Gander native Rob Blackie watched the premiere episode of CBC television's Republic of Doyle Jan. 6 at a special gala screening at the Majestic Theatre with a wealth of guests, including cast, crew, St. John's city councillors and Premier Danny Williams.
"It was magical," said Blackie, one of the producers on the show. "It was surreal, terrifying and exhilarating. You want it to be received well, you want the humour to work and you want it to be technically strong. ... A lot of people took risks to make this show happen."
Republic of Doyle is a detective series mixing comedy and drama, centred around a father-and-son private detective business in St. John's. Each week, they solve a different case while managing ongoing family matters.
Blackie was pleased with early reactions to the show, which premiered to 969,000 viewers, according to unofficial figures released by CBC.
"We're thrilled about the response. The numbers have been fairly good. We're apprehensive about reading too much into them," Blackie said, adding they have yet to hear official viewing figures for any of the early episodes.
That response can also be tracked through online reaction, of which there has been plenty. A fan page on Facebook had more than 26,000 fans as of Monday.
"The response has been really positive. There's been a lot of buzz on the Internet. There's been a fair bit of activity on our Twitter site, too, so generally, we have nothing to complain about. What's surprising is the response has been very positive across the country."
While it seems fair to assume a television show set in Newfoundland and Labrador would play well provincially, banking on success on the mainland is harder to gauge.
"We've always felt like we're making a show for both. We always thought of it as a show made for a television audience generally, and the television audience in North America and outside (the continent).
"We hope people like the characters, and that Jake Doyle is intriguing enough, and funny enough, and that he also gets himself in enough trouble that it can be entertaining. The show has incredible female characters. The women cover the gamut and are the heart-and-soul - they run the household and run the world of Doyle, although the guys think they run it. It's a lot like Newfoundland culture, really."
Action and plot are also key elements Blackie said he hopes will draw people to the series. An upcoming episode will feature a car chase through downtown St. John's that took two days to shoot and utilized some of the best stunt drivers in the country, he said.
"They worked miracles," Blackie said.
Viewership aside, Blackie said the reaction from media to the show's debut was very encouraging.
"The national press has been really, really positive, which has been a pleasant surprise and something we're happy about."
It has been commonly reported within the television industry that Canada's public broadcaster will stick with a series if it can maintain at least 500,000 viewers per episode, which would bode well for Republic of Doyle based on its start.
However, Blackie said he is hesitant to read too much into the numbers with regards to the possibility of a second season for the show.
"I really have no idea. We officially won't know anything until around the end of March, and until then I won't actually know. We have our hopes, and we obviously would be very thrilled to do another season, but I really have no idea what the probability of that is."
Blackie said many external factors - including advertisers, internal CBC politics, the exchange rate's effect on raising funds from the foreign market and tax credit policy - could affect Doyle's chances.
The push to attract audiences is not restricted to Canada at this point. Blackie said the show has a sales agent in London, England, called Content Film. They also have an office in Los Angeles and are actively marketing the show internationally.
"We're very much hoping there'll be sales in foreign markets - as many as possible."
Even though filming wrapped up Dec. 22 for the show's first season, Blackie continues to work on post-production details in St. John's.
Editing, mixing and colouring are amongst the necessary tasks required to complete the final seven episodes out of 12. That work should clue up in the middle of March, he said.
Even though his constant involvement in creating the show could conceivably make him weary of watching the series as it airs, Blackie said he continues to watch in order to ensure quality control.
"The things we're intending in terms of sound, colouring, editing, they need to be rendered clearly. We want the audience to have a particular kind of experience, and the only way we'll know they're getting it right is if we watch it."