This was a series that was easy to embrace for me right from the beginning. For one thing, it wasn’t another formulaic, procedural, Canadian cop show mimicking a formulaic, procedural, American cop show. It screamed St. John’s, Newfoundland, in all that city’s pink and green glory. It paid homage to the great detective shows of the ’70s, especially The Rockford Files, so there was a retro coolness about it. It was a welcome hour of crime-bustin’ action in an era when dark, anti-hero edginess was starting to feel, for me at least, a tad overplayed. Given the choice between riding shotgun in Jake Doyle’s GTO, or astride a Harley with the Sons of Anarchy dudes, I’ll take the bench seat in the Pontiac, thanks.
Or the seat on the couch next to my son. Before he headed off to university to learn how to make the next Republic of Doyle, Dan would join me each week in front of this series. It was the kind of shared experience you treasure later, not unlike the one Allan Hawco enjoyed with his dad back when Rockford reruns were their TV bonding experience.
Republic of Doyle was also a place to watch a Who’s Who of Canadian acting talent guest star as villains of the week. Nicholas Campbell, Paul Gross, Gordon Pinsent, Victor Garber and Rick Roberts all made multiple appearances. Pretty much every member of This Hour Has 22 Minutes showed up at least once. (Rick Mercer and Mary Walsh are in on the finale.) Other Canadian TV leads, such as Yannick Bisson, Craig Olejnik, Anna Silk and Enrico Colantoni, have a Doyle credit. If your name was Doyle, such as Alan or Shawn, you were in,
There was good old fashioned stunt casting as well. Oscar winner Russell Crowe was the big get, but Luis Guzman, Shannon Tweed and even original Rockford sidekick Stuart Margolin made the scene.
Hats off to the regulars–Krystin Pellerin, Sean McGinley, Lynda Boyd, Mark O’Brien, Martha Bernard, and in the early days, Rachel Wilson–for bringing these characters to life. Main star Allan Hawco often went shirtless, but he still managed to keep his head after six seasons producing and writing and everything else on the series. It was always his passion project and if the show didn’t win enough awards and recognition–as another Doyle, John of the Globe, has suggested–F-it. Hawco and his pals at Take the Shot, John Vatcher and Perry Chafe–with a big assist from Toronto mover and shaker Michael Levine–got to make the show they wanted to make. In Canadian TV, that’s the Stanley Cup.