‘Sullivan’s Crossing’ review: A nice import from the creators of ‘Virgin River’

With Hollywood scribes back at their keyboards, preparing things for actors to say when their own strike ends, possibly by the time you read this, it seems a little less deplorable that, to preserve the semblance of a normal fall season, suppliers of content are presenting imported material as if it were something they had cooked themselves.

This is not to denigrate the content itself, made by people as committed to their work as their American cousins ​​and as capable of greatness (or, for that matter, vulgarity). And when it comes to Canada (home of the invaluable “Schitt’s Creek,” “Slings and Arrows” and “High School”), just a stone’s throw away from us, its entertainment world has long been intertwined, often in ways unrecognizable, with ours.

To wit: the Canadian series “Sullivan’s Crossing,” starting Wednesday on the CW, which already airs a trio of Canadian comedies on Monday nights. It is based on a series of books by American romance novelist Robyn Carr, whose writings are also the basis for Netflix’s “Virgin River” (set in Northern California but filmed in British Columbia). Adapted by “Virgin River” (Canadian) executive producer Roma Roth, its largely Canadian cast (including “Virgin River” veterans Lynda Boyd and Lauren Hammersley) features Americans Scott Patterson, who was Luke in “ The Gilmore Girls,” and Chad Michael Murray. , who was Lucas in “One Tree Hill,” as well as a recurring player in the early seasons of “Gilmore Girls”). And the action of Carr’s novels has been moved from the American Rocky Mountains to the rocky coast of Nova Scotia, which, at least, visually distinguishes it from “Virgin River” and is very beautiful to look at.

In other ways, it’s less distinctive, which will no doubt be part of its appeal. As with the previous show, the story is about a medical professional who moves from the troubled city to the differently troubled but life-affirming countryside. The insignificant difference is that, here, the neurosurgeon officially praised as a “rising star” Maggie Sullivan (Morgan Kohan, from Hallmark’s “When Hope Calls”, an American series filmed in Canada and based on Canadian books, does not escape a new place, but fleeing to an old camp her family has run for generations, currently overseen by her father, Sully (Patterson), but a legal problem through no fault of hers has forced her to travel north.

Cute as Sydney in a scene from “Sullivan’s Crossing.”

(Michael Tompkins/Michael Tompkins/The CW)

As a child, Maggie was taken to Boston (not just the city, of course, but a city in another country) by her mother (Boyd), who remarried for money and thinks, to her expectations, that Maggie should be in America, earning plaudits and greenbacks instead of wandering aimlessly around Canada with her somewhat grumpy, cash-strapped, stubborn (but locally beloved) old man, one of those characters whose refusal to take care of himself suggests a crisis in the future.

Since home is aphoristically the place where you have to shelter, Sully does so, but it is an uncomfortable gathering. Maggie’s former best friend, Sydney (Lindura), who has returned after a brief career in modeling (“Turns out, dating your manager when you’re a model is not a good career decision”) to help her widowed brother. of her, Rob. (Reid Price), wonders why Maggie hasn’t called her in a long time. But it won’t be long before they become new best old friends.

And Maggie has barely left her bags in her old room when she meets the companion for whom destiny has created her (you can tell, because their first meeting is antagonistic) the “mystery man” Cal (Murray), who simply does things. around the place. One mystery is what the abbreviation for Cal is, which Maggie keeps trying to guess, like the daughter of the miller and Rumpelstiltskin. Soon they will be closer together than the shot requires.

Like virtually every actor who might be required to take off his shirt on screen these days, or at least wear a tight T-shirt, Murray has bulked up, becoming the familiar beefcake guy on the covers of romantic novels for which Fabio used to pose: oh, young man. People, should I teach you in Fabio? – but with shorter hair. (He’s still long enough to recoil dramatically from his forehead.) Such careful neatness may seem out of step with a character we’re supposed to admire for his rustic lack of self-esteem, but, of course, it fits. to the genre. A fitted T-shirt that contrasts with Kohan’s relaxed silhouette.

Somewhere down the road from the campground, where things are falling apart a bit (no hot water, broken refrigerator) is the adorable town of Timberlake, where we find shops, sidewalks and the local restaurant, run by Rob, who then the darkness becomes the local bar, a place for karaoke, slow dancing and the occasional unpleasant encounter with tourists less attuned to the quiet, peaceful feel of the area; This is a place of diversity, tolerance and care, not parochialism and suspicion.

Cal in a yellow shirt kneels on a dock next to Scott in a gray shirt and cap.  They are surrounded by trees.

Cal Jones (Chad Michael Murray), left, with Harry Sullivan (Scott Patterson), Maggie’s father in “Sullivan’s Crossing.”

(Michael Tompkins/Michael Tompkins/The CW)

Among the citizenry are Connie (Hammersley), who heads the local fire department and search and rescue team; Rafe (Dakota Taylor), who helps her and is a firefighter (one wouldn’t expect anything less from an actor named Dakota Taylor); and Connie’s son Jackson (T. Thomason), introduced as the resident “climbing expert.” Apparently interested in Cal is Lola (Amalia Williamson), Sully’s unofficial stepdaughter of sorts, whose grandfather suffers from dementia; Maggie, who walks into the ER when she first finds him, suggests that she evaluate him for professional care. “We don’t send our elderly to nursing homes,” Sully barks. “Have you really forgotten what it’s like here?”

Chief among them are Frank and Edna Cranebear (Tom Jackson and Andrea Menard), the series’ only fully functional couple (the couple of the series, come to think of it) who run the camp store and snack bar. “You’re like a second mother to me,” Maggie tells Edna, but, emotionally speaking, she’s more like the first. “We could learn from Mother Earth,” Frank tells Sully, applying some indigenous wisdom to his breakup with Maggie: “She nourishes and heals her children.” Frank, as an Irish mule, is not convinced.

It’s in the series’ DNA to be a little silly, and the fact that there’s nothing overtly elegant or elegant about the production reflects the kind of non-literary literature it emerges from. Aside from the choppy, finger-picked guitar folk pop that fills the soundtrack, which I found myself muting, and some overzealous dialogue forced out of the girls’ mouths (e.g., “Dad, dad, Sully’s going to prepare a double cheeseburger with everything “Fire truck! Awesome!”), I found “Sullivan’s Crossing” perfectly enjoyable and at least once surprising. Surely, surprise is not the basis of these shows, despite the soapy melodrama; they are based on the fulfillment of expectations: there is enough tension to keep things moving, but not so much that it makes you sweat or worry.

Still, the problems are standard for the form, as indicated by the episode titles: “Homewrecker,” “Rock and a Hard Place,” “Boiling Point,” “Sins of the Father,” “Pressure Drop”; probably nothing to do with Toots. or the Crash. Well, there’s no way to reconcile without breaking up. Aside from the exclaiming children, the cast plays down the material, which keeps things cozy as one kind of family crisis follows the latest.

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