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DVD Review: Intelligence – Season One

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Betrayal, sex, backstabbing, double-A pot by the ton, more sex, lies, crooked cops, adultery, theft, criminals schmoozing with criminals, cops schmoozing with cops, cops schmoozing with criminals, skag, double agents, blow, still more sex, murder, smug drugglers [Note to ed: I know; it's a Spoonerism], money-laundering, dirty laundry laundering. What more can a viewer ask for? And all that’s in the first chapter!

Unfortunately, it’s life as we know it in the 21st century, which makes life sometimes quite risky and dangerous. It’s also fortunate that it’s life as we know it in the 21st century, since it makes for some damned fine television.

I don’t know where they dug up the cast for this series, but the acting is top notch throughout. (See below for cast listing.) It’s real to the point of tears. It’s real to the point of tears of joy. In a word, it’s life. You may not be much like any of the characters in the series, but we’ve all, each and every one of us, known, or at least read about their clones. It doesn’t make much never mind if you live in the ghetto, in the ‘hood, or in a gated community. You know these people, or somebody like them.

Intelligence is a multi-award winning television series that brings the good guys and bad guys together in a true-to-life drama and action scenario that keeps you glued to your seat, sometimes to the point of hold-your-breath suspense. The show makes its characters ultra-interesting by making them plausible, believable, and true-to-life. You’ve got good guys and bad guys both working for law enforcement, and you’ve got good guys and bad guys both working the wrong side of the street. Like life today, oftentimes we have to look at it through a grey lens, and sometimes we have to look at it through a rose-colored lens. Things are seldom what they seem, but whether they are or not what they seem, they’re in spades.

The two main characters are Jimmy “The Weed King” Reardon, who is moving hundreds of pounds of AA pot weekly, while at the same time juggling a legitimate shipping company, being part owner of a titty bar, and dealing with a cokehead ex- and their tweenager daughter, and a loose cannon for a brother. And in the opposing corner we have Mary Spalding of the Canadian Security Intelligence Services, CSIS. Mary is battling her own demons in the form of a cheating husband, employees trying to sell her down the river, backstabbing colleagues, and politicians doing … well, what they’re good at: being slimy politicians.

The first season takes us through the politics and turmoil of everyday life with snippets of the mundane, which is also everyday life. This is, of course, the foremost appeal of the series, and which makes it a staple of adult television in more than a third of the countries of the world. Something like the better half of the planet watches this show. Take a lesson, America: More Intelligence, less trash TV!

Canada has oil wealth, mineral wealth, and a strong currency. Canadians are highly respected, straight thinking, polite, they have intelligence, and they have Intelligence. There’s that word again. The show is highly informative, it’s educational, and it’s entertaining. Say that about an American TV show and you’ve doomed it, or at least cut it off at the knees.

The cast of characters includes actors who are mostly unknown to US audiences, but that doesn’t make them any less accomplished, and perhaps a little more human. This is a lengthy list, but believe me when I say all these actors are worth mentioning. Every one of the cast members stands on his or her own, from tweenager to inept adult. Some are more prominent and noticeable, but none of them is any less than the personification of his or her character.

Ian Tracey stars as Jimmy, The Weed King; Klea Scott is Mary Spalding; Matt Frewer is Mary’s psycho colleague, Ted Altman; John Cassini is Jimmy’s second generation immigrant, devilish-looking business partner Ronnie Delmonico; Camille Sullivan is Jimmy’s cokehead ex, Francine Reardon, who balances on the knife-edge of sanity; Sophie Hough is Stella, the Reardon’s precocious tweenager; and Bernie Coulson is Jimmy’s alcoholic, loose cannon brother Michael, whose name should be Joe Btfsplk, a bad news character from the long-running comic strip “Li’l Abner.” He was the guy who wreaked havoc and mayhem all around himself, and who always had a black cloud hanging over him.

Darcie Laurie plays Bob Tremblay, Jimmy’s ice cool, deadly efficient enforcer; Alana Husband plays Sweet, Ronnie’s hot and cold, bitch-goddess squeeze/stripper; and Shane Meier is Phil Coombs, Jimmy’s shark lawyer. Fulvio Cecere is Jimmy’s crosstown weed rival and chief pain in the ass biker gang honcho who continually stirs the pot (pun!), and who makes you shiver just looking at him, with his ever-present sly smile, which belies his Arctic eyes. Shake hands with this guy and you'd better count your fingers. The only cue the cast director missed was naming him Guido. Ona Grauer plays Katarina, a Russian illegal immigrant madam who does double duty servicing some of Mary’s colleagues as well as her double-dealing enemies, and facilitating Mary’s information-gathering taps. Pascale Hutton and Lauren Lee Smith play two of Katarina’s hookers who are also in on Mary’s pressure cooker scheming, whom she alternately strokes and threatens. David Lougren is Jimmy’s cokehead banker, who’s also hooked on his strippers.

There are at least another dozen mentionables in the cast, but I’m leaving that to your detective work. There’s a quickly unraveling pump and dump stockbroker turned gun runner; a weaselly former IRA money launderer; a VPD detective looking to go to work for Jimmy; a seemingly plodding but heavy undercurrent staunch supporter of Mary; an unscrupulous DEA operative looking to make his bones at Jimmy’s expense; and a young Vietnamese gang leader whose pragmatic outlook makes him both efficient and deadly.

And finally, there’s a terrific website for the series that gives enough additional facts to feed even the most insatiable appetites of trivia nuts.

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About Lou Novacheck