The Top 10 Most Popular Canadian TV Shows

The current COVID-19 pandemic has led to most of us being stuck at home. From gaming to home workouts, every option may have already been exhausted to divert our attention from the pandemic and all negative news surrounding it.

Television has always been a form of escape. To some, it is a window to the world. With the advent of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, we have at the click of a mouse a plethora of options.

The sheer number of choices can lead to a case of paralysis-by-analysis. To help you narrow down your options, this list not only contains 10 shows to binge-watch. The list also features Canadian TV shows. Some of which may clue you in on some of Canada’s cities and provinces.

Without further ado, here are 10 of Canada’s most popular television shows:

Heartland

Heartland is a CBC television drama based on the book series of Lauren Brooke. In the book series of the same name as well as the television adaptation, the plot revolves around the Fleming family as they grapple with the death of their mother.

The family goes through the challenges and difficulties of ranch life as they try to keep theirs, Heartland, afloat. The show’s main characters, Amy (Amber Marshall) and Louise (Michelle Morgan) Fleming, treat abused horses with their abilities to “listen” to them.

As the series progresses, the two sisters along with the aid of their ranch hand, Ty Borden (Graham Wardle), develop this ability and begin to take in more horses into their family ranch.

The story is set in the fictional country town of Hudson, Alberta. Filmed on location in Alberta, Heartland features numerous scenes with the Rocky Mountains as the main recurrent backdrop. Watching the series can give you a sneak peek into the beauty of Alberta’s foothills and horizon. 

The wholesome and family-friendly character of the TV series remains faithful to that of the best-selling novels upon which it was based. The series began in October 2007 and has since then captivated audiences for more than 139 episodes. Having been renewed for its 14th season, Heartland is now the longest-running scripted TV drama in the history of Canadian TV. 

The series is available on Netflix.

Can You Hear Me?

No list of the most popular Canadian TV shows would be complete without some Francophone representation.

Can You Hear Me follows the lives of three adolescents, Ada (Florence Longpre), Carolanne (Eve Landry), and Fabiola (Melissa Bedard). The story is set in a fictional low-income neighbourhood in the city of Montreal, Quebec.

The assembly of characters, as well as the series’ setting, makes portrayals of daily life struggles relatable to most of its viewers. Can You Hear Me is centred around the day-to-day affairs and struggles of the three aforementioned characters.

Although many of the episodes seem to feature the commonplace nuances of daily life, the characters’ portrayals show the underlying themes of today’s issues. The contemporary issues featured in the show include therapy, relationships, employment, and family problems.

Following the series (and reading the subtitles), you can get a sense of how the trio’s friendship glues them together as a group and as individuals as they go through the problems mentioned earlier.

Since its airing in December 2018, the series has been deemed to be a show that strikes the right balance between comedy and drama. Reviews have recognized Can You Hear Me for being well-written and well-casted. For these reasons, the series is up for its third season sometime in 2021.

Can You Hear Me is available for streaming on Netflix.

Travellers

Take time travel. Add a group of people who have met by chance. Take the result of this combination and place it in the distant future. What do you end up with? Travellers

Set in a distant, dystopian future where human society is on the precipice of collapse and destruction, operatives known as travellers (as in time travellers) have the insurmountable task of going back hundreds of years into the past and undoing events that have led to the present state of the world from which they came.

With a plot like this, Travellers is akin to other time travel-premised greats like “Quantum Leap”, “Thrillseekers”, “Wrinkle In Time”, and “Avengers: Endgame”.

Travelling back to the past, a group of individuals learn to use 21st-century tools known to us today. With social media, satellite navigation, and smartphones at their disposal, they track down key individuals and prevent pivotal events in an attempt to undo the dystopian state of their origin society.

Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the characters is the possibility of getting mentally and emotionally entangled in the events and affairs of the past. The main protagonists go back in time by planting their consciousness into a body that lives in the 21st century. This leads to them assuming the lives, jobs, and relationships of the bodies they have assimilated with.

These elements make for a dark and compelling science fiction thriller worthy of your Netflix binge. Travellers is currently on its third season and is available on Netflix.  

