Thursday, December 6, 2012

Flashpoint goes out with guns blazing

Thursday night at 10 p.m. brings the beginning of the end for Flashpoint. The two-part series finale, "Keep the Peace," concludes next Thurs., Dec. 13, at 10 p.m. on CTV.
The shot-in-Toronto drama has been topping the 1.6 million viewers per week mark again as it heads off air and into syndication. A total of 75 episodes will have been produced over five seasons, bringing 11 Gemini wins. Flashpoint at its peak was licenced in over 100 territories worldwide. Its success as a Canada-U.S. co-production opened doors to several other TV dramas shot in Canada, including Rookie Blue, The Listener and Saving Hope.
Last June, I was on hand as production came to a halt. It was an emotional day as noted in this post which ran here previously:

Closure is hard to come by on a TV series. For the folks behind Flashpoint, it arrived this week.
I was on the set Monday in Toronto when the main cast members gathered for their final scene together. Can't spill the details--the fifth and final, 12-episode season won't begin on CTV until September--but suffice to say some brewskies get popped and toasts are made.
Any series is important foe the people who are making it. A big budget, Canadian TV drama like Flashpoint employs well over a hundred people, from extras to technicians to producers, writers, directors, drivers and even the folks who provide the craft services goodies. Many gathered in the makeshift, east-end Toronto studio Monday for a final cast photo. It looked like one of those centre ice Stanley Cup championship shots.
In some ways, Flashpoint was more than just a TV show. It was launched right when U.S. networks like CBS were actively looking for ways to share production costs as the business model for television slammed hard into the recession as well as changing realities. Flashpoint's success on both sides of the border was important because it became the example of how the new model could work. A cop show, shot in Toronto without doubling for New York or Chicago, could be embraced by American audiences. And while the series became something of a summer bench player for CBS (while remaining a huge domestic hit for CTV), they also kept ordering more, an affirmation for Canadian stars, producers and other talent that, yes, we can play in their arena.
Executive producers Anne Marie la Traverse and Bill Mustos admit the mantle of being the not-so-little show that could was a burden at times. Both became experts in finessing their show through network meetings with Americans--and have the scars to prove it.
Both also said the show could have gone on--CTV wanted more--but neither wanted to come back for a sixth season with a smaller cast, or less production values. The decision was made to end it a year early, rather than a year late.
For showrunners Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern, this is a sad, triumphant, emotional week. Suddenly it was all ending; bits of set and wardrobe were being sold off to crew members on tables in the hallway.
 I spoke with them on the set and they seemed dazed at simply arriving at this point, as if they had been abducted by aliens and now released in some sort of Close Encounters moment. They had poured a lot into the last six years into making what they saw all along as an irresistible cop show. The fact that it all happened is still sinking in. 
Is this the end of 'Rico? Just on Flashpoint
I had suggested to Ellis a few years earlier he concoct a sniper scene on one of my favourite west end Toronto landmarks, the roof top of the defunct Westwood Theater out at Six Points in Etobicoke. Monday he told me he actually tried to make it so, but the paper work got a little complicated. While that one didn't happen, it must be cool just to almost be able to do something like that.
While we spoke, la Traverse interrupted, as did director David Frazee. A cast member was tripping over a word--"commendation." Ellis and Morgenstern were asked to come up with an alternative.
Several were suggested, but in the end the actor managed to say the word. It was apt, not just for the scene, but for the series and the moment. 
The showrunners praised the cast for taking their vision and running with it. Amy Jo Johnson, David Paekau and Sergio Di Zio got "commendation" for enhancing anything that was thrown their way.
I grabbed a few minutes with Enrico Colantoni and he spoke about the great joy he felt to have this closure with a series--the first time he`s had that experience. Just Shoot Me, Veronica Mars, ZOS, all left hanging.
Rico is one of those guys everyone respects, just a warm guy, a very generous and sensitive leader, and a hell of an actor.
Hugh Dillon: he's keeping the jacket
He also said it was time. He loved every moment working on the series but was glad it had gone five-and-out. Newly married, he has a 12-year-old and a 15-year-old and while he'll continue to make recurring appearances on Person of Interest, the next little while will be mainly about family.
He and Hugh Dillon had so much fun playing cops and robbers they're going to keep playing together, having formed a production company named after their deal at home as kids growing up--Latchkey Productions. They've already made a short film and have a series in development.
Dillon looks too at home in his special forces duds to hang 'em up. He savored the moment Monday, proud of the work and feeling blessed about his life, giving thanks, as he has said to me before, to his wife for screwing his rock star head back on and pointing him in the right direction. He talked about the rush of seeing all those billboard and bus shelter ads, of knowing they were a hit while they were half way through that first season.
There were other visitors to the set Monday. A couple of people who ducked real bullets at that Eaton Centre shooting had contacted the producers and were invited to the set. Dillon said he was moved when they told him they ducked for the floor and stayed motionless because that's what people in that situation were told to do on Flashpoint.
Autographs were signed and photos taken. Then it was back to work.
American or Canadian, a great TV series is one that not only touches you, but that you can touch. Flashpoint will go out this fall with that embraceable quality intact. It deserves all the closure it can get.
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