Sunday, August 26, 2012

AJ Ranks Vol. 9: Canadian TV Shows

Canadian TV Shows

When you think of Canadian television shows, expertise and execution are not always what first come to mind. Most of the time you think of campy storylines, bad acting or you don’t even bother thinking about them at all. Over the years, though, there have been a few TV shows that could easily pass for an American show. There has even been a show that being taken and remade for American TV (Being Erica). The shows on this list could (on a slow TV day) possibly pass for a show from the States, or at least a BBC show.

10. Rookie Blue

The tenth spot came down to two police dramas, Flashpoint and Rookie Blue. Of the two only Rookie Blue has been turn into a quickly canceled American television show, and that being the case it makes the list. Rookie Blue has some strong Canadian talent in the cast lead by the beautiful Missy Peregrym.

9. Continuum

Continuum debuted this year on Showcase and is about a cop and a group of terrorists who time travel from 2077 to 2012. The whole show takes place in beautiful Vancouver and although you’ll recognize that the main actress (Rachel Nichols) is not Canadian most of the other actors are Canadian citizens (Erik Knusden, Victor Webster, Tony Amendola).

8. Dragons’ Den

If you are from the United States of America then you would be surprised to know that before Shark’s Tank there was a successful entrepreneurs-get-pitched-ideas-and-fight-over-them reality TV show called Dragon’s Den. Canadian business men Kevin O’leary and Robert Herjavec even made the jump from the Canadian Dragons’ Den to the American Shark Tank.

7. Degrassi High

Degrassi is the original teen high school drama. The show followed a bunch of Canadian kids through high school (the kids were followed from Kids of Degrassi Street and Degrassi Junior High too). The topics and storylines of many of the episodes were very controversial, dealing with such things as abortion, sex, suicide, drugs and AIDS. The show is so popular in Canada that it has spawned a modern version (Degrassi: The Next Generation) a decade after it ended its initial run.

6. Rent-a-Goalie

The main character of this half hour comedy was Cake (Wikipedia describes him as: “a hockey-mad, recovered-from-everything go-to guy, who runs a rag-tag hockey goalie rental service out of cafe Primo, a family owned coffee shop in Toronto’s Little Italy.”) The show was full of all sorts of hijinx and really only failed because it didn’t get enough viewers. Today if they marketed it like FX does with It’s always Sunny In Philadelphia they wouldn’t have had a problem.

5. The Kids in the Hall

The original kings of Canadian sketch comedy (yeah I see you SCTV), if you have never laughed at a skit where Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson are in dressed in drag then you are missing out. Not to mention Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald at their comedic prime, these were the days. (I’m squishing your head!)

4. Less Than Kind

This show was a half hour based comedy set in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I don’t know if this show resonated with me so much because it is set in my home town or because the main character is an awkward, overweight teenager with a dysfunctional family, but either way I’m glad I did. The show has been on hiatus (I don’t know if it’s coming back) since the passing of legendary Canadian actor and one of the leads on the show, Maury Chaykin. I’ll end this segment with a quote from the late and great legend himself that I found on Wikipedia (because obviously that’s where I do all my research).

            “We understood that the value of the show was in the fact that it’s not a sitcom – it’s a shoe that’s beautifully written, with characters that are less than perfect, that are real... We’re not wrapping every episode up nice and neatly, because it’s all in the sloppiness – that’s where the gold is.” - Maury Chaykin

3. Kenny vs. Spenny

Is t just me or has one of the best reality series’ of all time came and passed already in our lifetime? I cannot answer that with utmost certainty but what I can say is this, I loved Kenny vs. Spenny. It was one of the most polarizing shows because you found yourself rooting for the villain (Kenny) to cheat and win the competitions most episodes (unless you are soft and felt bad for Spenny). The fact that no other two humans on earth have ever tried to recreate the things they did, (or if they have, had very little success at it) says something about the originality and utter craziness that they unleashed on the world.

2. Trailer Park Boys

The States has many mockumentaries on TV nowadays and I wouldn’t put any of them up against TPB is a face off of great mockumentaries. TPB is the story of a film crew that follows around low level criminals, Ricky, Julian and Bubbles, during their everyday life in Sunnyvale Trailer Park. The show is utterly ridiculous at most points and has a lot of very familiar yet unfamiliar storylines (especially for Canadians). The whole concept was made even better when the cast were at Ali G levels of commitment and doing many of their interviews and off screen appearances as their characters.

1. Corner Gas

The Canadian Seinfeld, Brett Butt has less of “what’s the deal with...” feel and more of an “eh that’s kind of strange” thing going on. They do have a lot in common though, both were stand up comics who took their routines and adapted them for TV. Both seem pretty cynical and lazy. And both of their shows are more or less based on “nothing”.

The differences between their shows were apparent, middle of nowhere Saskatchewan is not New York, Jerry’s apartment isn’t the Corner Gas Gas Station, and The Ruby is no Monk’s. Again, though, comparisons can be made the wacky friend (Hank/Kramer), the will they won’t they female opposite (Lacey/Elaine), both shows even had the older couple that always bickered (the Leroys/the Costanzas). Both shows even developed much divided fan bases that either loved them or hated them.

I know that comparing Seinfeld and Corner Gas is like comparing apples and oranges and to all the Seinfeld fans out there, there will never be another Seinfeld. At the same time though, all the Canadian fans of Corner Gas know that there will never be another Corner Gas either and it all ours.

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