Between

Here is another science fiction head-turner from the Great White North.

In a small town called Pretty Lake, there is an outbreak of a mysterious disease. Little is known about this illness but it has and continues to cause the deaths of those who are over the age of 22.

This leaves Pretty Lake in a situation where many have died and only a few remain. As the entire town is quarantined, the last remaining residents are left to fend for themselves. Amidst the panic and chaos, the daughter of a pregnant minister (Jennette McCurdy) battles to survive the chaos and confusion her rural town has been left in.

Between has all the elements of a gripping dark and ominous thriller ala “Walking Dead” and “Lost”. Filled with numerous plot twists and cliffhangers (like the two TV dramas just mentioned), you will be left at the edge of your seat with every episode.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, the plot of Between allows you to draw your own conclusions about what could happen if people are left to their own devices.

At the time of writing, Between has two seasons. Thus far, the producers have not made any inkling of a third season public. Between is available exclusively on Netflix.

Alias Grace

Alias Grace is based on the Margaret Atwood novel of the same name. Premiering on September 24, 2017, Alias Grace was aired by CBC. Months thereafter, the series became available on Netflix.

Based on Atwood’s 1997 novel, Alias Grace features the life of Grace Marks, the woman linked to the real-life murders of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery. Accused of the murder, Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon) is sentenced to life in prison. At the beginning of the television series, Marks can be seen to have served many years of that life sentence.

Out on parole for good behaviour, she was to work as a housekeeper for the Governor. During her tenure, she meets a group of social reform advocates that includes psychiatrist, Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft).

Dr. Jordan then goes to try to win the pardon of Marks as he tries to prove the mitigating circumstance of insanity as a ground.

More than an entertaining miniseries, Alias Grace can provide you with an idea of how mental health was viewed socially in the mid-1800s. Providing a basis for comparison to Canada’s current mental health care model, Alias Grace allows you to see how far mental health in Canada has gone from a model based on institutionalization to one based on care and delivery.

The on-screen portrayal of this underlying social commentary can just be what you are looking for if you have not yet read the novel.    

Frontier

Probably one of the most undiscussed or overlooked parts of Canadian history is the North American fur trade. While there may be a laundry list of reasons behind this, here is one most would agree with:

It is just another historical event amidst other historical events many of us had to learn in school.

Let’s face it. History just isn’t all that sexy for many of us. Nonetheless, adult life would prove that the things that seemed boring before are the things worth knowing later in life. What could be a better way to draw the attention of viewers to this part of Canadian history?

The answer is simple- Frontier.

Frontier is set during the 18th century and follows the exploits of Declan Harp (Jason Momoa), a half-Irish half-Cree outlaw. Declan Harp is on a quest to destroy the monopoly of fur by the Hudson Bay Company.

To further its own financial and political interests via the fur trade, the company resorts to illegal activities. This is exactly what the outlaw, Declan Harp, wishes to stand in the way of.

The series was co-produced by Discovery Canada and Netflix. For this reason, Frontier is available on Netflix with all three seasons. 

Schitt’s Creek

Schitt’s Creek is a comedic falling-from-grace portrayal of a family who loses all its fortune and status.

Starring Eugene Levy, Dan Levy, Catherine O’Hara, and Annie Murphy, Schitt’s Creek follows the life of the Rose family, a family that has made a fortune in the video industry. After enjoying a long life of privilege, the family suddenly finds itself bankrupt.

This unfortunate turn of events has led to numerous painful life changes and decisions for all members of the family. One of these decisions is a move to the town of Schitt’s Creek where the family moves into a run-down two-bedroom motel.

Though this might sound like the preview of a sob-story, the conflict engendered by the lifestyle of the locals and the family creates numerous situations that will have you on the floor laughing. Besides, these circumstances ultimately become the change necessary for the family to work out issues caused by a life of privilege and affluence.

Groundbreaking in concept, this Canadian sitcom won more than 18 Canadian Screen Awards, as well as two ACTRA awards. Schitt’s Creek is also the recipient of two Screenactors Guild Nominations and numerous other accolades.

