Top 10 Canadian TV shows of the decade

Our critic picks the English-language shows from the past 10 years that kept him glued to the small screen

10. Clone High (2002 – 2003)
This one-season wonder was created by Bill Lawrence (Scrubs) as a Canada-U.S. co-production, but the U.S. partner dropped the show so quickly that only Canadians saw the full series. A parody of sitcoms, high school shows, and world history, it featured a premise-explaining theme song, characters based on JFK, Cleopatra and Gandhi, and a robot who talked like Mr. Belvedere. Even with an American creator, how could it not make the list?

9. Mantracker (2006 – )
Schlocky, cheesoid TV needs to be represented on a list like this. The obvious choice is the story of Terry Grant, a bad-ass horse-riding, hat-wearing, bearded cowboy who spends every episode hunting down a team of city-dwellers released into the wild. It’s basically the Most Dangerous Game on horseback, or Dog the Bounty Hunter without all the Christian moralizing. In other words, something you feel guilty for kind of enjoying.

8. Kenny vs. Spenny (2003 – )
A combination of reality competition and sitcom, this show about two mismatched buddies (a neat nut and an evil schemer, like a Canadian Odd Couple) show Kenny and Spenny doing various humiliating things every week in a desperate attempt to one-up each other. Many episodes feature the evil Kenny destroying his supposed friend through deceit, trickery and blatant cheating. When Trey Parker and Matt Stone joined the show as producers, it seemed to suggest what we already knew already: these guys are the new Cartman and Butters.

7. Life With Derek (2005 – 2009)
Canada has produced a number of “tween” comedies (Naturally Sadie, Radio Free Roscoe, The Latest Buzz) that were considerably better-acted and better-written than their counterparts on the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. This Family Channel show, about a blended family that—unlike the Brady Bunch—can’t get along, was perhaps the best of the bunch, a throwback to real-world family problems in a TV landscape increasingly dominated by escapism. It was like Step By Step with people who aren’t disgusting.

6. The Hour (2005 – )
Though The Rick Mercer Report was the ‘00s most obvious answer to The Daily Show, George Stroumboulopoulos comes closer to matching Jon Stewart’s appeal: a comedian and “personality” performer conducting interviews with many serious, earnest people. After years of interviewers who were totally serious and earnest themselves, or talk-show hosts who only interviewed second-rank entertainers, seeing “Strombo” chat it up with James Cameron or Barbara Walters demonstrated that Canadian talk shows could successfully follow the U.S. template.

5. Corner Gas (2004 – 2009)
With the success of Brent Butt’s half-hour comedy about wacky small-town Saskatchewan residents, we saw how Canadians can step into the breach and do things the U.S. isn’t doing—in this case, rural comedy. The show also took techniques that had become common in U.S. single-camera comedy, like sudden cutaways and flashbacks, and brought them into the Canadian mainstream. It was about a place where life moves slowly, but it helped Canadian shows move a lot faster.

4. Durham County (2007 – )
A mashup of cop shows and American Beauty-type stories about the hidden evil of suburbs, this drama starred Hugh Dillon as a big-city cop who tries to start a new life in suburbia, only to discover there’s lots of murdering and depravity going on. Though the second season was not as strong as the first, it was The Movie Network‘s most interesting attempt to do a show in the style of its U.S. counterpart, HBO.

3. Trailer Park Boys (2001 – 2008)
One of the most influential and successful comedy shows of the era, this mock-documentary show about a bunch of beer-swilling lowlifes premiered in 2001, leading to a seven-season run and two films. In mining comedy from the adventures of people who are basically horrible, it preceded shows like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and it was doing fake documentary comedy before Arrested Development and The Office made it cool again.

2. Slings & Arrows (2003 – 2006)
A Canadian show so good that international viewers don’t know it’s Canadian. A comedy-drama about the pressures of putting on a play at an artistically-compromised, financially-strapped Shakespeare festival, the show was both an inside look at the insanity of show business and a universal story about the things that go wrong in any workplace. It helped that the great cast was full of big names like Paul Gross and co-creator Mark McKinney (Kids in the Hall) and big names to be, like Rachel McAdams. The three seasons of the show were so successful they led to the ultimate compliment any show can receive: a foreign remake, the Brazilian Som e Fúria.

1. Intelligence (2006 – 2007)
Created by Chris Haddock, the man behind Da Vinci’s Inquest (which didn’t make the list because it premiered in the ‘90s), this story of drug trafficking, moral ambiguity and politics was one of the most ambitious Canadian dramas of the decade, a successful attempt to do a serious crime drama like The Wire. It was canceled by the CBC after only two seasons, leading Haddock to speculate that “somewhere in the CBC someone is saying ‘do not promote this show.’” That’s how you know Canadian TV has made the big time at last: we have TV that’s too good for TV.

Top 10 Canadian TV shows of the decade

  1. The Hour? Seriously? The Agenda is a billion times better, and Strombo is a tool.

    • Yes, Strombo is a tool, his interviewing skills are irritating and shallow.

      • I third the motion. Awful show, awful host.

