It's been years since Ion, formerly Pax TV, put on scripted original programming. When it did, the shows tended to be upbeat, positive and sometimes pedestrian (think: "Hope Island," "Sue Thomas, F.B.Eye").
Now the network is back in the originals business with an unlikely Canadian import, "Durham County" (10 p.m. Labor Day). What changed at Ion?
The network was sold and re-named. Last year Ion changed its programming strategy, jettisoning the feel-good shows in favor of reruns of mainstream hits such as "NCIS," "Ghost Whisperer" and "Criminal Minds."
Dark and mysterious with a hint of "Twin Peaks" weirdness, "Durham County" aired its six-episode first season in Canada in 2007. (A six-episode second season was also produced but has yet to be scheduled to air on Ion.)
- When: 10 tonight, Ion.
- Starring: Hugh Dillon
With a premiere episode written by Laurie Finstad-Knizhnik, the series begins with a disturbing, sexually suggestive scene of an older man cavorting in the woods with two 18-year-old girls while another man watches. The watcher is Ray Prager (Justin Louis), who lives across the street from the newly arrived Sweeney family, headed by Mike (Hugh Dillon, "Flashpoint"), a high school rival.
Mike's wife, Audrey (Helene Joy), is recovering from cancer. His oldest daughter resents having to adjust to a new school, and his youngest daughter has a tendency to wear bizarre, anime-style doll masks. Mike is a homicide detective with some skeletons in his closet, but he's less weird than Ray, who berates his wife and sensitive son (Greyston Holt).
Atmospheric and strange (images of power lines abound for no discernible reason), "Durham County" is not much of a murder mystery -- viewers know who the killer(s) are by the end of the first episode -- but it is an intriguing crime drama that's more character-driven than it is procedural.
Contact TV editor Rob Owen at email@example.com or 412-263-1112. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv.