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  • Writer's pictureSusan Flanagan

Devoted to Doyle | The Kids are Alright | Mar. 27, 2012

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. You see we don’t have cable or satellite TV so it’s very 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 analyse. We love it when we recognize some obscure place where a scene is filmed. Except there’s a ban on discussing set locations while the show is in progress. Unless we want to risk losing our tongues, we have to wait until the Diamond Design commercial is singing Don’t Shoo Shoo Me Away before we can part lips to debate how that chase scene started downtown but ended up on Logy Bay Road.

Of course 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 2/3 of a second when Des fishes Owen’s name out of him. And brace yourself; I’m there again, not quite as long this time, again 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 quite 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 right-cheek dimple 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 on, 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 Three 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 there we were worried about the future of the show. A few weeks into Season Three 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? Has the relationship between Malachy and Jake become nasty rather than humorous? Is 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 much 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 and watches Doylies every Wednesday just after supper just loves Jake. She loves his quirkiness; she loves the way he gets the job done; she loves the way his frustration with Des or Malachy is literally about to explode out of every pore in his body. Every time she and her friend Alison chat about the show, it’s always Jake, this and Jake that. They even think the name Jake is slick and sexy. The dark hair and eyes, and tight jeans remind them of their heyday in the late 70's early 80's. Maybe that's it, maybe the 50's+ women love Jake and the <50's love Des. Anyway Marie is a Jake fan through and through. She also loves how Allan Hawco has brought her beloved Newfoundland to the screen like no other, even if Jake’s character is a bit rough around the edges.

“Do you want a drink or something? It takes the edge right off the commitment,” says Jake offering advice to Walter’s sister when her fiancé has disappeared at the altar. He offers up more bolting at the altar advice in Episode 205 - Something Old Something Blue: “Getting ditched at the altar leaves quite a sting, wha? … there ain’t nothing a night at the Sundance won’t cure.”

“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,” Jake tells his father when Malachy blames his stress on Jake. But we still find ourselves rooting for Jake because he’s kind-hearted and means well.

Hawco does not share Jake’s traits, he’s also one of a kind. He has done something no other person has ever done in a TV show. He has made St. John’s a character every bit as important as the main ones.

I know this for a fact. I am a tour guide. Back in the late 1990s when everyone was reading Wayne Johnston’s book, “The Colony of Unrequited Dreams,” visitors to the city wanted to see Bishop Field School where Joey Smallwood had been a student. Fast forward to 2012 and visitors are still asking to see Bishop Field School because that’s where the exterior cop shop shots are filmed. They also want to see Malachy and Rose’s house on Gower and Doyle and Doyle’s office above the Duke of Duckworth. Now most locals know that it’s not the real Duke of Duckworth used in filming although it may as well be. The entire contents, 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 general public, of course, but if you’re of age, you can head to the real Duke to watch a Wednesday night episode in the bar. Beware though that you may be shushed, not by the owners/bar tenders, but by the fans hanging off every word. Otherwise minors are allowed in Duke of Duckworth before 8pm while they’re still serving fee and chee.

This is a family column however and I must add that in the first two seasons I wondered if it was appropriate allowing the middle two to stay up watching TV until 10:30 on a school night and watch plots featuring not so family oriented plots. Luckily this season has been tamed down a touch. Except for Jake’s gratuitous 6-pack scenes, it’s downright family oriented except there are not many underagers used as extras. We were thrilled to see No. 2’s friend and co-worker show up on a dirt bike in Season 3. Generally if there’s anyone in the background, they’re all old enough to appreciate Jake’s choice of ride. Ah yes, the GTO. I have had to bring visitors to see the GTO.

Did you know Allan Hawco’s company, Take the Shot, owns four (or maybe three and a half) of the 77,704 hardtop Tempest models ever made? Hawco himself says the best reason you can 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 up a GTO shirt on the way to the airport. Some of the best Rick Mercer TV I’ve ever seen (besides Jean Chretien at the donut shop) is Mercer and Hawco performing synchronized classic detective driving stunts in twin GTOs. The Rockford, in tandem.

“Never be afraid to fail,” Hawco tells Mercer before they set out. That indeed is a lesson we should teach all our children. If Allan Hawco had not failed on his first few pitches to CBC, we would never have Republic of Doyle. We wouldn’t have Russell Crowe (aka Robin Hood) and the Merry Men jury rigged into the plot of Season Three’s Premiere. We wouldn’t have Mark O’Brien, Krystin Pellerin, Marthe Bernard, Gordon Pinsent, Allan Doyle, Shawn Majunder, Mark Critch, Pete Soucy and Newfoundland’s Playboy Bunny 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 family has to resort to watching old episodes over and over until we know them so well we can point out inaccuracies. Sort of like when Titanic came out and everyone was hot and bothered by the bagged tea. We recently rewatched the first couple of episodes of Season 1 where Jake catches Des spray painting 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.

