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The Globe and Mail

Rookie Blue: Our latest export to the U.S.

Stand tall and suck in that gut, Canada. The neighbours are watching.

Our free-trade agreement with the United States has evolved over the years and some say for the better. Americans used to know Canada as the exporter of hockey players, oil sands and Roots apparel. Now, it's cop shows.

The newest addition is Rookie Blue (Global, ABC, 9 p.m.), which was filmed on the mean - but pretty darn clean - streets of Toronto. Once again, we're ready for our close-up.

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And is it coincidence that the latest Canadian-made crime drama premieres on American network television on the eve of the gathering of Barack Obama and other world leaders in Toronto for the G20 Summit? Probably, though it's bound to make some U.S. viewers sleep a little sounder.

Launching Wednesday night, Rookie Blue attempts to expand upon the informal TV-export arrangement established in the mid-eighties with Night Heat, which was shot in Toronto and aired on CTV and CBS, as did Due South in the nineties. To this day, some Americans may still believe Paul Gross was a real Mountie.

The more recent, and much better, filmed-in-Toronto crime drama has been CTV's Flashpoint, currently performing respectably for CBS on Friday nights. The first season of The Bridge - yes, it was filmed in Toronto - has already aired on CTV and joins the CBS lineup next month.

But Rookie Blue comes from another place and shoots for a different audience. Whereas other current Canadian crime dramas boast imposing male cop role models - Flashpoint's Hugh Dillon and The Bridge's Aaron Douglas being the prime examples - Rookie Blue is more for the ladies.

Even during its conceptual stage, the show was labelled as Grey's Anatomy with rookie cops, which presumably explains why the show was put into the vacant Grey's time slot for a summer test run.

And it's not a stretch to imagine the Grey's Anatomy audience buying into Rookie Blue. Although the premise is described as "five inexperienced rookies thrown into the world of big-city policing," the show is framed around the character of Andy McNally, played by Missy Peregrym. Think of her as Meredith on Grey's, except in a nifty blue uniform.

Like all five principals, Peregrym is Canadian (born in Montreal, raised in Surrey, B.C.) and infinitely more attractive than your average street cop. After stints on Heroes and The CW's short-lived Reaper, she also has the most acting experience in the cast.

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Which is a good thing, since Andy's first day on the job is a nightmare, for both her and her brusque veteran partner. Realism doesn't appear to a big issue in the opener - how likely is it that a rookie officer could ruin an undercover operation and get into a gun-to-gun showdown on her first day? Procedural mistakes are made, but that's why police pencils have erasers.

The first show also drives home the point that Andy comes from a troubled background and has something to prove to her recovering alcoholic, ex-cop father. Yet more evidence she'll be the core character for the subsequent 12 episodes in the series.

The other two female rookies are intriguing, if somewhat two-dimensional. Andy's best pal, Traci (Enuka Okuma), is a single mom, and also canoodling with one of the force's senior detectives. Gail (Charlotte Sullivan) is the icy blonde descended from police royalty, and clearly the devious schemer in the group.

The two male rookie cops are Dov (Gregory Smith), an immature thrill-seeker from hippie parents, and Chris (Travis Milne), a brush-cut, by-the-book type. Like the handsome male medics of Grey's Anatomy, they seem inconsequential to the show's dramatic mix.

But like the other Canadian cop series, Rookie Blue is terribly slick and there are more plot twists in the first episode than in an entire season of Night Heat. Viewers will keep coming back, if only for this summer.

And like Flashpoint, the fact that Rookie Blue is filmed in Toronto is obvious only if you live there.

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For that matter, the T-word does not come up once in the pilot and there's no city designation whatsoever displayed on the gleaming white police cruisers. It's fine for Canadian cops to serve and protect for American viewers, but no reason to hit them over the head with it.

Also airing:

Mayday (Discovery, 8 p.m.) rewinds two years to the sinking of the massive ship The Alaska Ranger in the frigid Bering Sea. The program details the subsequent rescue mission by the U.S. Coast Guard and includes eyewitness accounts.

Boston Med (ABC, 10 p.m.) is a new series following real doctors performing real medical miracles at three Boston hospitals. In Wednesday's opener, one surgeon performs a tricky double-lung transplant while another attempts to completely reconstruct the face of a police officer shot in the line of duty. Not for the squeamish, obviously.

Check local listings.

John Doyle will return.

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