    • The Agenda is also Ontario only.

    • Strombo is defintiely a tool. Just sit in your GD chair and be still, pretending you have ADHD isn't appealing.

    • you must be kidding, he is funny, intelligent and very cute…. I am 57 and love him.

  2. No french tv show?

    So we officialy aren't canadians anymore (or should I say "anyway")?

    • Je suis tout à fait d'accord. I would have included Les Bougon and Tout le Monde en Parle.

      • quebec sucks shush

    • Yes, yes, excuse us. again.

      Here we werem on an English website, talking about English television but we said "Canada" which means you are offended (again). This of course would never happen on a french website.

      How will we ever make it up to you?

      • Apparently there are no worthy french shows to mention.

        • Au contraire. If Quebec shows were included, there would be no room for any English language ones on the list :

          Les Invincibles
          Les Bougon
          Minuit le soir
          Tout le monde en parle
          Les Lavigueur
          Les hauts et les bas de Sophie Paquin
          Infoman
          Le Fric Show
          Lance et Compte
          etc., etc.,

          • This was exactly what I was going to say, except I was going to be joking.

          • I can't read this crap. And who is this guy 'Les' who is the star of so many French shows?

    • Check out the movies section, clearly Quebecers are included in the thought process.

    • Not every Canadian speaks French. It's not a MUST.
      Quebec is part of Canada. Stop trying to be your own Country.

  3. The best show over the past decade is one few Canadians watched? Critics liked it, viewers didn't, and I think we should go with audience. I understand viewing numbers alone do not decide these lists but surely they should have some importance.

    It says something about Canadian television, or maybe just the CBC, when a reviewer claims a show was a success even tho only a handful of people watched it.

    • Critics liked it, viewers didn't, and I think we should go with audience.

      Thus, Three's Company was the best show of the last century.

      It says something about Canadian television… when a reviewer claims a show was a success even tho only a handful of people watched it and didn't last two seasons.

      It says the same thing about American television, as U.S. reviewers make the same claim about Twin Peaks.

  4. The Hour is an amazing show! I'm so glad you included it here! We enjoy George's "down to earth" approach and his exceptional "listening skills".

  5. Well I find that show does a good job of attracting the young adult crowd (let's say 19 to 25). Pop culture meets news. It accomplishes what it set out to do, and it does it relatively well.

  6. Never been a big Kenny vs Spenny fan, but I know a ton of people who are – so I can see it.

    And I really enjoy The Hour – and I think George's interviewing skills are great. He seems genuinely interested in the people he's interviewing – more than I can say for a lot of talking heads.

  7. The Hour …Great Show! George is an incredible host comfortable with kings or commoners…Way to Go George ! you deserve the accolade.Thank you for all the things you bring to my attention..you are my favorite link to current affairs!

  8. I've been living outside Canada for a half the decade, so some of these shows I only see when I'm home. I have noticed there are more Canadian shows airing overseas though (I'm currently living in The Netherlands). Flashpoint and Being Erica are really big over here right now, and I used to watch Intelligence and Slings and Arrows. It's great to see shows that represent places I recognise and not just big American cities. I'm sure the next decade will bring even better tv shows from Canada.

  9. Intelligence was a great show and it is a shame that it was cancelled. Had it been given a proper run it most certainly could have developped the many complex storylines into an insightful look at Canada in the 00s.

  10. Happy that Clone High was mentioned. I still watch my DVD set every now and then and it continues to make me laugh. The Hour on the other hand, I think George should stick to music and pop culture. That's where he is knowledgeable.

  11. George is an insufferable tool–

  12. What about Degressi the next generation?
    Huge impact young people.

    • WOOO Degrassi!!!! It's my guilty pleasure

  13. Where is Kids in the Hall? Are you insane?

    • Kids in the Hall, awesome as it was, debuted in the 80s.

  14. The show that kept me riveted to my screen was "This Is Wonderland". It was not only the best show on Canadian TV at the time but, the best show on any TV I could get at the time. I think "Cold Squad" belongs in there too.

    • Agree wholeheartedly. I LOVED "This is Wonderland"! .

  15. Thank you so much for not putting Rick Mercer in here – it's brutal. I'm ok with The Hour – it is watchable more times than not but I have you have to miss the first few minutes while Canada's boyfriend talks to the audience. Intelligence was a great, great show.

  16. Would Made in Canada have made the list had it not debuted in the 90s?

    • Probably doesn't help that it has no DVD release so if you don't remember it, you won't be able to see it.

      • Pretty sure the first season was released on DVD at some point. No idea if they still sell it though.

  17. Any top-ten list that omits Being Erica has no credibility. Bar none it is one of the best shows on T.V.

    • Being Erica would be a lot better without the whiny, self-absorbed Erica! Some of the story lines are interesting but she, herself I always want to say, "Get a life!"

