Nineties comedy/crime drama Due South (multiple international production partners, 1994-1998; hereafter DS) has a complex production history, beginning its first two series as a co-production between American broadcaster CBS and Canadian commercial broadcaster CTV, then, after CBS’ cancellation after series two, becoming a co-production between CTV in association with the BBC and later the German ProSieben Media for series three, at which time series star (and well-known Canadian actor) Paul Gross, who had previously written for the series, became an executive producer on the series.[1] All of these elements have influenced both textual and industrial aspects of the series; as I argue elsewhere (2023), international co-productions function as liminal spaces. They allow for interactions and negotiations between multiple cultures with multiple perspectives and multiple production requirements. In this they function much like boundaries or borders in that they are permeable, fuzzy zones of interaction. As such, we can not only see DS as a fertile ground for sociocultural critique but also as one of the international interactions within which Canada has developed (Acland 2003).

DS focused upon Constable Benton Fraser (Gross) of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (the RCMP or Mounties) who ‘first came to Chicago on the trail of the killers of [his] father and…[has] remained, attached as liaison to the Canadian consulate’ as Fraser himself often summarises in the text beginning in series three.[2] Despite his duties at the consulate, Fraser generally functions as the de facto partner of Chicago police detective Ray Vecchio (American actor David Marciano, 1.1-3.1, 3.25-26)[3] and then Ray Kowalski (Canadian actor Callum Keith Rennie, 3.1-3.26).[4] This can be interpreted as both the ‘buddy cop’ and ‘fish out of water’ genres, as Fraser and his American colleagues learn from each other but with Fraser’s politeness, empathy and (often pathologised) fixation on justice usually being shown to have greater value than the more violent American approach. Intertexts in the series are a mix of Canadian and American, with many American tropes and references being comfortably intelligible to Canadian audiences through its consumption of American television imports (Bury, 2005). These intertexts are often adapted or subverted, however, giving Canada the power to effectively recontextualise, subvert and/or reauthor the American intertexts for its own purposes.

Perhaps the most obvious case of this would be in 3.12-13, titled ‘Mountie on the Bounty.’ Co-written by series star Gross and his writing partner John Krizanc, the episode features criminals co-opting the (diegetic) legend of a Canadian maritime disaster on the Great Lakes, the loss of the Robert McKenzie, in order to keep other ships away from their illegal waste dumping. While the emotional through line of the episode involves Fraser and Ray K renegotiating the power imbalance in their friendship – Fraser had been the dominant partner based upon his greater experience at police work, encyclopaedic knowledge and expert tracking skills, which brought the two characters to blows earlier in the episode – the overall plot is a thinly-veiled reference to the Edmund Fitzgerald, an American vessel destroyed in a storm on Lake Superior. The disaster was turned into a song by Canadian folk singer Gordon Lightfoot, ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,’ and, as such, would have been ideal for a series which engages so strongly with Canadian versions of American stories. The production team were unable to secure the rights to the song, however, leading to the change in disasters for the episode and leading to Gross and his songwriting partner David Keeley writing ‘32 Down on the Robert Mackenzie, after the vessel in the episode. Unlike Lightfoot’s folk ballad in 3/4 time, however, Gross and Keeley produced a driving rockabilly song in 4/4 time which summarises the diegetic history of the disaster and is sung by Gross himself. This functions in a multiplicity of ways. To begin with, the tin whistle and bagpipes are included in the song with an acoustic lead guitar, a mix of acoustic and electric rhythm guitars, piano, drums and electric bass. This suite of instruments connects the rock and country genres (which are associated with multiple countries but performed here by Canadians) to Atlantic Canadian folk music based out of the Canadian Maritimes and their association with both ships and Scottishness (e.g., Nova Scotia);[5] in addition, through the use of these instruments in a song about a Great Lakes maritime disaster, this functions to connect the distant, arguably culturally-distinct Maritimes with the Great Lakes which both Canada and the US share.

In addition to suiting the more action-orientated scenes over which the song is played, this change can also be thought of as playing with the bounds of the series-as-text. Though Fraser is shown singing in several episodes, including 2.15 the song ‘Ride Forever’ which Gross and Keeley wrote, the music here is non-diegetic, meaning that it is clearly Gross singing, not Fraser. This also serves multiple functions. The first and perhaps most obvious is that, unlike Lightfoot’s song about an American tragedy, Gross is an established Canadian actor who is singing about a (fictitious) Canadian tragedy that is a thinly-veiled version of an American tragedy. This illustrates my (2020) point about Canadian media and culture utilising perceived-American popular cultural elements to their own purpose. As a result, Canadians are granted sociocultural power over these elements, effectively reauthoring them in ways not dissimilar to how a cover version reauthors an original song due to differences in identity between the original singer and the cover artist (Plasketes, 2016).

