Mom P.I. was a sly little gem from Canada's CBC-TV, that managed to be smarter than it looked, without sacrificing one bit of heart.
SALLY SULLIVAN was a recently-widowed mother with two kids to feed, trying to make ends meet by waitressing at The Pacific Café, a decidedly working-class diner in Vancouver, and keeping an eye out for more work. Be-bop lover and aging hipster BERNIE FOX (played with comic verve by The Rockford Files' Stuart Margolin), meanwhile, is a decidedly working-class private gumshoe with a bad ticker who's recently lost his partner, and has been told by his doctor to take it easy and lighten his workload. You see where this is leading?
Sally's the eternal optimist, a do-gooder who believes in happy endings and the golden rule. Bernie's a cynical old grouch, a street-smart smoothie and slightly-crooked manipulator who thinks W.C. Fields had the right idea about kids and dogs. Guess who his new-time assistant is?
Kudos have to go to head writer Chris Haddock for refusing to turn this into saccharine. As Margolin boasted at one point, "We have our antennas out for cute." To their credit, they succeeded.
This was a great show, cramming Sally's various domestic, personal and professional crises and a witty little mystery into each thirty minute episode, and shining the light of recognition on the little crimes and misunderstandings we all fall prey to. The working-mom schtick had been done before, but these characters were affable, without being cloying, and the writing was fresh and sharp, relying on character development more than pyrotechnics. No big car chases,or stylized shoot-em-ups, just smart and entertaining television.
Creator/head writer Haddock had previously created Diamonds, a so-so Moonlighting ripoff, before he went on to create DaVinci's Inquest (1998-2000, CBC), a show revolving around a coroner, which offered a far grittier, and bleaker look at Vancouver.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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