Better Late Than Never: Andy B Discovers Durham County

We can’t watch everything, right? I mean, who has the time to watch every single show that you think you might like on the tube? Not me, and I bet not you either. What that means is that the best of us often miss out on tv that we could very well be loving.

That’s how it went with me and Durham County, the critically acclaimed Canadian television program set north of Toronto starring Hugh Dillon as Mike Sweeney, a big city homicide cop who’s relocated to the ‘burbs, and Justin Louis as Ray Prager, his not so good new neighbour. The show’s first 6 episode season aired over a year ago on The Movie Network and recently made its way onto free tv, but I kept missing my chance to catch the show. As fate would have it, last night I was flipping channels and landed on Showcase, which was showing the first episode of Durham County. I felt like I’d lucked out, and sat back to watch. How would I sum it up? One word:

Wow.

The premier episode of Durham County has got to be one of the best hours of television I’ve seen in years. Both Hugh Dillon and Justin Louis give spectacular performances; Dillon’s character is a slow burn. He’s a good man with a temper, coping with the death of his partner, a wife battling cancer, a rebellious teenage daughter, and a secret he’s keeping from his family. I haven’t seen much of Dillon the actor (I’m more familiar with him as the frontman for Canada’s legendary band, the Headstones), but unlike most rock stars turned actors, he’s actually great in his new role. His ability to play subdued is all the more commendable when it comes time for him to let loose.

Meanwhile, there’s no doubting that Justin Louis’ Ray Prager is a bastard, a horrible husband and father that has clearly cracked. I can’t remember the last television character that was so clearly evil as Prager. There’s no subtle smile or Lecter charm to him; Louis plays him straight, which makes the performance that much more disturbing. There were at least two instances where Prager’s actions actually caused me to gasp outloud, and believe me when I say I can’t remember the last time I did that while watching a tv show.

In looking at some of the comments regarding Durham County, comparison’s to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks often come up. For once, they’re completely warranted. Like the trees, wildlife, and train tracks that were as much a character on that show, the power lines of Durham County cast their own shadow throughout the premier episode. In some ways, the quick shots of them act as transitions between scenes, but they also give off a real sense of foreboding. That something in the sleepy suburbs isn’t quite right. I think that every time I have to go to one.

I have no idea where Durham County is going to with its remaining episodes. I’m sure I could find out easily enough since I missed it during its first go around, but I’m not going to. I’m going to wait until next week to see what happens, because I want to discover the show’s secrets on the screen, as I’m supposed to. But really, I can’t recommend Durham County enough. This is dark stuff that’s well worth your time. If you missed it the first time around, and I bet many people did, you can catch it again Wednesday nights at 8pm on Showcase. It’s also available in Canada on DVD.

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