The Flanagans’ best episode choices:

Best Episode of Season One: A Horse Divided

Best Episode of Season Two: Will the Real Des Courtney please stand up?

Best Episode of Season Three: Mirror Mirror

Doylies Quiz (answers next Tuesday):

1. Name one character who has died shortly after receiving Jake’s business card?

2. Where was Allan Hawco born?

3. What did Republic of Doyle recently allow Allied Youth to fill with groceries?

4. Who said: “I gotta get that. It’s my husband.” Episode 203 A stand-up Guy

5. Which company published “The Definitive Guide to Doyle Seasons One and Two” with its paper clips and thumbtacks making the pages look as if they’re information pinned up on the bulletin board in the office of Doyle and Doyle?

6. What role did Paul Gross play in Episode 213: Family Business?

7. Where did the Premiere of Season 3 take place?

8. Where can you buy Doylies’ souvenirs besides The Rooms?

9. What fantastic Newfoundland artist stars as Walter, Jake’s best friend and lawyer?

10. Which episode in Season 3 was reminiscent of the movie Pulp Fiction?

11. Bonus question: Which character in Republic of Doyle do you most equate yourself to?

Susan Flanagan can be reached at

KinderStart feedback:

Anne writes: “I really liked your article on Declan and Kinderstart. Back in the olden days when my kids started school there was no KinderStart, just a Kindergarten Orientation Day in June of the year prior to the child starting school. What a surprise for the teachers!

Anyway of the three children, the first was OK for her Kindergarten Orientation Day. She did not know all her numbers and letters and she would not speak except through her friend from next door.

Our second child did not know any colors when she went to kindergarten, much less her kindergarten orientation day and was supremely disinterested in learning them. Her note from the public health nurse following the preschool health check said she might have a hearing problem since she did not cooperate for any of the assessment. She would only recite the alphabet her own way "kello-mello-p" and consistently added an extra "N" between Y and Z. The teacher was quite stressed.

Our third child was the worst. She knew her colors and letters although she still prints D's and B's backwards. She was a spring as opposed to a fall baby and so was already five when she went to kindergarten. I thought I had a winner until it became clear she could not read! At the end of the kindergarten year she still could not read, not even one sentence. My husband and I met with the teacher who recommended a summer program at MUN. My husband said yes and I said no way.

We muddled along through Grade One without much improvement on the reading front. I was beginning to doubt the premise "if you read to your children, they will become readers". By this time I had read the entire series of Anne of Green Gables Books to our third.

Finally in Grade Two she started to improve.

Anyway my long drawn-out point is despite their lackluster starts in kindergarten all three girls finished high school with first class honors and two have completed university degrees. The final one, the poor reader, is scoring highest marks in the class in first year English at university.

So my advice, if your child is not a star in kindergarten - WAIT!”

Labrador feedback

Bob writes: “I enjoyed your article in today’s paper. I’ve travelled with four of my own children so I can appreciate the circumstances you described. Thankfully I have never experienced the flies… in Labrador.”

Monica Surina, Executive Assistant, Destination Labrador writes: “Just finished reading your article about your upcoming trip along the Trans Labrador Highway.

You and your family are certainly going to enjoy this trip along the highway a lot more than the last time you were in Labrador! And … although your friends were correct about the flies to some degree (depending on where you are) … it only adds to the mystique of Labrador - LOL. And you’ve already discovered the secret of Skin So Soft and plenty of tires so you have that angle covered as well… While in Churchill Falls, also check out the fantastic view at the Bowdoin Canyon. Ask someone at the Town Hall or the hotel for directions to this breathtaking place…

Mount Rushmore Feedback:

Julie from Rapid City writes: “Thank you for featuring Mt. Rushmore National Memorial in your recent article … as well as Crazy Horse Memorial and the Badlands National Park. We are excited you enjoyed the area enough to write about us! If you ever get back to South Dakota, you might enjoy Rapid City. We have the City of Presidents, all of the U.S. Presidents sculpted in bronze located downtown on the street corners.”

Garry writes: “I was wondering if you went to Aladdin right close to Mt Rushmore? There is an old store with a museum upstairs. We went on a side trip to Devils Tower. It was by far the best old store I have ever went to. If you go or have been to Arizona, I would love to read your comments in the paper.”

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