Although Canada and America share the longest unprotected border in the world, Americans are still blissfully unaware of most things Canadian – if that weren’t the case, Sarah Polley (Go, Dawn of the Dead) would be a household name.
Vancouver has become a shining jewel of filmmaking, and it would be hard to argue that “You Can’t Do That On Television” and the Degrassis, in all their forms, helped shape Generation X, but the reality is that most Canadian television shows are rarely seen south of the border. “Kids In The Hall” and “Reboot” (did anyone even know that “Reboot” was Canadian?) are rare exceptions.
Canadian programming has more influence on American culture than we think. “Fraggle Rock,” the Jim Henson favorite everyone on the planet loves, was an HBO coproduction with the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC). The new Starz serial “Camelot” is produced by the CBC. “Kenny Vs. Spenny” was Canadian. “The Polka Dot Door” was, too.
I may be the only one left alive that remembers “Kenny Vs. Spenny.”
That being said, here are a few currently airing shows, and a few shows that can be found on DVD that are worth looking out for.
Little Mosque On The Prairie
“Little Mosque On The Prairie” has been around since 2007, and it really is a shame Americans aren’t watching it. The show revolves around a Muslim community in the middle of Saskatchewan. Although the name sounds like “Little House On The Prairie,” the two shows don’t have anything in common.
Feeling a bit like “Northern Exposure,” the plot revolves around a man from Toronto that answers an advertisement to become the imam of Mercy, the 10,000 soul town the show is set in. The mosque the show is named after is a rented space in the town’s Anglican church.
There are the obligatory jokes that involve cultural differences between Muslims and non-Muslims, but most of the shows humor is very much traditional sitcom writing, which is one of the reasons the show should get more attention. The community of Mercy is a shining example of how a Muslim community in North America isn’t really much different than any other sort of community, and as long as we work together we can set the differences aside for the better of us all.
“Lost Girl” is a neat little show I started watching because the main character is a succubus and her sidekick is a cute little goth chick. Yes, I can be that shallow. I’ve continued to watch it because it has become quite interesting.
Set in modern-day Toronto (I think; it’s ambiguous), “Lost Girl” revolves around Bo, a succubus that just discovered there is a whole Fey community she’s never known about. She picks up her sidekick, Kenzi, at a bar after she saves her from date rape, and the wisecracks between the two help keep the show light and fresh. As the greater story unfolds, we meet a number of other supernatural beings. She partners with a werewolf and occasionally a banshee, and ends up having to fight will-o-wisps and other nasties as time goes by.
“Lost Girl” is on hiatus at the moment, but the second season should be coming around. You know how to use the internet, so you should be able to find it.
Premiering in 2010 on CTV, “Hiccups” is a pretty straightforward sitcom featuring a wacky woman that makes a mint writing children’s books but doesn’t really handle everyday life very well. She hires a kind-hearted but fairly inept life coach and hilarity ensues.
“Hiccups” is just mindlessly funny. Every episode ends with a short story set in the “Grumpaloo” world, which is the series of books the main character created, and an amusing moral is made from the episode’s events, but the show never takes itself too seriously and doesn’t expect the viewers to, either.
Second City Television (SCTV) may or may not be the funniest sketch show ever produced (depending on who you ask), but it certainly ranks up there with Monty Python, “Hee-Haw,” early “Saturday Night Live” and “In Living Color.”
The premise behind the series is that SCTV is a local television station that produces local programming. This means that sketches can cover just about anything, and with the talents of people like John Candy, Rick Moranis, Eugene Levy, Harold Ramis and Martin Short you can be rest assured that they do their best to cover any and all ground coverable.
SCTV started in 1976 and was produced on a shoestring budget. The sets are cheap and often reused, as are props. But the makeup is great (sitting in a chair isn’t expensive) and the cast made a point of pushing the boundries of sketch TV as often as possible to the delight of fans.
The entire series is available on DVD. I suggest starting with the second or third seasons, then picking up the rest when you fall in love with it.
Road to Avonlea
With four Emmys, this show may be one of the most popular Canadian shows nobody in the US realized was Canadian. American’s may remember is as simply “Avonlea.” Regardless of what it’s called, “Road to Avonlea” is one of those wholesome family shows that create a fuzzy, feel-good in the tummy when it is over.
Based on a series of books by L. M. Montgomery, who also wrote the “Anne of Green Gables” series, the story revolves around a small, fictional town on Prince Edwards Island in the early 1900s. At the beginning of the series, most of the episodes revolve around Sara Stanley (Sarah Polley), a young girl from Montreal that is sent to live with her aunt, but seasons expand to focus on residents of the town. This helped the show continue when the star went away to college and had to leave the cast, but she did return to guest star on a few episodes.
The show had a huge amount of guest stars (Ryan Gosling, Faye Dunaway) and received piles of awards, so if anyone is looking for a family show that appeals to young women, this is the bees knees.
That’s just a taste of Canadian TV. There’s a ton more out there, so don’t be afraid to explore.
Which Canadian shows do you think I should check out?