TELEVISION

Northern flights

Southerners seek redemption on the frontier

PATRICIA HLUCHY December 7 1992
TELEVISION

Northern flights

Southerners seek redemption on the frontier

PATRICIA HLUCHY December 7 1992

Northern flights

TELEVISION

Southerners seek redemption on the frontier

PATRICIA HLUCHY

A remote, ramshackle settlement in the Northwest Territories. A burned-out Mountie fleeing his ruined life in the South. And a local population, almost all of it native, that resents the newcomer. Those are the rather grim basic co-ordinates of North of 60, the new CBC TV program that starts on Dec. 3. On the evidence of the first three hours, the series is as sombre as a northern winter. The show is set in Lynx River, a community of 150 attempting to heal itself of alcoholism. As conceived by writersproducers Wayne Grigsby and Barbara Samuels, who helped create E.N.G., the town is practically humor-proof. Even more glum is the main character, Cpl. Eric Olssen Qohn Oliver), who goes to Lynx River for redemption: his wife left him and his partner was killed during a failed undercover drug operation in Vancouver. Eric’s predecessor, another southern Mountie hoping to clear his head in the North, ended up losing his mind. The question for the CBC is, will viewers lose patience with such unremitting gloom?

NORTH OF 60

(CBC, Thursdays, 8 p.m.)

Hardened by years of stalking dealers, Eric overreacts to the misdemeanors of Lynx River residents—drunkenness, breaking windows and bootlegging. His big-city tactics quickly irritate his new Mountie partner, Michelle (Tina Keeper), and her brother, Peter (Tom

Jackson), chief of the local Dene band. Eric also manages to offend the town nurse, another exile from the South named Sarah (Tracey Cook), even though she has helped him recover from a ludicrously brief nervous breakdown: he wakes up one morning literally immobilized by depression, but Sarah gets him out of bed before noon—by hugging him.

The constant sparring in the first three hours becomes tiresome. It is a relief when, in the third episode, bush pilot AÍ (Stephen Shellen) comes to town to propose to Sarah, dropping flower petals from his plane and serenading her. But the producers undercut those touches of whimsy, suggesting midway through the show that AÍ is seriously disturbed.

Still, there are some intriguing moments— and some strong performers. Keeper is particularly effective as Michelle, a resilient single mother. But too much hinges on the combative Eric, who is hard to like—and often hard to believe. The script, as well, sometimes strains credibility. In the first episode, when Eric hits an incorrigible young vandal named Teevee, his rage is understandable. But then he takes on all the blame in a touchy-feely scene at a community meeting. “I brought a lot of problems up here with me,” he says, “and I had no right taking them out on Teevee or anyone else.” At higher latitudes, North of 60seems to suggest, even Mounties become light-headed.