When I was a kid in Northwestern Ontario, television was made up of American shows, kid-friendly TV Ontario programming, The National’s Knolton Nash and The Beachcombers. At least, that’s what it seemed like. While Canadians loved their American television, Americans didn’t seem to know there was television above the 49th parallel.
Fast forward a decade (okay, a few decades) and a global pandemic, and Canadian television is looking pretty good to our American neighbours. We quietly got our foot in the door with the Degrassi franchise. Who knew a bunch of awkward teenagers would become a cult favourite south of the border? Even Hollywood director, Kevin Smith was a self-confessed devout fan.
Then in recent years, the occasional Hollywood writers’ strike had the American networks looking for alternative programming during summer months or to fill holes. Consequently, Flashpoint got a brief second chance on American TV. Rookie Blue aired for a couple of seasons long after it became a hit in Canada. And some networks even tried working with Canadian production companies, leading to the CBS/Global co-production of Ransom which ran for three seasons.
Of course, such partnerships haven’t always been a raging success. So far, they’ve been few and far between. But the Emmy awards bestowed on the Canuck hit Schitt’s Creek in 2020 has certainly opened the door to other Canadian gems that were, until now, ignored outside our borders.
In the past year, CBC productions have shown up on the CW in the form of Burden of Truth and Coroner. NBC purchased Nurses, Transplant, and Departure. And even Fox is planning to air legal drama Diggstown this winter.
So Canadian television is now moving into American homes whether they like it or not. And finally, American viewers will get a look at Canadian life.
They will discover that no, we aren’t covered in fur. (Yes, a Minnesotan actually once said that.) Or drive snowmobiles to work every day – just during major snowstorms or in very northern towns. And we don’t have strange accents. Except for Maritimers and most of us can’t understand them either.
But I do worry that some American viewers might be a little misled about Canadian life by these programs. Burden of Proof and Coroner are strangely dark and somewhat twisted. Most Canadians only get that way after too many beers.
Nurses might give the impression that our hospitals are full of ill-equipped, untrained staff who only have one or two patients during their shift. Alternatively, Schitt’s Creek will have them thinking we all live in small towns and are slightly unhinged.
Of course, everyone knows it’s just television. But given the growing acceptance of conspiracies and the ridiculous these days, it may not be a totally outlandish concern.
Perhaps a disclaimer should accompany some of these new shows before being presented to American viewers: “The following program contains scenes and storylines that are fictional and should not be confused with real life. Viewer common sense is required.”