King debuts tonight on Reelz at 10 p.m. Eastern.
What a strange little network Reelz is: they started life in 2006 with the plucky desire to be the go-to place for programming about the movies, and now here it is almost seven years later, and they’ve expanded their repertoire to include random sitcom reruns ranging from The Larry Sanders Show to Wings, a Steven Seagal series which desperately stretches the definition of the phrase “original drama” (True Justice), and once in awhile, just for fun, they throw in some random Canadian import like XIII or Bomb Girls. I don’t know if they’ve gone forwards or backwards—given that their recent idea of movie-related programming is to rip off Pawn Stars (Beverly Hills Pawn) and bring in Dolph Lundgren to host a reality-competition series (Race to the Scene), my instinct is to say that it’s the latter—but no matter which side of the fence you pick for that argument, it doesn’t change the fact that they’re definitely not afraid to keep people wondering what the hell they’re going to put on the air next.
For what it’s worth, though, the latest of those random Canadian imports is the first which actually seems like it could have a shot at grabbing the attention of American viewers, although it’s less because it’s a standout drama than it is because it plays almost exactly like The Closer if the TNT drama had been set in Toronto rather than Los Angeles.
King, which ran for two seasons on Showcase before being shown the door in 2012, stars Amy Price-Francis as Jessica King, head of the Toronto P.D.’s Major Crimes Task Force, although that’s not where we find the character when the series kicks off. Having proven herself to be as much of a thorn in the side to her superiors as a superior crime-solver, King’s tendency toward the former lands her a dead-end, mind-numbing position in the Communications department. After a high-profile kidnapping stymies Det. Sgt. Derek Spears (Alan van Sprang), whose police work under pressure leaves something to be desired, Police Chief Peter Graci (Tony Nardi) decides to temporarily—or not—pull King from phone duty and put her in charge of the investigation. Spears grumbles as King takes over, eventually earning his position back when King’s efforts aren’t as instantly successful as Graci had hoped, but it isn’t long before Spears realizes that he’s made a terrible mistake and that, yes, King really is the better choice to head the investigation and, indeed, the task force as a whole.
King’s personal life is also a major part of the series, since not only is she married—her husband, Danny Sless (Gabriel Hogan), is also a cop, albeit one on the guns and gangs side of things—but she and her spouse are trying to have a baby. Indeed, with all the talk about hormone levels, fertility cycles, and other such pregnancy-related matters, there’s enough estrogen in King to make it seem like a viable contender for Lifetime’s schedule on occasion. Overall, though, the scenes tend to play more as general character development rather than being delivered with some sort of “she’s a police woman” emphasis, and they’re spread out enough amongst the cop drama and detective work that they ultimately end up playing as just another part of the plot.
Reelz offered up all eight episodes of King’s first season to American critics in advance of the series’ network debut, and having given them a gander…well, most of them, anyway (what Todd didn’t realize when writing today’s What’s On Tonight? is that my family did not think very kindly at all of my trying to sit in front of the computer for most of July 4), it’s easy to imagine fans of The Closer, Castle, or any number of other police procedurals in regular rotation on TNT latching onto the series. Price-Francis is good with the rapid-fire banter that goes on between King and Spears, the ongoing relationship between King and Graci has a nice father-daughter vibe to it, and although King's squad may be more faceless than others on television, the characters nonetheless work well together. That may not be enough to make it a success—after all, it only lasted for two seasons in Canada—but it’s certainly got all the elements of a successful mainstream hit, anyway. While King isn’t a series that would stand out in a crowd on any other network, it’s definitely the only one of its ilk on Reelz, which gives it at least a little bit of a leg up.