As Canada practices social distancing, faces mass layoffs, and rushes grocery stores, there’s no better time than a quarantine to finally take in hours upon hours of some classic, wholesome Canadian entertainment. Rather than stare blankly at your cat, spouse, third bowl of cereal, as each day bleeds mercilessly into the next, focus your gaze upon Can-Quan 2020.
It should be noted that wholesome in English Canada exists on a spectrum, with Don Cherry on one end, The Littlest Hobo on the other, and the Trailer Park Boys somewhere in the middle. In this country, that’s called range. Since last week, media outlets have waived logins for newscasts, and streaming sites have expanded during self-isolation recommendations. That’s nice of them, but CBC Gem has been online since 2018 and much like our healthcare system, it’s “free.”
Our national broadcaster’s mock-Netflix has three tiers of membership, two unpaid levels and a $4.99 monthly ‘premium’ bundle. For the most part, it’s decent— Family Feud Canada hosted by Gerry Dee, the Baroness von Sketch Show, a surprising amount of dog-related programming, and “retro favourites” like Kids in the Hall and Kenny vs. Spenny. CBC also nabbed US shows like Portlandia, a few watchable US films, and a BBC version of Little Women (why? No one knows. But it scores some relevance points for illness-related drama).
In particular, though, CBC Gem holds the entire and only first season of 2019 comedy series, Cavendish, starring Mark Little and Andrew Bush. Set on Prince Edward Island, the show follows two brothers on a pilgrimage back home to visit their estranged father in what quickly turns into an Atlantic-stereotype fever-dream. This quarantine is a prime chance to check out CBC’s bizarre, unrenewed series because, as Bush tells VICE, “No one saw it the first time.”
Likewise, CTV has a treasure trove of Can-Quan with all of its original programming online, and the CTV Comedy channel features Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and stand-up specials from Just for Laughs. This Tuesday night, CTV will air the Just for Laughs Gala with sets from headliner SNL’s Michael Che, Jay Pharaoh, BC’s Phil Hanley, and Toronto’s Matt O’Brien.
“I think it’ll get people’s minds off things for a few minutes,” O’Brien says. “My set doesn’t have anything topical, its very dumb and very goofy and stupid.” Unlike the pay-what-you-can stand-up open mic in your neighbourhood bar, “I don’t think anyone will be disappointed by this one.”
Not even a world pandemic can take down world wrestling. To warm up for Wrestlemania 36 in April (which is still not cancelled), wrasslin’ fans can watch the first season of VICE series Dark Side of the Ring streaming online for free before the second season’s premiere on March 24. Both seasons feature solid Can-con including infamous “The Montreal Screwjob” episode and the second season is narrated by Winnipeg’s Chris Jericho, the self-proclaimed “Paul Stanley of wrestling.”
For the YouTube warrior, many vintage Canadian television shows have their own channels. Degrassi: The Official Channel, for instance, has episodes from the 80s seasons to the most recent show last month. In 2017, Bell Media’s Encore+ channel launched full seasons of everything from teen drama Ready or Not and goddamn Mr. Dressup to Are You Afraid of the Dark? and all the Heritage Minutes. You can tell your parents Davinci’s Inquest is on there, too.
As for Netflix, that old failsafe, there’s a metric ton of domestic product. Have you ever watched The Indian Detective set in Toronto and starring Russell Peters and William Shatner? No? That’s shocking, better get to it. There’s also Heartland, Schitt’s Creek, both Goon movies, and Canadian copies of Storage Wars, Worst Drivers, Worst Handyman, Undercover Boss, and not just the original Bad Cop, Bon Cop, but Bad Cop, Bon Cop 2.
Crave has a comparable anthology with CTV-syndicates like Master Chef Canada and the Amazing Race Canada, plus the animated Corner Gas, Letterkenny, and The Terry Fox Story by HBO Films, which is actually a masterpiece. In these trying times, it’s good to bandwidth together.
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