THE BRIDGE: Toronto-set drama’s focus is on the cops, not the crimes

Toronto-set drama’s focus is on the cops, not the crimes
By: Brad Oswald
Date: March 5, 2010
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 5, 2010 d7)


Rich and poor. Virtue and vice. Bosses and workers. Good cop, bad cop.

Each pairing represents a study in contrasts, a comparison of opposites that are separated by the widest figurative distance possible. But there’s always a point of connection; there’s always a bridge.

And that, apparently, is the metaphorical intent of the title of Canuck-TV’s newest entry in the cop-show genre, The Bridge, which premieres tonight at 9 on CTV.

Unlike the vast mass of procedural dramas that have dominated this field for the past decade, this newcomer is a personality-driven piece that focuses on the human behaviour, blind ambition, flawed emotions and misplaced motives that influence events in a big-city police department.

Inspired by the real-life exploits of controversial Toronto police union boss Craig Bromwell — who first pitched the notion of a TV show based on his career in 2005 and now serves as an executive producer on the show — The Bridge follows the exploits of Frank Leo (Aaron Douglas), a level-headed beat cop who becomes disillusioned with the favouritism, vindictive behaviour and flat-out corruption that exists in the (fictional) Toronto Police Department’s upper levels.

Like most officers in the patrol-car class of cops, Leo has always had a bit of a problem with authority figures. But his disdain for the brass escalates to the boiling point after his beloved former partner and mentor commits suicide and the downtown bosses refuse to allow a formal police funeral.

Leo takes matters into his own hands and organizes an unofficial officers-in-uniform ceremony; when word gets out that it will be attended by thousands of police personnel, the chief’s office is forced to endorse the event.

It’s a victory for the ground troops, but Leo soon finds that doing the right thing has placed a target squarely on his back.

When an officer-involved shooting prompts an internal-affairs probe, it’s pretty clear that the chief’s office is going to do everything in its power to make sure Leo takes the fall — for that incident, and also for a series of drug-dealer rip-offs that appear to have been pulled by someone with inside-police connections.

It’s a messy business, and Leo’s willingness to take a hands-on approach to crises serves him well when his police-union representative turns weak-kneed and forces Frank to fight his own battle. At that point, he decides that maybe the only way to protect good cops and rid the department of its upper-echelon corruption is to remake the union from the inside out.

A crusader is born. And enemies abound. In tonight’s two-hour premiere, The Bridge does a pretty decent job of establishing a complex back story and defining Frank Leo as a steel-willed flatfoot who has rightfully attracted the support and loyalty of his peers.

Series star Douglas is an imposing presence as Leo — burly and stone-faced, much more inclined to do a slow burn than exhibit a flash of rage. He has a worthy adversary in Chief Ed Wycoff (Michael Murphy), who carries the weight of his office uneasily and does not like having his authority challenged by a mere street cop.

Standing at Leo’s side are fellow officers Tommy (Paul Popowich) and Billy (Theresa Joy), Staff Sergeant Bernie Kantor (Frank Cassini) and prosecutor Abby St. James (Ona Grauer). Also lending support in tonight’s opener is Frank’s father, Vic Leo (Stuart Margolin), an ex-cop and former union boss who, it turns out, has a dark secret that some folks might try to use against Frank.

While it does lose momentum at times during this extra-long pilot episode, The Bridge does succeed in creating a credible and engaging storyline, as well as a central character and supporting cast that seem worth getting to know at least a bit better. The premiere ends with a plot twist that is certain to bring viewers back to see how it’s resolved.

In short, the thinking here is that you should watch this Bridge when you get to it.