Whenever we watch television, we see stories that captivate us. These stories captivate us to the point where we ask ourselves if anything we see holds up in real life.
We know that reality is nothing like what we see on the tube. As a result, anything that resembles what is real fascinates us.
Take away the gunfights, explosions, magic, and superpowers, what are we left with? We are left with the setting of these television programs.
We then ask ourselves if it is possible to visit these places.
The answer is we can!
As you will see, most of the shows we watch today are actually filmed in Canada. By the end of this article, you will definitely see Canada as one giant movie studio.
These are the 15 television shows that were filmed in Canada:
Designated Survivor (Toronto)
At some point in your life, you may have asked this question:
“Who assumes control of the US when the president dies?”
The obvious answer is that the vice president is next in line. But, what is he or she dies? Surely, there are numerous people in line to assume the role of chief executive.
Now, here’s the more intriguing question:
“What if everybody in line dies?”
It’s a compelling enough question to be a thought experiment in and of itself. And, this hypothetical situation makes up the entire premise of Designated Survivor. This American political thriller stars Kieffer Sutherland and was released in September 2016.
Kiefer Sutherland plays the role of Thomas Kirkman. Thomas (Tom) Kirkman was the Secretary of Urban Housing and Development until an explosion kills the United States president along with his potential successors. As a result, Kirkman was immediately sworn in as the interim president of the United States.
You could expect to see Kiefer Sutherland play the persona of a man attempting to succeed at two tasks simultaneously- be the president of the United States and be accepted by the American people as such.
It might seem that the setting is in Washington DC. On the contrary, much of Designated Survivor’s production and filming took place in downtown Toronto. You might, in fact, recognize Bathurst Street and Dupont Street in many scenes throughout the series.
Designated Survivor has three seasons, with season three being launched in 2019. You could watch season three on Netflix. Seasons one and two are also available on Netflix but outside North America.
This legal drama that has taken the world by storm was shot in two cities: New York City and Toronto. Only the first episode of the first season was shot in New York City. All subsequent episodes and seasons (all nine of them) were shot in Toronto at Downsview Park Studios.
For this reason, what might seem like New York City to you is actually the central business district of Ontario’s capital.
Season one premiered in 2015. Since then, Suits would have nine seasons, with the final episode of the last season airing in 2019.
The setting of the series is a fictional New York City-based law firm, Pearson Hardman. The law firm would undergo numerous changes in its leadership and name. Reasons for the shifts include discoveries of embezzlement, indictment, and a potential hostile takeover (spoiler alert).
The star-studded cast includes Patrick J. Adams and Gabriel Macht. The former plays Mike Ross, a college dropout who happens to be quite the prodigy. Harvey Specter played by Gabriel Macht is one of the most highly-respected lawyers in the city. Recognizing Ross’s “talents”, Harvey Specter takes him under his wing.
The relationship between the two would then evolve from a professional mentor-apprentice relationship to that of close friends and equals (spoiler alert again).
All seasons of Suits were aired by the USA Network. Now, you could watch all nine seasons on Netflix.
The Boys (Toronto)
Superhero films have made a killing at the box office as of late. If you need proof, just look at how much money Marvel and DC have made with their superhero franchises.
Underneath all the gross ticket sales and the cult followings is our long-time fascination with the hero-villain narrative. With all the complexities of daily life, this is a dichotomy we could always fall back on. Or, at least it was.
Many of us today have grown skeptical of the narrative’s simplicity. As well, the human mind clamours for novelty.
Shot for the most part in Toronto, The Boys premiered in 2019 and injected good old-fashioned capitalism into the hero-vs-villain dynamic. The Boys is set in a fictional world where, instead of being viewed as “freaks” or “anomalies”, people with superhuman abilities are idolized. In this fictional world, a corporation known as Vought International capitalizes on this. The corporation then markets a group of seven people with superpowers (The Seven) as superheroes.
However, The Seven, deep down, are as corrupt and sinister as the corporation that monetizes their prestige.
One group seeks to combat Vought International and its “superheroes-The Boys. The clash between the two groups becomes the central driving force of the first season.
Umbrella Academy (Toronto and Hamilton)
If you are a professional Netflix binge-watcher, there are those shows that just end up in your queue. We are willing to bet that Umbrella Academy is one of those shows.
If you are curious, Umbrella Academy is about a family of adopted siblings. These siblings are gifted with superpowers. For much of the series, their desire to get to the bottom of their father’s demise is the end goal of their exploits and adventures.
Along the way, stopping the end of the world adds to the list of the family’s responsibilities.
Umbrella Academy has all the makings of a great superhero movie:
- The constant back-and-forth between the members of the family
- Action-filled scenes
- Time travel
Also, did we mention that the series was filmed in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario?
The evils and the necessity of social inequality are abstract concepts. They are so abstract that these are best explained with an analogy of some sort.
Who would have thought that a train would illustrate these realities well?
In Snowpiercer, the world has been turned into a frozen wasteland. The last survivors are kept in a train that perpetually travels across the Earth. The train consists of more than 100 carriages. Different carriages contain different amenities.