  18. Mantracker….Who wrote this article? ok if you like this show obviously you have never actually had to survive out in the wilderness. mantracker is one of the most terrible shows on tv.
    it is rigged. i mean think of the concept. Two men on horseback chase down two people on foot plus a camera man. i think maybe only usain bolt would have a fair chance at this race on a flat surface. the show always takes place in horseback friendly country and the host knows well in advance where the show is going to take place. and it places a veteran horseback rider against rookie wilderness people.
    I dont know how people think this show has any drama. i would like to see the mantracker really put his reputation on the line by going face to face against other wilderness experts that had horses as well.

    • I watched this once for about 10 minutes and thought it was one of the stupidest shows I'd ever seen. I don't even get the concept.

  19. Intelligence was such an AMAZING show. I could never figure out why it was not marketed more effectively. The decision to cancel it was horrible. I LOVED that show.

  20. WTF? Corner Gas should be number 1 hands down!

  21. Where is Survivorman on this list?

    Les Stroud is a Canadian golden boy. It's a total joke that he's not on this list.

    He destroys Mantracker by virtue of doing all his own camera work and actually teaching about wilderness survival.

    • I don't watch enough TV to weigh in on "the best" but Survivorman is a great show.

  22. Thank God lil terrorist on the prairie isn't on that list. The hour should be called "Too old to be a hipster douchebag but George keeps on trying"

  23. tbp is number 1

  24. "That's how you know Canadian TV has made the big time at last: we have TV that's too good for TV."

    That summarizes it quite well, I think. Still, until our broadcast networks provide around 60% of Canadian content (as is done in Britain, Australia, etc. — so it IS possible), instead of blowing $1billion on American imports we can see on the originating US networks anyway, I will hold off on celebrating "Canadian TV".

  25. I would put Survivorman, Trailer Park Boys, and Kenny vs. Spenny as 1-2-3, respectively.

    • I just do not understand the popularity of Kenny vs Spenny. A pair of unlikeable guys doing unlikeable things, which aren't even funny and are frequently stomach turning. Har dee har har….

    • Trailer Park Boys, this show is garbage,

  26. interesting, i only heard of four of these ten shows…i bet that's more than the average canadian

    • I guess I'm not very average then, I've heard of all 10

  27. Strombo is No 1 for me the only one what I watch and no Clicking…
    Bravo.

  28. Strombo-boob…you gotta be kidding. If you want to watch how an iterviewer should conduct themselves watch spectacle with Elvis Costelo. He know his stuff and the people he's interviewing. The guests are the center of attention, not the host. Strombo, on the other hand is a self absorbed boob who has a ton of interesting people plopped in front of him and he continually acts like it's all about him. I know, I know Spectacle is not a Canadian show, I just wish it were. Like many other commenters here, I to think it was a crime that Intelligence was dropped. Typical CBC.

  29. I just thank God that by the end of the list I had not read these dreaded words: 'Little Mosque On The Prairie'.

    Now please excuse me; I just puked a little bit in my mouth at the very thought of that CBC, multi-cult claptrap.

  30. How does garbage like Life With Derek make it, and gold like Survivorman not? Les Stroud is the man!!!

  31. Intelligence at number one? Mantracker at number anything? Life of Derek>Kenny vs Spenny? I'm Ron Burgundy? I usually wouldn't get mad at a top 10 list but…. well just check my top ten stupid list list to see where this one ranks (spoiler alert: #1).

  32. Intelligence at number one? Mantracker at number anything? Life of Derek>Kenny vs Spenny? I'm Ron Burgundy? I usually wouldn't get mad at a top 10 list but…. well just check my top ten stupid list list to see where this one ranks (spoiler alert: #1).

  33. TRADERS,TEK WAR, BEAST MASTER.AMAZON Com-on people

  34. If you're going to include US-Canada co-production you might as well put BSG on top of that list! Not to mention Gene Roddenberry Andromeda!

    • And I would add ZeD anybody remember that late night show?

  35. WHERE's DUE SOUTH???????????????

    CRAPPY LIST!

  36. Canadian TV is a shitpile

  37. Very happy to see that Trailer Park Boys is listed.Thanks for sharing.

  38. where is departures it is the best travel show ever

  39. Corner Gas wasn't funny… subtle comedy doesn't work unless you have funny actors to deliver it. No chemistry between any of them.

    The Agenda should have been on here too.

  40. Trailer Park Boys – One of my favourite tv show I never miss to watch.

  41. Trailer Park Boys – The only show that I enjoyed a lot.

  42. TPB # 1 Hands Down!!

  43. what about beachcombers and degrassi junior high and hockey night in canada

    • Admir – did you read the part where it says “this decade”????

  44. you seriously forgot Being Erica?! its way more outstanding than all of the shows on your list

  45. park boys is not only the best canadian tv show, its the best show in the world!

  46. smokes lets go

  47. seriously, no Flashpoint or Rookie Blue – no The Listener? maybe those are in the wrong decade? I’m in the US but love Canadian TV

  48. about Flash Point

  49. How could you leave out Flashpoint – clearly one of the very best shows on TV anywhere.

  50. Macleans’ critic, who apparently compiled this list, is out of his effin mind! Trailer Park Boys?? Seriously? and Kenny vs. Spenny?? Fire this guy – he has the worst taste I’ve ever seen in a TV critic.

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