Procedurals have, over the past decade, dominated the world of television. With shows like The Mentalist, Flashpoint, and Law & Order becoming great successes, the procedural genre has become the focal point for many television producers. Bravo’s 19-2 enters this over-saturated market, hoping to claim its own bit of real estate.
A procedural doesn’t necessarily have to be a police drama. The idea of a procedural is that a problem is created and introduced, it is further looked into, and is solved in the span of the episode. Most procedurals are dramas, and, as the current trend implies, cover crime or police related stories. 19-2 brings the world of police officers back to the small screen. The last successful and related show we saw was Flashpoint, which not only outlined the situations that police officers tackled but also looked at the power of relationships, respect, and comradeship. With 19-2 entering the already over-crowded world of procedurals, one cannot help but experience a “here we go again” feeling. However, 19-2 follows a very different strategy, putting it on a completely different playing field.
The core focus of this show is on character development, with the police subject matter mere background to everything that is happening. Traditionally, the job of policing is what is given screen time, what with all the guns blazing and the yelling at suspects. Here, characters are given centre stage and allowed the space to develop. Rather than just say “Here’s John Doe,” the show creates a shell for each character, letting the story give the audience the necessary puzzle pieces to help them build their own opinion of the character. No two opinions will ever be the same because the viewer is creating a picture of who the character is. This technique is refreshing because often characters, especially those in the police force, are just not given enough time to create an impact themselves. One is so focused on who shot whom that one doesn’t pay enough attention, or even respect, to the character. 19-2 presents the characters as human beings first, who just happen to have a police uniform.
What is also exciting about the show is the intensity that it creates. Don’t misunderstand; there are moments where it just keeps going or is slightly dull, but that is done on purpose to let one focus on what the show is all about: the characters. One is presented with two alpha male character leads, each with distinct traits, different levels of experience, varying personal opinions, and deep, personal issues. They are walking time bombs alone, however, these characters are put together and then forced to work with one another. I’m certain that “friction” would be given another sub-definition. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The show is not trying to sugarcoat anything; there is no dramatic music when someone gets shot, or 500 million angles of an individual falling to the ground. There is a shootout, somebody gets shot, and then the focus is on the characters and how they deal with the situation and what they take away from it. In addition, the raw, old-school filmmaking gives a certain rough edge to the production.
There are a million tiny details that 19-2 gets right that deserve recognition. However, the thing I enjoyed the most was the fluidity of the show and the interactions between the characters. The show has some of the most talented, charismatic, and refreshing artists our Canadian arts industry has to offer. Watching the show, one sees the beautiful chemistry between the artists, giving the impression that everyone is one big happy family. Adrian Holmes and Jared Keeso live and breath their title roles, creating characters that one doesn’t necessarily love at first but certainly respects. One concern that always arises is how a female law enforcement officer would be treated in a macho, male-heavy setting. That concern is washed away in the pilot when one is introduced to Mylène Dinh-Robic’s character Béatrice Hamelin, who is smart, tough, and on the same playing field as the “boys.”
19-2 is a refreshing piece of work. It takes the basic foundation from the original French-language show and then recreates everything. It is important to warn that this is a procedural that steps away from the norm to create something new. As a result, everyone may or may not have the same experience. The important point is to give the show a chance with an open mind, paying attention to one element it delivers beautifully: characters. 19-2 is a character study with endless potential and I cannot wait to see what the show evolves into in future episodes.