The Detectives Reviewed
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(January 11, 2018 – Toronto, ON) There are too few common words available to describe exceptional entertainment. Watching the premiere episode of the mini-series The Detectives last night on CBC I was struck by how few we have. The words that came to me have been used before but that does not make them less accurate. Riveting, Compelling, Excellent and from the final scenes, Heart-wrenching.
The concept is not new. Take real cases, hire actors to re-enact key events, edit in documentary style interviews with actual people attached to the story and you have a show. The Detectives is so much more.
This isn’t the often lame 48 Hours or NBC’s tepid Dateline series anchored by Canadian-born Keith Morrison. This is high drama created from real life then compressed not just by the events themselves but by the original timelines of those events. Days, weeks, months condensed into 60-minutes, less when you take out the commercials.
I hesitate to mention that viewers could easily ruin the experience of watching The Detectives by doing an online search about the real crime and learning the details and outcome before the first commercial break so I’d like to suggest, in fact insist, that you leave your cellphone in another room and let the storytellers do their job.
Last night’s real crime focused on one of the largest mass murders in Canada when three generations of a family were killed on a camping trip. The real Detective, Mike Eastham, serves as on-camera narrator for the story. He asks, “How did six people disappear off the face of the earth?” That’s what the episode deals with in a matter-of-fact manner that benefits from the low key, nuanced performance of John Pyper-Ferguson who plays Eastman.
This first episode was directed by John L’Ecuyer who made a few wonderful movies in the mid-1990s and has been working almost exclusively in television since his first series, The Rez, in the late ‘90s. The difference is not enough Canadians watch Canadian movies while just about everyone watches TV. His work here is deft, careful, unrushed, allowing the story to be the star and coaching a long list of character actors to play real people who all, unknowingly, participated in one of the costly investigations in Canadian history.
The original plan was that The Detectives would be an eight part mini-series. I sincerely hope it will be renewed for 2019. If the stories are there and this exceptional level of quality storytelling can be maintained then The Detectives could become an annual television event worth waiting for.
As for right now the wait is short. Episode 2 of The Detectives, titled Project Hitchhiker airs next Wednesday, January 17. You really shouldn’t miss it.
Northernstars.ca founder and Publisher Ralph Lucas began reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.