The Movie Network and Movie Central are premiering a new cop show today, but don't expect another case-of-the-week premise. "These cops weren't going to investigate anything because they think they know all they need to know, so it's just a matter of what they're going to do about it," said The Line co-creator George F. Walker in a recent interview. "They don't follow procedures. They are past caring about their jobs."
"They did it that way when they were younger," added his writing partner, Dani Romain, about Max and Donny (Ron White and Daniel Kash), the cops who cross the line. "They followed the rules and it didn't work, so they decided to make their own rules."
Walker and Romain have been working together for 12 years, since she was an assistant director for the successful playwright's Suburban Motel cycle at Factory Theatre in Toronto. Discovering a similar point of view, they began writing together and eventually co-created This Is Wonderland, which aired for three seasons on CBC.
For that series, which took place in the provincial court system, Walker and Romain sat in on trials for research. "We would have gone farther with This is Wonderland if it had been on cable," explained Walker. "We could have gone farther and still been truthful to that circus."
The Wonderland research influenced their take on The Line's Max and Donny. "They really want to make the world better but they've lost the plot a little," Romain said, before adding she isn't always sure their actions are wrong. "Sitting in those courts for so long, there's a lot of frustration. The system doesn't work. Throwing people in jail doesn't work. So why not take a different tactic?"
"This is how they make their living, but we were more interested in their personal relationships and who they were as people," Walker offered. "I think our point of view is that there's not an agenda – we aren't judging these characters."
That applies equally to the drug dealers Max and Donny encounter. "We show how hard it is to make a life that way. It's not as easy to make a living at it as people think," Romain claimed.
By focusing on the characters and their lives on and off the job, The Line stays away from the familiar crime procedural model. "The great thing about working with The Movie Network and Movie Central is they don't do conventional television, so as a writer you're not bound by conventional constructs," said Romain. "You have absolute freedom where you can write a story about the characters and have them carry you forward. Basically what we've done is a 15-episode novel."
The distributor wanted an American presence in the series, so Ed Asner, Linda Hamilton, and Sharon Lawrence are part of the large ensemble cast, which also includes Cle Bennett, Wes "Maestro" Williams, and Sarah Manninen.
Walker compares the tone with shows like Deadwood, The Sopranos, and Dexter, pointing out that television has recently begun to embrace the "contemporary philosophy" that comedy and drama should be mixed, and in fact stem from the same place.
And even if there's no overt message to The Line, no clear-cut good guys to root for and bad guys to despise, Walker believes their goal as writers is to allow the audience to find "little truths about the world in which we live and the characters and the people who live in it. Not monumental truths, but day-to-day truths about how they feel or what they're worried about or how they behave – sometimes really well, and sometimes extraordinarily badly."
The Line premieres Monday, March 16 at 1 pm ET on The Movie Network and 9 pm PT on Movie Central.