Review: King 1×1

She doesn't play by the book - and that's about it


In Canada: Sundays, 9pm ET/PT, Showcase

So here’s an interesting question: is it enough that a female character be strong? I mean literally that’s the only real characteristic that she has.

Because now we have a thought experiment in actual viewing form: King, Showcase’s female cop who doesn’t mind ruffling a few feathers. She’s been sitting in the call centre for ages after refusing to play by the rules, but now she’s going to take over an investigation because the lead detective is rubbish. She’s strong, she’s determined, she’s professional, she’s smart, she doesn’t mind going into the men’s room when there are men in there.

And that’s about it. If you pushed me, I’d say she also has a slightly dull relationship with her husband. And that she wears shoes. But honestly, that’s about it.

Here’s the trailer: see if you can spot some more character traits that would make you want to watch.

As a Homicide Detective, Jessica King (Amy Price-Francis) sees things that everyone else misses: in crime scenes, in evidence, in the motivations and drives of the suspects. A fearless and imaginative lateral thinker, her unique eye for detail turns cases around. And she has a rare quality: Jess doesn’t need to be liked. That quality gets her into trouble.

Almost two years ago, the former Chief of Police sent Jess to the call centre – the Police Service equivalent of Siberia – for an act of gross insubordination. She went public about corruption on the Force. Some of her colleagues haven’t forgotten, let alone forgiven her. After the shuffle, Jess struggled to accept that the “career” part of things had run its course. She started thinking about something that she’d avoided for a long time. Family. A new life.

So, Jess dove into a third marriage with fellow officer and Guns and Gangs team member Detective Daniel Sless (Gabriel Hogan). Danny adores Jess. But their rigorous efforts to get pregnant haven’t panned out so far. And that’s putting a strain on things.

When Detective Sergeant Derek Spears (Alan Van Sprang) has a public, televised meltdown, Jessica King is called in to lead the Major Crimes Task Force (M.C.T.F.) – a police squad that is parachuted in to take over cases in crisis. Murder, rape, robbery, gang violence, serial and predatory crime – everything’s fair game.

The unit takes over cases already in progress and in crisis. A cop or the courts screw up, or another squad drops the ball and Jess and her team have to work fast, take big risks and probably piss some people off to get it back on track. Like Jess, the M.C.T.F. doesn’t have many boundaries.

Spears is less than gracious about the fact that King is now in charge of what was ‘his’ unit. He was a good cop once, very good, and he will be again. But, it’ll take Jessica King to help him get his mojo back. There’s chemistry between them and Jess will be tempted – Spears is a lot like the guys she swore off years ago. Besides, she’s determined to make her marriage with Danny work. Colleagues may resent her but King’s fierce intelligence, passion for her job, disarming honesty and wicked sense of humour overrides their doubts. King is a lateral, imaginative thinker whose rare eye for detail gives her a critical edge. And, she’s tough. King has survived eight years in Homicide, two marriages and multiple stab wounds. Off duty, King is a wife, a lover and a friend, who struggles with issues of infertility, intimacy and trust – and like most women, she can’t pass up a good shoe sale.

Is it any good?
It’s okay. It’s no worse than a dozen other cop shows about male cops who don’t play by the rules. In fact it’s significantly better than a lot of them. It’s just very cookie-cutter. It’s like someone’s taken one of those other shows, said “Let’s have a generic show about cops. But let’s have it about a female cop. Hmm. What shall we do to make her different? Well, what do girls like? Oh! I know, shoes! And babies! And relationships!” and added that to the mix.

Now for some people, that might be enough. It’s enough for Rizzoli & Isles fans.

But honestly, there’s nothing mindblowingly new here or exciting. King is acceptable enough as a character. I didn’t find myself caring about her, her life, her relationship issues, her fertility issues or the fact she doesn’t really seem to have any friends. The other characters got so little time and development beyond the insultingly trivial that I’m not actually even sure which ones of them are going to be regulars and which ones are just going to be in the first episode. The male cop rival – and potential love interest – was so laughingly badly drawn that you wonder he didn’t have a moustache to twirl. The plot was tediously Canadian (sorry to stereotype) and nice, with the potentially exciting “paedophile abducts child” plot eventually revealed to be (spoiler alert) just the child’s genetic father wanting to see his daughter.

There’s basically no fizz to this, no sparks that distinguish it from the crowd. It’s too escapist for it to be telling you anything about the lives of female police officers; it’s not escapist enough to actually be fun. It just is.

Don’t bother with this one.


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.