Summer is the traditional time when networks, unwilling to waste money broadcasting new shows, turn a hopeful eye to our northern borders. Normally the US is content to ignore Canada. But in summertime American networks are desperate for something other than the third rerun of a “Modern Family” episode. The solution: In addition to being a cheap source of prescription drugs for Michigan’s elderly, Canada is also a fine source for inexpensive television filler.
The country’s airwaves, for example, are apparently chockablock with generic cop dramas. The thing about generic Canadian cop dramas is they’re virtually indistinguishable from generic American cop dramas. As long as the name of the city in which the show is set isn’t mentioned, you’d never know if it was supposed to be Detroit or Toronto, now would you? (Except when some homicide detective uses the word “aboot.”) Hence the networks have become rather addicted to airing Canadian cop shows, particularly during the summer. Take, for example, “Flashpoint” (CBS), “The Listener” (NBC), “Rookie Blue” and “Motive” (both ABC).
Now Reelz Channel is dipping into the “cheap Canadian cop dramas” well by re-airing the CBC series “Cracked.” This mix of police and medical drama is “inspired by real experiences of police officers and mental health professionals.” In other words: hunky guy cop and sexy girl doc solve crimes, eh.
The show follows the newly formed Psych Crimes Unit as its odd mix of police officers and psychiatrists battle crime, solve cases and cry it out with traumatized victims. At the center is SWAT Detective Aidan Black (Saskatoon native David Sutcliffe, who spent a few seasons on The CW’s “Gilmore Girls”). Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, he’s transferred to the new division where he partners up with forensic psychiatrist Dr. Daniella Ridley (Stefanie von Pfetten, who guested on such Syfy shows as “Andromeda,” “Battlestar Galactica” and “Eureka”). She’s just left a prominent position at a fancy hospital to team up with the police. There are several other sidekicks on the team, most of whom fall into the cynical cops or compassionate doctors category.
The show is actually a noble attempt to realistically reflect the number of police calls that involve people with mental illness or psychiatric disorders. Dealing with emotionally disturbed citizens is a real problem. Sadly a lot of these encounters end up as “police-assisted suicides.” Well meaning as the show tries to be, it often highlights some pretty melodramatic representations of mental illness. Black and Ridley are treated a bit like Mulder and Scully here. They’re weirdo detectives working for a fringe law enforcement unit nobody seems to understand. Instead of treating people with mental illness too lightly, “Cracked” does the opposite, depicting them as freaky space aliens in need of special police units.
Sutcliffe does shellshocked but snarky. Von Pfetten does overly intellectual and buttoned-down sexy. There’s plenty of antagonistic dialogue between the two to prove they’re attracted to one another. Everybody talks a whole lot. In the end, watching “Cracked” is a little like meeting your third cousin for the first time at a church picnic: familiar but boring.