A few years ago I discovered this show called "Durham County" which is shown in Canada. Soon after I began watching it I realized this is a special type show. It was like nothing I had really watched before, as most shows, at least here in the US, tend to be "Safe". There are exceptions such as Sons of Anarchy or Dexter or The Shield, but by and large most shows have a "we won't cross this line" mentality that prevents it from seriously going in a direction that might be seen as offputting to a number of viewers.
Thankfully Durham County's network does not have that mentality, and so it has allowed this brilliant show to be crafted in a way that is unsettling and not at all "safe". The show is completely unpredictable and in fact the one thing that IS predictable is how you will feel afterwards. Kinda icky. And that's a great thing I think. Anytime a show can create these emotions inside you that make you question what you just watched is brilliant in my mind.
The only show that really approaches this in the sense of "oh my God he's not going to...oh he just did!" is probably Dexter. Dexter is a show that essentially has you rooting for a serial killer to get away with it. Perhaps because the people that he kills are all bad people. We know this watching it, so when he kills a pedophile or a child killer or a guy who killed his wife, we don't really feel that bad. We know killing is wrong, but we know 100% that the people he's killing are guilty and are getting away with it. So that makes it okay, if even in a questionable morals type of way.
Durham is much the same, only in a different way. Durham is about Detective Mike Sweeney, played by Hugh Dillon (TV's Flashpoint) who after his partner is killed relocates with his family to the suburbs of Durham County. Unknowingly he moves across the street from his old high school nemesis Ray Prager who is played by Justin Louis (TV's Stargate Universe). Louis' Prager is a creepy and easily angered guy who never really made anything of himself. His kid hates him, his marriage is falling apart, and as the show opens up he's spying on a man who kills two girls in the woods.
And he does nothing. Except watch. You get the impression that he's turned on by this combination of sex and violence, which can not be a good thing. Anyone that's watched any episodes of Law & Order: SVU knows that this is not a healthy combo.
Soon the girls are discovered, and Sweeney begins to set his sight on his old enemy, and has his motives questioned due to their uneasy history.
The interactions between Hugh Dillon and Justin Louis are spectacular and you can absolutely just taste the dislike between their characters. Their hatred of each other is palpable, all the while they dance around and and act like they want to make things work out.
There's an especially great scene near the end of Season 1 where Prager is being interrogated by Sweeney and these two great actors just nail every single moment, making what could have been a routine scene that we've seen a hundred times, into something great with unbelievable tension hanging in the air thick as smoke.
Unfolding over six episodes the series is filled with moments that make you squirm, that disturb you and make you want to take a shower quickly after it's over. However what the show won't do is leave you without thinking about it. It's so well done, so excellently shot and presented that it's impossible to watch this show and not have some thoughts about it. It's not a show that you watch it and just forget about it. It stays with you long after watching it, for good or for bad. It is filled with moments that reach out and grab you and forces you to look at yourself and how you feel about the things you're seeing.
It's not violent for violent's sake. It's not brutal for the sake of brutality. It's not done in a gratuitous way where you look at it and think "now did they REALLY need that?" It's all done in a deliberate way in order to provoke thought and discussion.
Unlike many shows here in the states, there is only six episodes to a season, so there's no room for filler. There's no episodes that don't further the mystery or the storylines, like you see in series that run on for 20+ episodes a season. This means that every episode means something. Every episode has something to say and it's up to you to pay attention and follow everything.
Viewers should be warned that in addition to the disturbing content involving murders, there is also a good deal of adult language and there is some nudity/sexual situations. This is DEFINITELY not for kids or those who are easily offended.
However it IS for those who love intelligent television that doesn't treat it's audience like idiots that need everything handed to them on a plate in the way of an explanation. The show ends on a note that doesn't wrap everything up. Some of the story continues in Season 2 especially concerning Ray Prager and his effects on Sweeney's family life.
Both Sweeney and Louis were outstanding in this show and both were rightly nominated for Best Actor Gemini awards, (kind of like the Canadian Emmys) with Justin Louis winning it for his complex portrayal of a very bad person who perhaps has a reason for why he's so bad.
Helene Joy (who portrays Mike Sweeney's wife) won for Best Actress as well, and Sonya Salomaa (Ray Prager's Wife) and Laurence LeBoeuf (Mike Sweeney's daughter) were both nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively.
This is a brilliant show and is one of my top 5 all time (along with The Wire, Carnivale, Dexter, and Lost)
SEASON 1 DVD DETAILS:
The set comes with three discs, each packaged inside a slim pak, with three slim paks inside the outer slip cover.
Each disc has a couple static menus with music, and the main menu showing the "Episode List" and "Play All Episodes" is an animated menu showing the clouds moving across the sky as the theme score plays.
There are six episodes split up over the first two discs (three on disc 1 and 2) with the third disc being for extras.
1. Behind The Scene Featurette
2. Character Bios
3. Two songs by Hugh Dillon (Mike Sweeney) and the Redemption Choir
4. Season 2 Synopsis
The Behind the Scenes Featurette is a nicely put together piece that has interviews with the various people responsible for bringing the show to the screen, from the co-creators Janis Lundman, Adrienne Mitchel and Laurie Finstad-Knizhnik and stars like Helene Joy and Laurence Leboeuf, along with shots of the show being filmed. Pretty interesting stuff. Runs about 25 minutes.
The Character Bios are text on screen of the descriptions of the various characters that inhabit Durham County and an image of each character on their pages.
The two songs by Hugh Dillon are audio tracks of the songs "Sorry Town" and "Puzzle I Am" played over a slideshow of images from. Hugh Dillon is a singer as well as an actor and has his own band called "Hugh Dillon and the Redemption Choir" which draws inspiration from various types of music.
The Season 2 Synopsis is also a text on screen synopsis of what will happen in Season 2. It's pretty brief and standard so there's no real spoilers there.