Summer Media Guide: Five Best Canadian TV Shows to Watch Right Now
Not a fan of the heat and humidity? Rather than battling the sun’s UV rays outside, why not enjoy some quality TV inside where there is air conditioning, plenty of snacks, and free entertainment?
Did someone say “free entertainment?” Well, it’s not completely free, but for the low cost of a monthly subscription, you can sign up for one or more of several online content platforms — Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and others — and stream your favorite shows from the comfort of your couch. There’s something available for every taste and preference, and according to the numbers, lots of us are watching. In fact, many of us are binge-watching!
What you might not realize is that many of the shows you likely enjoy were created in Canada. That’s right. Hollywood North. In recent years, Canada has become extremely active as a film and television production center, with lots of homegrown talent (both in front of and behind the camera) and production values that rival those available in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, the Canadian media industry is getting an extra push through initiatives like MADE | NOUS, a campaign created to celebrate the works of Canadian creators in film, television, and other media.
As MADE | NOUS spokesperson Tanner Zipchen comments, “I think we don’t always acknowledge what comes out of Canada. A lot of the movies and shows that we enjoy, we don’t realize it might be made down the street from where we live.”
Since the initiative’s creation last year, MADE | NOUS has made a point of spotlighting the achievements of Canadian artists. In May, MADE | NOUS celebrated #AsianHeritage Month with Simu Liu (@SimuLiu) and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (@maitreyiramakrishnan) and in June, the campaign showed Canadians 30 different ways to say “I love you” to mark this year’s Pride Month. Most recently, MADE | NOUS has teamed up with Toronto’s largest park, Downsview Park, to help it host a special drive-in addition of its annual Friday Night Lights outdoor movie series.
So grab your popcorn and a cold drink, settle in, and click through your favorite streaming services. If you’re new to watching television online, here are five Canadian TV shows we highly recommend.
Schitt’s Creek (2015-2020)
It’s the show that everyone is buzzing about and for good reason; that’s because the quirky Canadian comedy has attracted a huge fan base since it first aired in 2015.
Named Best Comedy Series at the Canadian Screen Awards in 2019 and nominated for four primetime Emmys, this Canadian conceived-and-created show has left a hole behind after the completion of its sixth and final season this year. The story follows Johnny (Eugene Levy) and Moira (Catherine O’Hara) Rose, and their “adult” children, pretentious David (Dan Levy) and spoiled Alexis (Annie Murphy). The formerly-wealthy Roses are forced to move into a wonky hotel in the town they once bought as a joke. As with all the best shows, viewers learn to expect certain familiar—and funny—actions and reactions of characters. For example, the way Alexis continually rails at her brother with the same annoyed refrain, over and over, “Ew, Dav-id.”
Filmed in Ontario, the show was produced by Not a Real Company Productions, in conjunction with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), and POP TV in the United States. It will make its syndicated debut on the Fox network in Fall, 2020.
This Irish-Canadian co-production was developed and produced by Octagon Films and Take 5 productions for the History Channel. Peppered with Canadian actors like Alexander Ludwig, Kathryn Winnick, and Jessalyn Gilsig, the show was inspired by the story of legendary Norse hero Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) and his family’s rise to prominence from peasants to nobility. The sixth and final season premiered on History in December 2019 and is available on Netflix in Canada.
Due to its historical and cultural significance for the West, the Viking era has become so popular with audiences that the new rendition of the video game Assassin’s Creed—Valhalla features a similar Viking storyline, and its opening scene reveals a main character who looks remarkably like Fimmel.
Bad Blood (2017-present)
Canadian actor Kim Coates stars as Declan Gardiner, a high-ranking member of the Rizzuto crime family, in this ruthless dramatization of the life and death of real-life Montreal mob boss Vito Rizzuto. Created by producer Simon Barry, this Canadian production was nominated for Best Dramatic Series at the 2019 Canadian Screen Awards. Set in Montreal between the early 2000s and early 2010s, the first season was based on Antonio Nicaso and Peter Edwards’ book Business or Blood: Mafia Boss Vito Rizzuto’s Last War, while the second season is fully fictional.
A third, finale season is currently on hold, but the first two seasons are available on Netflix for American viewers.
And we can’t talk about Canadian entertainment without talking about comedy. Canada has a great tradition of sending its funniest funny people toward greater fame and fortune south of the border. The country is known for its wry, observational sketch comedy like SCTV, for example, which in previous years spawned such great comedic talents as Martin Short and John Candy. Over the years, Canada has also produced some wonderful sitcoms, like Corner Gas.
When you need a good chuckle, here are two recent comedies worth your attention:
Kim’s Convenience (2016-present)
IMDb describes this show as “The misadventures of a Korean-Canadian family running a convenience store,” but it really is a foil to depict life in large, inclusive, and diverse cities in the twenty-first century. The show centers around curmudgeonly convenience store owner Mr. Kim, “Appa” (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee), and Mrs. Kim “Umma,” his long-suffering wife (Jean Yoon), their daughter Janet (Andrea Bang), and their son Jung (Simu Liu). With a large, multicultural supporting cast, the show is a true picture of its host city, Toronto—Canada’s largest city and one of the most culturally-diverse places anywhere in the world. The interior set is an exact replica of a real downtown Toronto corner store, Mimi Variety.
Produced and co-created by Ins Choi and Kevin White, Kim’s Convenience received a 2018 Canadian Screen Award for Best Comedy. It currently airs on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). All seasons are available on Netflix in the U.S. and select international territories.
The New Yorker describes LetterKenny as “exquisitely weird,” and if you were a fan of the particular blue-collar humour of the well-known Trailer Park Boys (2001-2018), Letterkenny is a similarly warm but salty tribute to rural communities everywhere. Sex, drugs and violence laces this half-hour comedy, starring co-writers/creators Jared Keeso and Jacob Tierney, about life in small-town Ontario. The former YouTube sensation was picked up by Crave TV in Canada in 2015 and was its first original Canadian sitcom. Now in its ninth season, the first six seasons are available to Americans on Hulu.