Devoted to ‘Doyle’

Susan Flanagan
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Why Wednesday night has become family night at our house

It might be called “Republic of Doyle,” but the hit Newfoundland TV show is all about Des in the Flanagan home. — Telegram illustration

It’s 9:15 on Wednesday evening. No. 4 is adjusting the rabbit ears on our flat screen to make sure we have clear reception for CBC’s “Republic of Doyle” — or “Doylies,” as it’s known in our house.

We don’t have cable or satellite TV, so it’s important to get the rabbit ears just right. Watching “Republic of Doyle” is a family affair. It’s one of the few times we all get together outside of mealtimes. And we do more than watch, we analyze.

We love it when we recognize some obscure place where a scene is filmed. We like to pick out people we know among the extras. Our children even got to see my dazzling debut on “Episode 310: One Angry Jake,” where Jake’s been called to jury duty and Andy Jones (Tinny’s real-life father) plays the judge. You may have to go back a couple of times on your PVR before you catch a glimpse of me. I’m a flash of red passing behind the action for two-thirds of a second when Des fishes Owen’s name out of him.

And I’m there again, not quite as long this time, in the background dressed in black talking to my cameraman while Jake is in the foreground at the courthouse, which was actually the basement of the Colonial Building.

That still doesn’t explain why we’re such big fans.

The answer is one word: Des.

We love Mark O’Brien’s character. Who could resist him with his dimpled right cheek and fantastic lines? Stage lines, I mean.

Here’s Des commiserating with a woman who has a gambling addiction in “Episode 211: Don’t Gamble with City Hall”: “I get the same way with jujubes. … You say you’re just gonna have 30, right?”

And here’s classic Des offering insight into a case in “Episode 112: The Fall of the Republic”: “Apparently the human body digests a lottery ticket at an alarming rate.”

Who could not love him?

To us, Des carries the show. Every time he rambles, we wonder if his lines were written for him or if he’s just making it up as he goes. Des is the character who often discovers key clues to solving the mystery even if he’s not always aware of how they fit into the big picture.

Des is the Kramer of “Seinfeld,” he’s Hank on “Corner Gas,” he’s Milhouse in “The Simpsons.”

He provides comic relief when things get too serious for the Doyles and his escapades provide release for our own stresses.

What’s a family to do when the grand finale of Season 3 wraps up on April 4 and Des and company leave our screens? We’ll live in suspense until CBC announces if they’re funding a fourth season.

For a while we were worried about the future of the show. A few weeks into Season 3 we wondered if the carefree laughs we shared in the first two seasons were a thing of the past. Were we just over-analytical fans or had this season’s shows become too serious? Had the relationship between Malachy and Jake become nasty rather than humorous? Was there too much gratuitous flesh? Wasn’t it more fun when Leslie wasn’t so mean?

And how about loose ends? Will we find out this season why Tinny didn’t go to school in England?

Luckily, things picked up and the last few shows have improved. Of course, it’s not all Des. We enjoy Allan Hawco’s character, Jake, who wants what he can’t have and doesn’t know what to do with what he’s got.

My sister, Marie, who lives in Calgary, just loves Jake.

Every time she and her friend Alison chat about the show, it’s always Jake this and Jake that. His dark hair and eyes, and tight jeans, remind them of their heyday in the late ’70s/early ’80s. Maybe that’s it, maybe the 50-plus women love Jake and the 50-minus crowd loves Des.

Marie loves how Hawco has brought her beloved Newfoundland to the screen, even if Jake’s character is a bit rough around the edges.

In “Episode 205: Something Old Something Blue,” he offers up some bolting-at-the-altar advice:

“Getting ditched at the altar leaves quite a sting, wha? … There ain’t nothing a night at the Sundance won’t cure.”

And then there are the saucy exchanges with his father:

“The blockages in your heart, that’s my fault. It’s got nothing to do with the seven trays of pork chops you shove down your gob every night,” he says when Malachy blames his stress on Jake.

Hawco has done something remarkable with this show: he has made St. John’s a character every bit as important as the human ones.

I know this for a fact. I am a tour guide. Back in the late 1990s, when everyone was reading Wayne Johnston’s “The Colony of Unrequited Dreams,” visitors to the city wanted to see Bishop Feild School where Joey Smallwood had been a student.

Fast forward to 2012 and visitors are still asking to see Bishop Feild School because that’s where exterior cop shop shots are filmed for “Doylies.” They also want to see Malachy and Rose’s house on Gower, and Doyle and Doyle’s office above the Duke of Duckworth.

Now, locals know that it’s not the real Duke of Duckworth, though it may as well be. The entire pub — right down to the carved “Darts” sign and Harlequin lamp — have been recreated up in the old rec centre near St. John’s Airport.

The sets are not open to the public, but if you’re of age, you can head to the real Duke on a Wednesday night to watch the show at the bar.

This is a family column, so I must add that during the first two seasons I wondered if it was appropriate to allow the middle two to stay up until 10:30 on a school night and watch episodes featuring not-so-family-oriented plots.

Luckily this season things have been tamed down a touch. Except for Jake’s gratuitous six-pack scenes, it’s downright family oriented.

I’ve had to bring visitors to see Jake’s GTO. Hawco himself has said the best reason to star in your own TV show is so you can bomb around in a 1968 Pontiac GTO with its 400-cubic-inch V8 engine, hidden wipers and headlights.

One of the hottest pieces of “Doylies” merchandise is the GTO T-shirt. I’ve had people almost miss flights because they insisted on swinging by The Rooms gift shop to pick one up on the way to the airport.