Anne With An E

Whether you have read the Anne Of Green Gables series by Lucy Montgomery or not, you will likely appreciate its television adaptation.

The on-screen adaptation comes in the form of Anne With An E. Like the book series, Anne With An E follows the life of Anne Shirley. Through a series of fortuitous events, Anne Shirley (Amybeth McNulty) is adopted by siblings Marilla (Geraldine James) and Matthew Cuthbert (R.H. Thomson).

Anne finds a new family in the Cuthberts, the owners of Green Gables. Imaginative and nothing shy of voluble, Anne goes through the usual childhood experiences of school, crushes, and puberty- all while trying to sever her ties with her traumatic past.

Amybeth McNulty’s accurate portrayal of Anne is genuinely something to behold. The series received a 91% audience score from Rotten Tomatoes. Anne With An E is also the recipient of the highly-coveted Canadian Screen Award For Best Dramatic Series two years in a row (2017 and 2018).

You can experience Anne’s charm and whimsy and the beauty of Prince Edward Island’s landscape first-hand on Netflix.

Trailer Park Boys

For many, a series is worth binge-watching when it has more than 10 seasons. Trailer Park Boys currently has all 12 seasons available on Netflix. If you are in the mood for some slapstick humour set in Nova Scotia, be prepared to binge for an entire weekend.

Trailer Park Boys is filmed in a style resembling that of a reality show (i.e. “mockumentary”). It follows the lives of the residents of a fictional trailer park known as Sunnyville Trailer Park. While the show has more than 10 recurrent characters, three supply most of the show’s humour.

The trio of Julian (John Paul Tremblay), Ricky (Rob Wells), and Bubbles (Mike Smith) spend every episode coming up with ways to make money- both illegally and “somewhat legally”. In the process, the trio constantly comes to blows with the trailer park’s supervisor, Jim Lahey played by the late and great John Dunsworth.

Throughout the series, changes occur, including Ricky’s new role as a grandfather and Jim Lahey’s sobriety albeit temporary. The resulting concatenation of mishaps and misadventures will leave you in tears- not from sadness but from laughing your lungs out.

All in all, the consistent barrage of hilarity is supplied by the characters, the style of filming, and Ricky’s “Ricky-isms” (e.g. “Donating something to CHERRY TREE” and “GETTING TWO BIRDS STONED AT ONCE”).

Prepare for 12 seasons of utter hilarity brought to you by the kind folks of Sunnyville Trailer Park.

Kim’s Convenience

Topping this list is a Canadian sitcom that has both amused viewers and provided Asian representation.

Since October 11, 2016, Kim’s Convenience has taken viewers into the lives of a Korean-Canadian family who run an eponymous convenience store. The series follows the lives of Appa (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee), Umma (Jean Yoon), Janet (Andrea Bang), and Jung (Simu Liu).

As immigrants, Appa and Umma balance navigating Toronto’s business scene and being parents. Being very traditional in their parenting, both tend to dote on Janet’s personal life and chosen career path. At the beginning of the series, it becomes clear that Jung and Appa have an estranged relationship that the latter tries hard to fix later on (spoiler alert).

Much of the comedy comes from the fish-out-of-water element director Ins Choi incorporates into the sitcom. Originally a play, Kim’s Convenience is filled with scenes where Appa and Umma try to make sense of the foreign unfamiliar environment they are in. This becomes apparent as early as the first episode of the first season.

With four seasons available on Netflix, Kim’s Convenience is a must for anyone who enjoys a wholesome laugh.   

Which One Tickles Your Fancy?

Which program speaks to your tastes?

While these shows were filmed and produced in Canada, take the comedic portrayals with a grain of salt as these may not necessarily be representative of Canadian society. However, feel free to take in the beauty of Canada’s surroundings as they appear on the screen.

Whatever the case may be, let these, among other Canadian shows, keep you company.

Choose Canada Magazine

Each member of our team at Choose Canada Magazine has been in Canada for over five years, and has helped dozens of people worldwide find their life in Canada.

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