To recap the inaugural post of this series I have been creating a list of essential music, TV, books, foods and experiences that a non-national should seek out to really get a feel for true Canadian culture. This list is primarily television as it was very difficult to think of Canadian films.
Caveat: this list is written by an anglophone Canadian born in the 1980s. There is an obvious bias towards this era and culture. It is not intentional but difficult to avoid. I would love for this to be a more rounded list and am definitely open to suggestions.
Television (and Film)
Corner Gas – this is one of my favourites to introduce to unsuspecting couchsurfers. It originally aired on CTV for 6 seasons and gave us quirky personalities in a middle-of-nowhere Canadian town in Saskatchewan (if I say Saskatchewan is it redundant to say “middle-of-nowhere”? ;). This show has the whole package and it is easy to pick any episode and start there, not much need for backstory. Plus, you can watch every episode for free on youtube.
Degrassi High – this show tackled the big issues that teenagers faced (or thought about) and it did so back in the late 80s where much of the available American teen media was along the lines of the fluff offered in Saved by the Bell. Not that I don’t love me some SBtB. Plus it used regular-type folks that felt real; kids you could actually imagine going to your high school. Well, if you went to high school in the 80s. Some of the bangs were out of this world.
Due South – a mountie-centric show. How much more Canadian can you get? AND we get a little Paul Gross action.
Elephant Show, The – Do a flash mob in a Canadian mall using the song Skinnamarink and 90% of the caught-off-guard will know the actions. My personal favourite episode involves elephant in charge of interior decoration for a new treehouse. They were a tough crowd to please. Good, wholesome television and it all started on CBC. They tackle such real-life topics such as “hobbies” and “polio vaccination”.
Grande Seduction, la (Seducing Dr. Lewis) (2003) – one of the only movies on the list and a lovely Quebecois flick about a town that needs a doctor to stay viable and sets out to lure one.
Hockey Night in Canada – something for Canadians to do on Saturday nights when it a miserable, frozen tundra. We’ve known we needed a pastime since 1931 when Saturday night was hockey night on the radio. The host, Ron MacLean, had the true Canadian experience growing up in Nova Scotia, the Yukon and Red Deer, Alberta (you might remember Red Deer from previous posts such as inaugural gun use). Ronnie is kinda suave for an old dude – and he’s of Scottish lineage – Canada’s answer to Sean Connery?
Kids in the Hall, The – sketch comedy and my attempt to add things to the list that I am pretty sure are well-known but of which I have little experience. This list could be good for me! A push to experience more Canadian culture myself.
Ready or Not – Growing up with Busy and Amanda in the 90s. I still know all the words to the theme song. Then again, I know the words to The Nanny theme song as well.
Red Green Show, The – a CBC television special that spoofed home improvement shows for 15 ridiculous seasons. I’m pretty sure that my brother owned the version of monopoly based off of the show. The pawns must have been cobbled together from screws and duct tape. “If women don’t find you handsome, they can at least find you handy”
Rick Mercer Report – to add to my apparent alliance with CBC this is from that network. It is basically like Canada’s answer to Stephen Colbert – lots of parody with the bonus of trips all over Canada. Wait, this came out in 2004; Stephen Colbert is the US’s answer to Rick Mercer as his Report was launched in 2005. Watch this to get the real feel of small towns all over Canada – travel from the comfort of your own chesterfield! This clip was carefully selected to bring attention to the world class institution from which I obtained my undergraduate degree. Go Moo U!
Trailer Park Boys, The – Set in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia these trailer park inhabitants have made a name for themselves. Various names in fact, including a man named Bubbles. The show follows them on their every day (mis)adventures. I, personally, hate this show however it has gained quite a following in Canada and the troupe tours the country doing live shows. You can’t argue with a mob.
There it is. Watch these and you will pass the citizenship exam*. What did I miss?
*Do not take any advice I give you on a citizenship exam. My exam consisted of the geographical location of my birth.