Critics cheer Durham debut

The six-part crime mini makes its quiet but pre-cheered premiere on The Movie Network and Movie Central, looking to connect with fans of The Sopranos and Dexter

The buzz about Durham County has been sudden and very positive. ‘Visually sumptuous and adult,’ decreed John Doyle in Friday’s Globe and Mail, throwing in ‘grim,’ ‘compelling’ and ‘deeply disquieting’ for good measure. Its ‘complex characters are painted in subtle shades of grey,’ says Rob Salem at the Toronto Star, and, according to blogger and Blood Ties writer Denis McGrath, it is ‘maybe the best drama series Canada has ever produced’ in English.

High praise, garnered after only a modest push. The six-part crime drama, which debuts Monday on The Movie Network and Movie Central, scored some advance promotion in Movie Entertainment magazine but, otherwise, has been pushed mostly through the channels’ own VOD services.

‘We’ve been using teasers during shows such as The Sopranos that appeal to a similar audience. When someone selects that program on our on-demand service, they’ll see a promo for Durham County,’ says Michelle Marion, TMN’s director of Canadian independent production. ‘It’s targeted at a decidedly adult audience aged 25-49… the same audience that would enjoy a lot of the HBO and Showtime programming we air.’

It will air Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on TMN and 8 p.m. PT on MC, and will also be available as VOD.

Marion hopes fans of crime shows such as The Sopranos and Dexter will be drawn to the homegrown thriller, noting that VOD series have been doing very well for TMN. ‘Somehow when a viewer has control, they’re more willing to take a chance on a series than if it was just regularly scheduled.’

The 6 x 60 series, produced by Muse Entertainment and Back Alley Film Productions, stars Hugh Dillon (Hard Core Logo) as a troubled detective who decides to move his family to the seemingly idyllic bedroom community of Durham County, only to be tormented by a serial killer. Hélène Joy (ReGenesis) and Laurence Leboeuf (Human Trafficking) also star.

TMN/MC is also teaming up with Rogers, which will offer a sneak peek of the first episode of Durham County on its VOD service Monday, right after the show’s premiere on the pay channels. ‘They have a much bigger reach than we do on our own,’ Marion notes.

While the early months of January and February aren’t particularly stellar for TMN/MC, business picks up in the spring when conventional TV goes into reruns, according to Marion.

‘It gives us a little breathing room and allows a lot of our shows to shine,’ she says, adding that it’s hard to compete against the conventional television machine.

Grenada is representing Durham County internationally, and while Marion says there’s ‘a lot of buzz and interest’ in the show, no deals have been confirmed.