The Line is Worth The Weight

How long has it taken for The Line to get to air? So long that the magazine that assigned me to write about it folded.
Which is a bloody shame since The Line is great television and deserves all the coverage it can get. It starts tonight on The Movie Network (10 p.m.) and Movie Central (9 p.m.).
It was in October of 2007 when I drove out to darkest Scarberia to spend a day on the set of what was then known as “The Weight.” Bit ironic given the long wait for the damn show to appear. The shoot was taking place that day at a seedy motel which the series had taken over for the duration of the production. As memory serves it was a pretty dreary, October day but there was plenty of warmth on the set. I must have gabbed with Daniel Kash for 40 minutes over lunch. We talked about hockey, our parents, life and, of course, how damn fine the craft services meal was.
I’d first met Kash years earlier when he played tragic Toronto Maple Leaf Brian “Spinner” Spencer in an under-rated TV-movie Aton Egoyan directed. He’s a damn fine actor and this role is right down his power alley.
Kash was pumped about playing this crazy, reckless, irresponsible, down-and-out cop who was blown every last chance thrown his way. Like the rest of the cast, he couldn’t believe he had lucked into a George F. Walker script.
Walker is the Canadian playwright who penned the CBC drama This Is Wonderland. His shows are populated with misfits and characters who are neck deep in crisis and dysfunction. Real people, in other words.
In one of the seedier rooms on the upper deck of the dilapidated motel I met Linda Hamilton, the Terminator babe who was dressed down for the role of a grifter on this series. Her character had been beaten up and she was covered in black and blue makeup. She could not have been friendlier or more carefree and was a delight to meet.
As we stood in the motel room which was covered floor to ceiling in filth (the set dressers had to fix up this place to look seedy), I said something like “if these walls could talk they’d be slurring their words.” This provoked a laugh and we got along very well.
Hamilton was on the series thanks to the director, Gail Harvey, who I’ve know from my days as a photo editor at TV Guide and her days as one of the city’s busiest unit photographers. Harvey had directed Hamilton in a previous TV-movie and when the director called to offer the part in the Walker production, Hamilton left Hollywood and flew up to Scarborough. She, too, was blown away by Walker’s words.
Hamilton seemed quite content to be as far removed from Hollywood glamor as possible. She broke through in the late ’80s prime time soap Beauty and the Beast playing someone who always needed to be rescued. She became famous as someone who could look after herself opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first two Terminator movies.
Hamilton was candid about her career and her battle with a bipolar disorder. She’d found the right medication was was finally a happy camper and that was certainly the case that day on the set (and the word from her costars).
I wrote a piece at the time for CP about her not being involved in what was then the upcoming Sarah Connor Terminator series on Fox. Rushing to get the piece up on the wire and looking for a few background details, I had checked her out on a few Internet bio sites, all of which suggested she had been married three times (once to Terminator director and Canadian James Cameron).
Shortly after that piece came out I got a call from the unit publicist who had arranged the interviews. Hamilton was pissed. She had not been married three times, but twice.
I really regretted causing her any grief, because she was so up and impressive on that rainy day in Scarborough. It was a sharp reminder not to rely on even the usual sources for private life details. IMDb isn’t the Bible, folks.
All of which is, well, ancient history by now. The good news is that The Line is on the air, starting tonight, with a total of 15 episodes set to roll. The series explores the line between right and wrong, good and bad and sometimes even erases it. It reminds me a bit of a series that was years ahead of its time–Paul Haggis’ EZ Streets.
That short-lived cop show was the blueprint for every great show about moral ambiguity that followed. Since then, moral ambiguity has been done so well by so many great TV playwrights–David Chase on The Sopranos, David Simon on The Wire, Matthew Weiner on Mad Men, Vince Gilligan on Breaking Bad, David Milch on Deadwood–that Walker’s show might seem late to the party and a tad derivative to some viewers. Just keep in mind that two of those shows, Mad Men and Breaking Bad, came out after Walker wrote these scripts and even after The Line was in production. The wheels turn slowly in Canadian television, and sometimes it is all about annual budgets and bottom line and funding and all of that stuff. It is a wonder Astral and Corus didn’t wind up calling this series The Bottom Line.
Still, this show is easy to root for. These are our morally ambiguous stories, told by our actors in our city. Ron White has the tricky role of playing the (sorta) good cop to Kash’s (pretty much) bad cop and he walks this Line with great effect. All the actors are terrific, including Cle Bennet (Doomstown) as a jumpy drug dealer with ties to the two cops and Yanna McIntosh (This Is Wonderland) as White’s character’s long suffering wife Karen.
Several other American stars crossed the border to get in on Walker’s words, including an actor who was won more Emmy Awards than anyone else: Ed Asner. Sharon Lawrence (NYPD Blue) steals a few scenes as well.
So even though SHOW magazine folded and I didn’t get this series on the cover of a magazine, please, both of you reading this, watch The Line. Hopefully I’ll get that Kash profile in print before another magazine or newspaper folds!

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