'Due South' is a dog, but it has a great wolf

September 15, 1994|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

There is one bona fide "Best of" claim that CBS can make for its series "Due South" -- Best New Pet.

After the success of Eddy (Moose) on "Frasier" last season, there are lots of new family dogs in prime time this fall. But the lead character in "Due South" has a deaf wolf named Diefenbacher as his pet.

I love Diefenbacher. But the rest of "Due South," which premieres tonight at 8 (Channel 11), leaves me cold. CBS has tried to come up with ways to make this series sound like a silk purse. They coined the genre description "comedy adventure" for it. They created the thumbnail line, " 'Northern Exposure' in reverse," to try and link it to a hit.

"Due South" is a low-budget, offbeat made-for-TV movie that never would have made it to weekly series if it weren't a joint U.S.-Canadian production that was simply too cheap for CBS to resist putting on its schedule.

Tonight's two-hour pilot centers on Benton Frasier (Paul Gross), a Dudley Do-Right Canadian Mountie who gets himself posted at the Canadian consulate in Chicago so he can pursue the men he believes killed his father. With his Yukon ways and arrow-straight ethics, Frasier is, of course, a complete fish out of water in the Windy City. He's as out of it in Chicago as Dr. Joel Fleischman (Rob Morrow) was the first time he met Morty, the moose, in Cicely.

But Frasier soon meets and teams up with Chicago Det. Ray Vecchio (David Marciano), who's as big-city street smart as Frasier is North Country square. They make a strange but effective crime-fighting team, bickering with each other like David and Maddie once did on "Moonlighting." (See, CBS even has me linking this lunker to hit series.)

I'll give "Due South" a few weeks and tell myself I'm watching it to see if the series is getting any better. But it's really to check in on Diefenbacher. I know a breakout character when I see one. Diefenbacher deserves better than "Due South." I wonder how Kelsey Grammer would feel about a pet wolf for Frasier Crane. I wonder how Diefenbacher would feel about Seattle.

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