Those towards the rear have inhospitable conditions. This is where the elderly, poor, and sick are kept. Throughout the series, you could get a sense that there is a social hierarchy behind selecting who occupies the best and the worst carriages.
Snowpiercer was shot and produced in Vancouver, British Columbia. Debuting during the early part of 2020, the series was based on the film. Thus far, Snowpiercer only aired for one season.
Season two was in the works until COVID-19 led to numerous production shutdowns all over the United States and Canada.
American Gods (Toronto)
Let’s face it. You’ve done it once.
You told somebody that you read a book. To prove it, you summarized it in great detail, receiving praise and accolades for your efforts.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing. You can do the same with American Gods.
American Gods is a novel by Neil Gaiman. In 2017, Fremantle Media and Lionsgate USA decided to produce a film adaptation of the novel. American Gods (the series) premiered in that same year with massive success.
If you have read the book, you would know the main plot. If not, here is a synopsis:
A man, Shadow Moon, finishes his prison sentence. He runs into a mysterious con artist, Mr. Wednesday, who actually turned out to be the Norse god, Odin. From him, he learns of the ongoing battle between the gods of old and the gods of the present day.
Indeed, that is quite bare in the details. Be that as it may, it gives you a reason to watch the entire series. Perhaps, later on, you could lie or brag about reading the book.
The series was shot in many locations across Ontario, including Toronto. Outdoor scenes were filmed in numerous parks in Guelph and Cambridge.
If you happen to be taking a stroll in any parks in these areas, you may just be passing the exact place where Moon agrees to be Mr. Wednesday’s chaperone.
Filmed in numerous locations in Vancouver, Arrow debuted in 2010. The series has nine seasons that you could watch on Netflix. The final episode was filmed just before 2020.
The first season is mainly an origin story of the DC superhero, Green Arrow. Before taking on the mantle of Green Arrow, Oliver Quinn was a billionaire playboy in Starling City (no similarity or association to the city in Washington state).
Oliver Quinn decides to be a vigilante by night. By night, he hunts down criminals listed in his late father’s notebook. Being an origin story, Arrow has multiple flashback scenes to when Oliver Quinn was on an island training.
The story of Arrow takes place in Starling City. This is a fictional city known in the DC comics as Star City. Looking at the fictional, you will notice many rooftop scenes. These rooftops are actually the rooftops of Canada Post.
Also, the series features many scenes in nightclubs. These scenes were filmed in one nightclub in Vancouver- Aura. It is in downtown Vancouver.
Vancouver’s B.C. Place was also a location of many scenes in the series.
For more locations you could tour, visit this site.
Transporter: The Series (Toronto And Oshawa)
Luc Besson outdid himself with the Transporter franchise. The Transporter movies featuring Jason Statham were such a hit that these deserved a series.
The series is a spinoff of the Transporter movie franchise. Chris Vance plays the role of Frank Martin, a skilled driver for the highest bidder. Having a reputation in the criminal world, Frank Martin is often the go-to person for carrying and transporting illegal contraband without drawing suspicion.
Transporter: The Series premiered in 2012. Until 2014, the series had two seasons. The filming of the pilot episodes took place in Nice, France. Owing to production difficulties in France, shooting was resumed in Toronto where most of the scenes were to be filmed.
There are many scenes in Oshawa, another city in Ontario. Numerous car and action scenes took place in areas like the Parkwood Estate Garden.
The Twilight Zone (Vancouver, Ashcroft, and Victoria)
Reboots are popular these days.
The Twilight Zone was huge in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. The American anthology TV series underwent numerous reboots and revivals, with the most recent being in 2019.
The sheer number of revivals and reboots says much about the appeal of the Twilight Zone. When you think about it, by next year, it will have been around for at least 60 years.
True to the franchise’s roots, the 2019 reboot of the Twilight Zone follows the same format. Each episode contains different bizarre stories.
According to The Cinemaholic, British Columbia was a haven for filming.
The Twilight Zone features many scenes along Government Street in Vancouver. As well, filming of numerous scenes also took place in places like the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria.
Wharf Street and Belleville Street was also home to much of the series’s production and filming.
There were also numerous scenes filmed in Ashcroft, British Columbia.
Charmed (New Westminster and Vancouver)
Most 90s kids are familiar with “The Power of Three”.
The Charmed series created a cult following in the 90s until the early 2000s. Hence, when a reboot was announced, fans of the series grew excited. We could probably assume that they were filled with a mix of excitement and nostalgia.
Despite being a reboot and not a revival, Charmed retains many elements of its 90s predecessor. It still follows the lives of three modern-day witches who fight evil using their magic. However, the new reboot retains more than the characters.
First of all, everyone recalls Halliwell Manor where the Halliwell sisters live and congregate (and cast spells). This remains unchanged. You could see the new Halliwell Manor in New Westminster, British Columbia. According to Heavy, the exact address is 127 Queens Avenue, New Westminster, British Columbia.
The University of British Columbia in Vancouver was also a filming site for the series. Also, numerous locations in Burnaby were filming and production sites.