Some of the best Rick Mercer TV I’ve ever seen featured him and Hawco performing synchronized classic detective driving stunts in twin GTOs.

“Never be afraid to fail,” Hawco tells Mercer before they set out. That’s a lesson we should teach our children. If Hawco had not failed on his first few pitches to CBC, we would never have “Republic of Doyle.”

We wouldn’t have Russell Crowe (a.k.a. Robin Hood) and the Merry Men jury-rigged into the plot of the Season 3 premiere. We wouldn’t have Mark O’Brien, Krystin Pellerin, Marthe Bernard, Gordon Pinsent, Alan Doyle, Shaun Majumder, Mark Critch, Pete Soucy and Shannon Tweed getting to do a shoot in their home province.

We wouldn’t get the great acting of Sean McGinley and Lynda Boyd coming to our screens with the beautiful St. John’s in the background.

“Republic of Doyle” would not be seen in 96 countries, including Bolivia, Latvia, Kenya, Australia, Russia, Germany and Brazil.

So with only two shows left this season, we’ll have to resort to watching old episodes over and over until we know them so well we can point out inaccuracies. We recently rewatched the first couple of episodes from Season 1 where Jake catches Des spraypainting his beloved GTO. My nephew, Joshua, had noticed that in Episode 2 Des is scrubbing away at his artwork on the car back in the garage on Gower Street while Jake is out investigating. But lo and behold, the GTO appears in the background not once, but twice, when Jake is out and about.

Inconsistencies like this only make us love the show more.

Susan Flanagan can be reached at

Organizations: CBC, Bishop Feild School, Something Blue

Geographic location: Gower Street, England, Calgary The Colony Bolivia Latvia Kenya Australia Russia Germany Brazil

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Recent comments

  • Kendall
    April 05, 2012 - 11:13

    I too thought the show was really lacking from last year, even the first episode with Russell Crowe. It definitely got better by the end of the season though. What a cliffhanger! Oh, and I'm 18 and I love Allan Hawco. Des is cool too obviously but Hawco is just too good-looking to resist. ;)

  • Karen
    April 05, 2012 - 07:04

    OMG! Did a reporter speak some honest words about Republic of Doyle? I thought I was only one of a few people who have watched the writing and the performances slip to a sub-par level this year. Thankfully, however, there was a character named Des who held this show up with his natural talent. Too bad more of our local comedic talent like him wasn't used in the main scenes rather than the background begging for scraps. Good on you Mark O'Brien! Keep up the good work, your feet on the ground and don't let any of it inflate your ego and you will go a lot further than some of the other people on the show.

  • John Smith
    March 28, 2012 - 08:01

    They had a chance to do something good here, but the writing and the scripts make this show all but unwatchable....I'm at the point now where I turn down the sound and just look at the scenery.

    • Tracker
      March 28, 2012 - 09:06

      "Turn down the sound and look at the scenery?" Why, Lil' Johnnie, isn't that exactly what you also do in your other comments when someone points out legitimate problems with the hugely-expensive Muskrat Falls project?

  • Jon
    March 27, 2012 - 22:46

    Well, in spite of a few negative comments, I must say we find the show to be excellent and very entertaining. It shows the result of a lot of hard work - from continuing to keep the charactors lively to attracting serious talent out to the far end of the country, to putting it all together in a tight, fast paced show. Entertaining for those who miss home? Sure. Good family show in primetime? Yup. Serious entertainment for those who have had their fill of American shows that feature too many reality themes? Definitely. To those who work to keep Doyle a good quality show? Great job - keep it up.

  • Sharon Hopkins
    March 27, 2012 - 20:33

    I can't believe there is only two more shows of season 3 left ... What am I going to do now.... I love the show and can only hope that there will be many more seasons to follow. I love the charactors , the humor , the awesome scenery footage, I mean whats not to love about this fantastic show. Please CBC we want more seasons..... and Jake I hope I see you this summer as I did last year in St.John's , .hats off to you and your cast Oh Yeah

  • David
    March 27, 2012 - 15:08

    As a tourism ad paid for partly by the Nfld. governemnt, RoD shows unrealistically sunny, but gorgeous, panorama shots of St. John's....great job duping the mainland rubes. But as a TV show, it is terribly derivative of bad 1970s cop shows, and is simply poor entertainment. This season in particular has been 'phoned in', with awful scripts / performances by guest stars Crowe and Tweed. None of this year's scripts I am certain were never even proof-read. And with the CBC facing more budget cuts, this show really should be allowed to die.

  • Robert
    March 27, 2012 - 08:08

    Have you ever looked in the mirror and wondered if what you see is what others see? I fancy ROD is a mirror for many! Born and raised in St. John's there was a time when where a person grew up in St. John's came with it's own distinct accent. Not a whole lot different then someone born "around the bay" I suppose; people rarely travelled outside their own community. And every community came with its 'characters'. And that might be the charm of comes with its characters. In my opinion Doyle is our version of Coronation Street and it "could" meander along for years as the plot has long been forgotten. We can hope!

  • Weirdo
    March 27, 2012 - 07:55

    Hmmmm....I wonder if Susan (author) and Mark (actual topic here) know each other... And those dumb signs they used to put up around town... "D -->" As if their truck drivers flew in from the mainland and couldn't find the Doyle set at Topsail Beach or on Duckwert. Those signs were really just guerilla advertising for the over-inflated, self-important, needs-a-craft-stand, "I-works-on-Doyle" (for free because I'm a 7th-year Faloosie major), cheese hamburger, G-thunderbolt, monk-man malarky of a "scene" here in St. John's! Now I feel bad...there are a lot of good people working on Doyle. Good job guys.