As surprises go, I have to say I really like a show returning tonight for it's second season premiere. And it's Canadian. And it's NOT a comedy. The Border is a smart piece of Canadian drama that snuck up on me last week.
I've had a recorded set of the show since it went off the air in the spring, just waiting to bubble to the top of my viewing pile. And with neither the Argos or the Blue Jays enforcing the sports-first rule on the tube, I finally managed to get through the 13 episodes over the last few days. It's GOOD stuff that looks American quality and doesn't hide the fact that it is about Canadian policework.
That's not to say that there isn't key American content. I only recorded it because Sofia Milos was the imported star and Milos is usually very watchable. And besides, you have to love the accent. But it turns out, she wasn't in all of the shows, including missing the pilot. That didn't turn out to be a problem.
The Canadian cast was largely unknown to me, save for Catherine Disher, who's graced the screen up here back to her engenue days on Forever Knight. She's a woman of substance these days, in more ways than one, but she seems to be the one the squad at Immigration and Customs Security sends in undercover. Charming in a way. And let me tell you, Disher does more with a look out over glasses perched low on her nose, than most actors do with a minute-long dialog.
Male lead James McGowan was controlled and mostly worked. The only clunker of an episode was the one where he quit to save his daughter getting hit with a bogus charge, but later saved the day at a nuclear plant. He had trailed his daughter and her wacko boyfriend to the plant, where he defused a bomb with seconds to go. Otherwise, Major Mike Kessler was stalwartly Canadian throughout.
The rest of the squad is a mix of good character actors, including Mark Wilson, Graham Abbey and Nanzeen Contractor. The latter two are the 'hot' young 'uns. I believe this is Contractor's first TV role, but she plays the Muslim agent as a lot less of a token role as it might have been. Again, it's just good stuff.
However, all of the preceding cast pales before computer hacker extraordinaire Heironymous Slade, played by Jonas Chernick. It's a cliched role in many ways but has more depth than most of the hacker depictions I've seen. His dalliance with guest star Sarah Podemski (one-third of the fabulous Podemski chicks -- their description, not mine) elevated him from total nerd-dom. That Podemski's character broke his heart, crushed it really, was something you could really feel. Kudos for casting Podemski and having her hook up with Chernick rather than say Abbey's Gray Jackson.
And more kudos for casting Grace Park for half of this season's episodes, although I do NOT believe she is in tonight's return. The mini-cliff-hanger ending from last year will probably dominate the screen. It's best to leave the impending battle between Park's and Milos' characters until later.
And to the imagination.