Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cop-show clichés hobble drama

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Holmes, left, and Keeso.

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Holmes, left, and Keeso.

The dream, clearly, was to create something more than just another cop show.

In that context, 19-2 might be described as a dream partially realized.

Based on a like-titled French-language series that was a huge hit in Quebec, 19-2 is a police drama with lofty ambitions and edgy, artistic inclinations that shows occasional flashes of brilliance but, alas, far too much of the genre's familiar and mundane.

Following the blueprint set by the original series, 19-2 is set in Montreal and delves deep into the professional and personal lives of the cops who inhabit Station 19 of that city's police department. Front and centre are beat officers Nick Barron (Adrian Holmes) and Ben Chartier (Jared Keeso), who are partnered in patrol car No. 2 (which explains the numerical combination in the title).

Barron is a veteran on the force, just returning to work from a three-month leave after an on-the-job shootout that resulted in his partner taking a bullet to the head (Barron, perhaps motivated by vanity or badge-toting bravado, refused his partner's request that they call for backup.)

Chartier is a new arrival at the precinct house -- he isn't a rookie, having spent eight years as a constable in a rural town, but his past experience clearly counts for nothing in the eyes of his big-city counterparts.

Each is burdened by events in his past. And at the outset of their forced professional marriage, neither wants anything to do with the other.

The station-house boss, Sgt. Julien Houle (Conrad Pla), is sympathetic to Barron's request for a solo patrol assignment, but district commander Marcel Gendron (Bruce Robert Ramsay) insists on a pairing with Chartier.

There's an ulterior motive at play -- Gendron has it in for Barron, and he wants the new guy to act as a snitch in order to gather evidence that Barron is unfit for duty. This, of course, adds a layer of tension to the duo's awkward squad-car interaction.

On their first tour of duty together, Barron and Chartier respond to a call that will probably be the defining moment in their partnership: shots are fired, blood is spilled and in the aftermath, at least one of their careers hangs in the balance. The "code" that dictates that partners should have each other's backs is given a stern test.

While all this on-the-job action (as well as plenty of boozy after-hours fraternizing) is going on, 19-2 also explores the characters' personal lives.

Barron is estranged from his wife, fellow cop Isabelle Latendresse (Maxim Roy), and is much more eager than she is to put the family (which includes a teenage son) back together.

Chartier's girlfriend, Catherine (Sarah Allen), has opted not to accompany him on his move to Montreal, but it's unclear in the first couple of episodes just how damaged their relationship is because of his job.

However their personal situations are resolved, it's clear that who these guys become will depend squarely on how they're able to navigate their uneasy professional partnership.

The show works hard at the atmospheric elements that serve as tone-setters: the credits are grainy and grim; the music is moody and the shooting style lends a feeling of urban grit.

But when it gets down to the actual storytelling, 19-2 lapses mostly into the formulaic and derivative. Despite the best efforts of a cast (in particular Holmes and Keeso) that works hard at creating believable onscreen cops, one isn't left with the feeling that any new ground has been broken.

Yes, 19-2 is a credible and reasonably compelling effort that deserves a look. But does it qualify as must-see TV? Given the stiff competition these days, probably not. Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 29, 2014 C3

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