Some Of The Best TV Shows Are Canadian

Leaving the credits running has recently been lent some legitimacy by Marvel and their habit of adding extra bits, and increasing our likelihood of wetting ourselves. It wasn’t always like that.

I like to watch the credits on films and TV programmes and look at the things people have done. I am such a nerd: I have always done it, and I have no idea why. I like to take an interest in the other jobs people have had, and which things I have seen them work on. I comment on the credits and titles of anything I am watching. I find it interesting. Other people do not find it interesting. Not at all.

Every so often a few familiar faces cropped up, and I tried to recall where I had seen them before; I spotted writers and producers and directors in common across some vastly different projects. What it has led me to noticing, in short, is that a lot of the TV I enjoy the most is Canadian. Who knew?

It turns out that a lot of the TV I have watched in my life – and a lot of my favourite actors in those films and programmes – have been Canadian. I’m not saying this because of some big point; I’m a big old nerd, and I find it rather interesting. Let me tell you about a few of my favourites to date…

I first spotted the Canadian-ness of my viewing habits with the X Files. I fell in love with the series from it first starting in the UK in 1993. As with a lot of this list, it purports to be a US series, but it was filmed in Vancouver for seven of its eleven series; to me that makes it Canadian. There was a quality to The X Files which I couldn’t place: there was always water in the air, and the world was too clean.

This, to me, is a hallmark of Canadian-produced TV: Canada is not the United States of America, and it does not look like it either. To this day I still have all of The X Files on DVD in my office: as a monitor stand.

I’m conflicted here: I want to tell you about my new favourite Sci-fi series, Travelers, and I want to tell you about another favourite of my youth, Due South. Travelers wins, because it is more obscure, but I need to mention the Due South / Battlestar Galactica cast crossover: Canadian TV royalty there.

Travelers is set in an unnamed US city, but is actually Vancouver. The cast mostly pretended to be from south of the border, but their accents slip northwards on occasion. It has since been cancelled, but it was one of the more innovative sci-fi/police procedural chimeras I’ve ever seen. Check it out.

How it’s Made was always an odd one for me. It is a programme following things being made, which is clear from the title. But the script always threw me, as it wasn’t quite natural English, and it didn’t feel American. The factories, and choices of objects, was always very American, but not quite. Then I found out it was Canadian – Comment C’est Fait – and it all became clear. I can binge this all day.

You Gotta Eat Here! is another one of those programmes which shows Canada as being quite a lot like the US, but very much not. While in How It’s Made this is largely through the use of the metric system and a fondness for maple syrup, with You Gotta Eat Here! it is the addition of cheese curds to bowls of fries to elevate them above anything produced in any American diner. I want poutine.

The thing which threw me about You Gotta Eat Here! for far too long is that a lot of the cuisine covered is akin to that shown on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (DDD): burgers, barbecue and impossibly large sandwiches. It was only noticing that John Catucci was always in Canadian cities that finally got me to click why it wasn’t simply a copy of DDD. Also the people were just nicer.

And then we come to the centre of all things: The Stargate Franchise. I became a little obsessed with the series, and have watched every episode multiple times. The atmosphere in worlds the show goes to is as wet and Canadian as it is in The X Files. The cast crop up in all things Canadian, including The Expanse, Battlestar Galactica and other sci-fi behemoths to follow. It taps right in to my nerdy tastes with its lengthy arcs, its love of sarcastic humour and the way it manages to appear so American.

Thankfully it is not. Stargate made me stop and take stock of how much of the best science fiction television programming was coming out of Canada. It made me aware of the effect of Bridge Studios in British Columbia, home to Stargate, Battlestar, Outer Limits and Highlander. It is a powerhouse of modern science fiction, and an indicator of quality in my exceptionally nerdy book. Great stuff.

One of the main reasons I like Stargate is that it has characters I want to spend time with, and they come and go in a natural way throughout the three different programmes. The stories never get stale, and there is always a compelling arc to dip in to, when necessary. I still have all of the DVDs.

Now we’re in to the weird stuff: the stuff I could tell was a little bit different when I was growing up: namely The Adventures of Tintin. (I also want to give an honourable mention to Babar for being delightfully weird, at this juncture.) Tintin captured my imagination early on, and I even bought the DVDs as an adult with no interest in having children (at the time). It harks back to an older time, one where being Belgian was not the punchline to a Francophone joke. I still do not get the premise of a “boy reporter”, but I love watching the antics of Tintin and the whole gang. Blue blistering barnacles.

Have you seen the film Cube? I have. Many times. I have also seen the other films in the Cube series, and they are mostly great. The first film is the best, as is often the case. It is an imaginative sci-fi / horror, with just enough complexity to bear repeated viewings. It took me too long to realise that my favourite character, a very lazy man, was in a lot of Stargate, and is good friends with Jason Momoa. I did not appreciate the resolution to the whole universe offered in Cube Zero, but I did enjoy the scale, the scope and the scary calculations involved in that great first film. Marvellous.

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