What does a socially functional zombie look like?
iZombie could give you an idea. iZombie was released in 2015. Until 2019, the series has had five seasons produced by Warner Brothers and Vertigo Entertainment.
iZombie features Liv Moore played by RoseMcIver. Liv Moore was a medical resident in Seattle until she became a zombie. Retaining self-awareness, she exercised control over her desire to consume human brains. Instead of eating the brains of the living, she took a job at the local morgue. There, she eats the brains of dead people.
Along the way, she ends up solving crimes and befriending the local coroner, Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti played by Rahul Kohli.
While the setting of the story is explicitly Seattle, much of the filming took place all over Vancouver. In fact, for 99.99 CAD, you could take a driving or walking tour of the various places in the city where the iZombie was filmed.
To learn more about these tours, you can visit this site.
12 Monkeys (Toronto)
Time travel fascinates everyone. And, in 12 Monkeys, it lies at the heart of the series’s plot.
12 Monkeys was originally a movie from 1995. However, a decade later, the movie would have its own series.
In 12 Monkeys, the year is 2043. Mankind was suffering from the afflictions of a virus released in the past by a secret organization. The organization was the Army Of The 12 Monkeys. To save the human race, James Cole (Aaron Stanford) and Dr. Cassie Railly (Amanda Schull) need to go back in time. Both characters need to go back to 2015 and the release of the virus.
Only the pilot episode was filmed in Detroit, Michigan. For the most part, the series was filmed in various parts of Toronto.
Some places are:
- The Hearn Generating Station
- Treble Hall in Hamilton
- The Parkwood Estate in Oshawa
- Glenn Baillie Place
- Toronto Centre for the Arts
Locke And Key (Toronto And Lunenberg, Nova Scotia)
The supernatural horror genre is slowly moving away from the big screen. Locke and Key is an example of this. Thus far, Locke and Key has one season and is available on Netflix.
Locke and Key premiered on February 7, 2020. The story follows the Locke family. Its patriarch, Randall Locke, was murdered. As a result, the family’s matriarch played by Darbie Stanchfield moves their three children away from their home in Seattle.
Now living in a house known as Keyhouse, the three children discover keys that unlock different doors to different magical places. These keys are sought after by demons and spirits.
Keyhouse is an appropriately-named central element in the series. The house is in Toronto.
The Flash (Vancouver)
Here is another superhero series from DC Comics and Warner Brothers.
Barry Allen (played by Grant Gustin) was a criminal investigator at Central City. He meets an accident that puts him in a coma. Somehow, the incident gave Allen access to the “speed force”, something that grants him superhuman speed.
With his newfound abilities, he solves and fights crimes in Central City as the Flash.
The first season aired on October 7, 2014. Season six ended exactly five years thereafter.
As mentioned earlier, the setting of the Flash is in Central City. In the DC Universe, Central City is roughly 600 miles away from Star City, where the Green Arrow does his work.
So, would it be safe to assume that Central City is actually Vancouver? The answer is yes.
In fact, according to The Cinemaholic, the childhood home of Barry Allen in numerous flashbacks is at 2036th West Avenue, Vancouver. As well, S.T.A.R. Labs is actually in the CBC Vancouver Broadcast Centre on 700 Hamilton Street.
Just like in Arrow, B.C. Place is the site of many scenes in the Flash.
FOR NOSTALGIA’S SAKE: MACGYVER (Vancouver)
Different generations idolize different people. Often, these people include musicians, actors, and athletes.
If you grew up in the late 80s and early 90s, you could be proud of saying that you idolized a man capable of picking up cigarettes with an iron pipe.
In 1985, ABC aired MacGyver starring the one and only Richard Dean Anderson. He played secret agent Angus MacGyver. In the show, MacGyver solves crimes using his wit and ingenuity. Agent Macgyver crafts many useful implements from ordinary objects he could find in his surroundings. As a viewer in the 80’s or 90s, you look forward to his crafting montages.
His trademark ingenuity has made him a pop culture icon. If that was not enough, the word “MacGyverism” was even added to the dictionary. Feel free to look it up.
Not only were all seven seasons filmed in Vancouver. Many scenes were also filmed in places you could easily go to.
For instance, one of the filming locations for seasons one to five was the Vancouver Public Library. Also, the Vancouver Art Gallery and the University of British Columbia are home to many scenes in the series.
SPECIAL MENTION: KUNG-FU: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (Toronto)
Will anyone ever remember David Carradine for anything else?
In Kung-Fu: The Legend Continues, he plays Kwai Chang Caine. He was a Buddhist monk who was also a master of Kung-Fu. He had a son before his ordination, whom he meets many years later. His son, Peter Caine, is a detective. Together, they solve crimes.
The plot may seem cheesy in 2020. However, for those of us who watched television in the 90s, this was pure gold.
The story takes place in a fictional city. The name of the city is Sloanville. If you watch the series and pay close attention to the skyline, you will recognize that Sloanville is the central business district of Toronto!
Canada Is One Big TV Studio
This is not an exhaustive list.
Nevertheless, it is enough to make you feel like walking around in Canada is like touring a giant television studio.
How many countries could claim to be the filming location of most of the top-rated TV shows today and in the past?
Not many, but one of them is Canada.