November 26, 2007


‘CSI: Vancouver’? Well, Not Exactly (MIKE HALE, 11/25/07, NY Times)

The Canadian series “Da Vinci’s Inquest,” whose second season has just been released on DVD (Acorn Media), passed largely unnoticed in the United States but had an eerily “Sopranos”-like track record at home. The shows, which made their debuts just three months apart, were both nominated as their countries’ best dramatic series in all seven years they were eligible. “The Sopranos” won the Emmy twice; “Da Vinci’s Inquest” won the Gemini five times.

Because it’s a police procedural centered on a coroner’s office, “Da Vinci” has been called a cross between “Law & Order” and “CSI.” (It’s right there on the DVD box: “The realism of ‘Law & Order.’ The science of ‘CSI.’”) But it’s not at all like either of those shows. While its crimes can be sensational — several multiple-episode story arcs in the first two seasons involve a serial killer preying on prostitutes near the Vancouver docks — its approach is resolutely low-key, avoiding both ripped-from-the-headlines formulas and glossy melodrama.

With its elliptical, literate storytelling and the believable relationships among its large ensemble cast of pathologists, police officers and bureaucrats, it resembles much more closely the good, early days of “N.Y.P.D. Blue” or “ER.”

It's an enjoyable enough ensemble piece, with two not uncommon drawbacks of the genre: it sometimes borders on "torture porn" and the cases tend to involve the staff's personal lives to too unbelievable a degree, though not to quite the absurd extent of the not dissimilar McCallum.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 26, 2007 7:17 AM
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