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‘Flashpoint’ airs its series finale: Why the police drama was a success for Canadian television

anne_t_donahue
omg! TV
December 14, 2012

After five seasons, 75 episodes, and what reviewers describe as a riveting finale, "Flashpoint" has come to an end. As a result, the police drama's Canadian and American followings (it aired on both CTV and on CBS) must say goodbye, making "Degrassi" the only other scripted Canadian series turning heads south of the border.

So, what made "Flashpoint" so special? Produced for CTV in 2007, CBS signed on as production partner in 2008 during the writer's strike. From there, the show premiered to American and Canadian audiences, and filled the void left by TV shows on hiatus. Unfortunately, "Flashpoint" was dropped by CBS in 2011, but the police drama was then picked back up by ION Television, where it stayed until its conclusion. A cause for celebration, certainly, especially considering "Flashpoint's" Canadian roots.

See also: 'Arrested Development' will be available on Netflix Canada

Despite a distinct lack of buzz (arguably, it's no "Breaking Bad" or "Boardwalk Empire"), "Flashpoint" managed to maintain a fan base large enough to justify a prime time slot, with an early 18-episode order for its fifth and final season. However, unlike "Degrassi," "Flashpoint" didn't deal with controversial social issues, nor did it embrace the type of gut-wrenching subplots you might see on "C.S.I." or "Law and Order."

But perhaps that's what made it stand out. It's easy to look at a show like "Flashpoint" -- a subtly praised, Canadian series that was dropped from a major American network -- and dismiss it as just another venture in national broadcasting. However, the fact that Canada produced a cop show that chose to end (as opposed to being cancelled) and didn't outright channel or copy American shows is a victory. Canada is often pegged as "America junior," but instead of making another version of "C.S.I.," CTV chose to make "Flashpoint," a series revolving around a tight-knit group of police officers that combined action with real, human stories.

"Flashpoint" also differed from typical crime shows in another way. While "C.S.I." and "Law and Order" tend to depict -- at times -- brutal, graphic violence, "Flashpoint" did not. Yes, there was action, and violence moved the narrative forward, but the show didn't dwell on trauma or sensationalism. It was about the characters as people, less about the violence the were faced with. In that way, one could say it was a very Canadian series.

See also: 'Homeland' hits a wall -- when should a TV show call it quits?

Maybe that's the key to Canadian success. The BBC prides itself on "British" shows like "Sherlock," "Dr. Who," and even "The Hour," and America follows its own path with television dramas. However, Canada has struggled to develop and define its unique television landscape, and our successes are sadly few and far between.

However, with the success of "Flashpoint" -- its action, its adventure, and, yes, its ability to stay on air -- maybe Canadian networks will finally realize that Canadian content is bankable, provided you stop trying to be anybody else.

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