This is particularly relevant in the case of Gross, who was not only the star of the series but the executive producer. Gross’s prominence in both the opening and closing credits (his is the first name listed after the episode fades to black) can be read as granting him the role of the ‘author’ or ‘auteur,’ a role now generally applied to showrunners (Weissmann 2012). . From this, it can then be seen that while Fraser’s embodiment of Canadianness confers a perceived Canadian national identity onto the series, Gross’ own embodied Canadianness and multiple roles on the production team also convey a perceived Canadian national identity onto the series. This broadly follows the example of Torchwood’s (BBC/multiple production partners 2006-2010) creator/perceived-author Russell T Davies, as I discussed elsewhere:

Respondents routinely refer to Davies’s intentions as author as well as attributing at least some of the Welshness of the series to him… In this view, the series can almost be understood as an extension of the author figure—his brain or will or even be autobiographical—which means that it can be argued that the national identity embodied by the showrunner (Newman & Levine, 2011) is similarly embodied by and within the series itself (Beattie 2017: 747).

With this I would return to the idea of Gross singing on the non-diegetic soundtrack as playing with the bounds of the text. Gross and Fraser are distinctly different entities, but hearing one whilst seeing the other on the screen, as occurs in 3.12-13, can be read as both conflating the two (as it is Fraser who recounts the diegetic tale of the Mackenzie) whilst simultaneously breaking the fourth wall.[6] This playful liminality is both postmodern – and, as such, can be contextualised with regard to ‘quality’ and distinction – but is also a feature of Canadian media (Beattie 2020). This also plays with and arguably reinforces the liminality of Fraser as a character as it can imply that he is either unconfined by the bounds of the text and/or reinforcing that Fraser (and, by extension, the series, at least under Gross’ leadership) is reaching beyond the text to critique the society/-ties it represents.

As both Canada and the US are under such critique, the conflict of power between Canadian and American identities is also present in the conflict between Fraser and Ray K at the beginning of 3.12, something which seems poised to end their partnership, with each offered the opportunity for transfers. Yet the pursuit of the ecological criminals who have co-opted the legend of the Mackenzie brings the characters back together, with the climax of the episode featuring both Fraser and Ray K surrendering control to each other at various points as they move across not only the plot but also across the international boundary between the US and Canada. This culminates in Fraser using a gun thrown to him by Ray K once the vessel they are on moves into Canadian waters – i.e., when Fraser is both legally able to carry a weapon and is within his own jurisdiction. Thus, this shows both characters respecting each other’s boundaries, quite literally, within a Canadian glocalisation of an American disaster which was itself popularly retold by a Canadian folk musician whose song was unavailable to a Canadian/British/German co-production. The fact that the episode seems to have accomplished its goal, however, of illustrating and advancing the relationship between Canadian and American metonyms, makes it clear that adapting to extradiegetic events can have positive diegetic impacts. In short, this episode does seem to support the oft-repeated argument of Jagger and Richards (1969), who state that ‘You can’t always get what you want/But if you try sometimes, you [just] might find/You get what you need.’


Dr Melissa Beattie is a recovering Classicist who was awarded a PhD in Theatre, Film and TV Studies from Aberystwyth University where she studied Torchwood and national identity through fan/audience research as well as textual analysis. She has published and presented several papers relating to transnational television, audience research and/or national identity. She is suddenly an independent scholar. She has worked at universities in the US, Korea, Pakistan, Armenia, Ethiopia and for a brief time in Cambodia. She can be contacted at



[1]     Though not a showrunner per se (cf Weissmann 2012 on showrunner as auteur/author), just the fact that he was an executive producer (and the first credit seen after each episode ends) paratextually positions Gross as having (some) control over the series; coupled with his writing several episodes he can be read as functioning as a/the author in this context.

[2]     Despite being dead, Fraser Sr (Gordon Pinsent) often appears to Fraser as either a ghost or hallucination (it is left unclear, cf Gross’ character Geoffrey in Slings and Arrows several years later) beginning in 1.10. Fraser Sr visits more frequently after series three begins, no doubt to increase the percentage of Canadian content which is required for Canadian series (Edwardson 2008 on the quantitative requirements for series to be officially recognised as Canadian by the Canadian government).

[3]     Because of the complex production history of the series, citing specific episodes after the third series begins can be problematic. For the purposes of a reasonably coherent nomenclature, I am treating the final twenty-six episodes as a single series. Episodes here will be cited by ‘series.episode,’ with ‘1.3’ meaning series one, episode three, et cetera.

[4]     This paper will follow the fan convention of referring to Marciano’s character as ‘Ray’ and Rennie’s as ‘Ray K.’

[5]     Earlier in the episode the traditional shanty ‘Drunken Sailor’ as performed by Canadian ‘Celtic Punk’ (or Atlantic folk) band Great Big Sea was used as non-diegetic music and Fraser – not Gross – had led the pirate crew in a rendition of traditional Irish shanty ‘Barrett’s Privateers.’ Thus folk music is still strongly linked to the overall diegesis, Lightfoot’s song being unavailable notwithstanding.

[6]     Gross himself plays with this idea at the 1995 Gemini Awards, playfully claiming that ‘Ride Forever’ has nothing to do with Mounties (though a chorus of RCMP members join him for the final chorus) and is his ‘autobiography.’ Available at (accessed 1/11/22).


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