Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Bridge on CBS

John McFetridge

This week my two sons (ages 10 and 11) and I have gone camping at a provincial park in Ontario. If we don't set the tent on fire or get eaten by bears we'll be back in time to see the debut of The Bridge on CBS this Saturday at 8:00.

I have mixed feelings about this because it was a great opportunity for me to work in the writers' room (I'm credited wth writing one episode and co-writing another), I met some great people and learned a lot but I don't think I did a very good job.

The show is about a beat cop who gets fed up with the politics and hidden agendas of the brass and gets himself elected the union president to try and clean up the force. It's ambitious material and was sold to me as "The West Wing of cops shows" (it's interesting that The West Wing was always a bigger hit in Canada than in the US). It wasn't designed as a police procedural about cops solving crimes, it was going to be about the inner workings of a big city police department.

This is the kind of thing I like to write about. A sub-plot in Everybody Knows This is Nowhere involves a union election and corrupt cops protecting one another. Okay, not breaking any new ground, really, but The Bridge promised to show the details. The way The Wire showed the details of policing and what the cops are really up against.

But with one Canadian and one American network involved there was a lot of push and pull and it did become more of a procedural and less political and even social.

Entertainment Weekly has this to say about the show:

"Another Canuck cop drama imported by CBS, The Bridge is (meager-praise alert!) better than Flashpoint. There's a nifty, Wire-esque exploration of police bureaucracy. As a rabble-rousing union chief, Battlestar Galactica's Aaron Douglas is no McNulty. And the criminals, like the truck-driving killer grandma, are lame. Oh, Canada. (C)"

TV Guide said, "The bureaucratic corruption forces the apolitical and hard-nosed Frank to get his Norman Rae on. His and the show's heart are in the right place but you'll likely predict every beat." The reviewer gave it a 5 out of 10.

The two-hour pilot and the first episode after that were written before the rest of us writers were hired. I think the pilot asks some good questions and raises some good issues (and, frankly, has some holes - how come the cops end up in a chase even though they had the name and address of the guy who owned the truck? Would there really be no lawsuit after the kid dies? Was there really enough justification for the police to go on strike?), but I don't think we were very successful in addressing much of them in the following episodes. Probably why CBS has only scheduled seven out of the thirteen episodes that were shown in Canada.

So, if the bears don't get us I'll be back here next Wednesday and if anyone has any questions about the show (either what goes on in the show or the production) please send them to me at: and I'll answer any I can next week.


Scott D. Parker said...

I've been looking forward to this ever since you mentioned it. I'll have the TV ready for the show on Saturday. I can't remember if you said this in another post or not but how many episodes did they make? And where is yours in that list?

Steve Weddle said...

Setting the DVR now. Any drinking games for this one?

Chuck said...


Awesome, looking forward to it.

At some point, I need to sit you down in person or over email and pick your brain about writing television, if you don't mind.

(Unrelated: my captcha for this post is "HUMPU.")

-- Chuck