, , ,

DaVinci's Inguest has been around since 1998 and is now in
syndication. It will be very familiar to Canadian viewers and has racked
up numerous awards there. Elsewhere, such as the United States, it
occasionally airs on regular or cable channels but is not very well
known. In my neck of the woods, being only 90 miles from the Canadian
border and an hour hop on a plane out of Vancouver, it airs a couple
times a week on a few different channels. From what I've read, it is
syndicated in about 45 different countries worldwide. It's an old show
now. But I thought I would review it anyway since I've come to like the
show so much.

The set-up for the show centers around Dominic DaVinci, played by
Nicholas Campbell. DaVinci is the Coroner for the city of Voucouver,
British Columbia. It's his job to investigate deaths and find whether
they are due to natural causes or suicide or whether they are due to
foul play — homicide. Where there is doubt, he has the power to convene
an inquest before a jury. As such the whole system is portrayed on the
show, from the homicide cops to the pathologists to the prosecutors and
other members of the local and national bureaucracy. It's not exactly a
cop show — and yet it is.

Coroner Dominic DaVinci (Nicholas Campbell) on the scene.

DaVinci is a stubborn, reformed alcoholic, occasionally sexist (really
out of stupidity more than personal inclination), quirky, and
fundamentally likeable. He will fight for the rights of innocents and
victims, but he's not about to waste time either on cases that seem to
be weak on evidence. He occasionally has to walk the razor's edge
between families of victims, the cops, and the bureaucracy. Campbell
does an excellent job with role, portraying both the successes and the
dismal failures.

Besides DaVinci, the two leading characters you will see most often on
the show are the homicide detectives Mick Leary (Ian Tracey) as the
young, headstrong cop paired with Leo Shannon (Donnelly Rhodes) as the
older, conservative, jaded member of the team. It's a combination you've
seen before, but revamped inasmuch as the wide range of social topics
embraced by DaVinci's Inquest gives new fuel to such a pairing.
Tracey and Rhodes have a very good chemistry together, and you find
yourself looking forward to the portions of each episode that feature
them. There are other cops in the show as well, but I'll leave those for
the reader to discover since this must be a short review.

Detectives Leo Shannon (Donnelly Rhodes)
and Mick Leary (Ian Tracey) take a break.

But the regular cast is only a part of DaVinci's Inquest. In each
episode we find a vast assortment of prostitutes, dealers, hangers-on of
dealers, families of victims, homeless people on the streets, poor
elderly in group homes. The main cast of DaVinci's Inquest is
essentially the whole social fabric of Vancouver. Many minor characters
are featured in multiple episodes — coming in and out of notice like
people in real life sometimes do. A young prostitute hangs on to a
female detective who might be the only friend she has. A man who is
convinced his daughter was murdered (she wasn't) refuses to accept the
truth, and repeatedly comes in to visit DaVinci and bare his soul.
DaVinci's Inquest rides on a sea of social ills and problems that
might or might not have any solution. In one sequence of episodes there
is an on-going debate about the possible creation of safe-injection
houses for drug users. DaVinci argues that the users are often the
victims of violence and safe-injection houses would protect them. World-
weary Detective Shannon argues that the establishment of safe-houses
would only encourage drug use. No conclusion is reached. The debate
merely continues, and one is left with the feeling that either
alternative stinks. A similar debate goes on with regard to legal Red
Light districts for prostitution.

DaVinci's Inquest emerges as fundamentally different than most
American programs of its general type. Law and Order is too often
about the process itself; and the various CSI programs are
incredibly condensed and unrealistic high-tech procedurals in which
justice is plopped down in a matter of hours. DaVinci's Inquest
is more similar to Crossing Jordan or to L&O: SVU,
although it is broader than each. It is grittier than most American
programs, inasmuch as the series is filmed in Vancouver entirely and can
make use of many more outdoor sequences than American programs, which
tend to do the outdoor stuff in a matter of weeks before they go back to
Los Angeles to shoot. It should also be said here that DaVinci's
often contains a fair amount of humor thrown in between the
cracks, in spite of its often noir-like feel.

If you can get DaVinci's Inquest on your local cable channel, I
recommend you give it a view. It is a refreshing change from American
programming, "in spite of its realism." I would imagine also that it will
be released on DVD, although so far I've only been able to find Season 1
out there at Amazon.