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Review: The Romeo Section 1x1 (Canada: CBC)

Posted on October 20, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Romeo Section

In Canada: Wednesdays, 9pm, CBC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

If there's one thing Canadians can't seem to get enough of, it seems to be spy shows. Whether it's as a stupid comedy (Insecurity), a reasonably smart cross-border politicking drama (The Border), or as a very smart undercover cop show (Intelligence), sneakiness and lies have been a mainstay of Canada's TV output for the best part of a decade. 

In part, that's down to Chris Haddock, the Canadian writer/producer behind cop shows Da Vinci's Inquest, Da Vinci's Town Hall and CBS's The Handler, who first launched the genre in Canada with the slow-moving Intelligence. He's now back in the game with The Romeo Section, an even slower-moving spy show. 

It stars the inexplicably Glaswegian Andrew Airlie as the equally inexplicably named Wolfgang McGee, a globe-trotting Vancouver university professor who runs 'the Romeo Section' - a group of male and female undercover spies involved in sexy time with various intelligence targets, international and domestic. It's their job to inflitrate the Triads, crime rings, cartels and other criminal groups, to get the information Canada needs to destroy them.

To get them to do this, Airlie goes around Hong Kong and Vancouver, visiting shops, libraries, dark gloomy places, racetracks and numerous other places, where he has mumbly, Glaswegian-accented conversations with people that are so arch, you can't tell if it's bad writing or some kind of spy code. Then he goes away again, information gathered, so he can brood back in his office or mumble with his handler (Eugene Lipinski from Intelligence, Da Vinci's Town Hall et al, but also the original BBC Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), while his assets go off and have more sexy times. Main asset is the conflicted and bearded Juan Riedinger (Narcos), who spends a lot of his time shagging mental mob wife Stephanie Bennett (UnREAL, iZombie).

The whole show has the veneer of quality and intelligence, except it's one of those veneers where you assume that it's good and intelligent because nothing much happens for great long chunks of time and no one talks above a whisper, not because it's telling you anything you don't know or because of the gripping plot and characters. Not by a long chalk is this another Rubicon. You want it to be Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but I'm about 90% sure it's actually A Bit of Fry & Laurie.

It's not badly written, it does avoid the excesses of a lot of spy shows, it does have some smarts to it and I'm sure it'll have its proponents and fans, who'll be addicted by episode eight, when something might actually have happened. But I won't be sticking around until then, I'm afraid.


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Monday's "pilot ordering" news

Posted on January 9, 2012 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share


British TV


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Review: Braquo 1x1

Posted on November 4, 2011 | comments | Bookmark and Share


In the UK: Sundays, 10pm, FX UK
In France: Canal+. First broadcast 2009

Once upon a time - i.e. five or six years ago - FX was the place to go to if you wanted to watch the best, most niche US TV shows. The Wire was on FX years before DVD and BBC2 showings made it nearly a household name, while Dexter and numerous other top-quality shows aired only on FX or aired on it first.

Then along came Sky Atlantic and screwed all that up. Have a look at the roster now and yes, there's The Walking Dead, True Blood and American Horror Story, but that's three horror shows, only one of which is any good and everything else is just re-runs. And let's not start on the fact The Defenders is on there. That's just embarrassing.

So FX came up with a cunning idea: let's see what countries other than the US have to offer. So it started with Canadian TV. Along came The Border, which wasn't half bad, The Listener, which was, and ReGenesis and The Booth At The End, which I admit I've never seen but which I also admit I don't feel inspired to watch, either.

But hunting for good quality Canadian TV can be tricky. For every, The Border, jPod, Being Erica or Endgame, there's a The Line, Men With Brooms, InSecurity, Good Dog or XIII waiting to make you regret your TV-watching decision. FX can't exactly pack its schedules to the rafters with Canadian TV, particularly since E4's started nicking Canadian shows as well.

So FX has cunningly decided, just as BBC4 is cutting back on its acquisition budgets and focusing on Scandinavian shows, to capitalise on one of that channel's other innovations and look close to home for its shows. To France, in fact.

So not only has it been showing the two-part movie Mesrine, starring Vincent Cassel as the eponymous gangster, it's also acquired Spiral/Engrenages's sibling show at Canal+ Braquo, a dark policier about a cop with broad definitions of legality and what he's allowed to do.

The question is - has FX found the new The Killing or is it about to discover what those of us who have watched French TV for some time now have found: that French TV drama, by and large, sucks?

Here's a trailer.

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