication to the SRU; Jules and Braddock start to acknowledge that they having feelings for each other, and so on. I guess it’s only appropriate that a show like “Flashpoint” would employ a specific strategy and gameplan to approach its rollout, but given how quickly series get cancelled, it actually makes sense to first sketch out how things will go on a weekly basis before allowing viewers to get too emotionally attached to the characters. After you’ve watched “Flashpoint: The First Season” in its entirety, however, you’ll be hoping to learn more about Parker and the gang in Season One.
Special Features: Nothing too spectacular, but there’s an audio commentary on the pilot episode from director David Frazee and a relatively by-the-numbers behind-the-scenes featurette. The best bonus is arguably “The Human Cost of Heroism,” which offers talking head comments from real-life hostage negotiators about how “Flashpoint” does a solid job – at least within the constraints of TV drama – at showing what these people do for a living.