More Popular In Canada Than In the States


It’s admittedly sad that the biggest decisions Canadian TV networks have to make are not about their own programming, but which of their affiliated channels will get to simulcast the U.S. shows that we’d mostly find a way to watch anyway. But since I commented before on how CTV would have a problem once American Idol moved to Thursdays (against Big Bang Theory), I should comment on the decision the network has made: according to their new schedule, they will show American Idol on Wednesday, but the Thursday results show will be moved to their sister channel A!, so CTV can continue showing The Big Bang Theory at 8.

This is a reminder of how much more popular Big Bang Theory is in Canada than in the U.S. In the U.S., it’s a very popular comedy but somewhere between second and fourth among comedies, depending on what metric you use. (Among half-hour comedies, it’s behind Two and a Half Men and Modern Family in 18-49, and also Glee if you count that as a comedy. Among total viewers it’s usually behind Two and a Half Men.) In Canada, though, it appears to be the most popular comedy — remember CTV’s claim that its Thursday premiere was the biggest thing since the Friends finale — to the point that CTV chose it over American Idol and probably doesn’t regret the choice.

I have no particular insight into why Big Bang Theory is bigger here than in the States (particularly since it doesn’t seem to be as much of an international sensation as some other hit U.S. sitcoms). Maybe its combination of sweetness and meanness hits our national comedic sweet spot somehow; Corner Gas was by no means the same kind of show, but it did combine an overall charm and friendliness with a lot of behaviour that bordered on sociopathic. Apart from that, I don’t have explanations to offer, but I find it interesting when a U.S. show becomes disproportionately popular here.

I don’t have many other examples of this, though one thing I’ve heard is that WKRP in Cincinnati was always a huge hit in Canada, even as it often struggled in the States. That’s why Canadians of my generation are more likely to consider it a cultural touchstone than Americans are. If there are other U.S. shows you can think of that somehow exploded when imported to Canada, by all means list them in comments.

Speaking of Canada, the CTV mid-season lineup doesn’t mention a return date for Dan For Mayor and Hiccups (if indeed there is one), and Flashpoint and The Listener appear to be the only home-grown shows on this lineup. Virtually everything else has “simulcast” after its name.

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More Popular In Canada Than In the States

  1. Both Hiccups and Dan for Mayor have finished filming their second seasons so I think its safe to assume they will be coming back at some point. Nothing a quick google search wouldn’t have revealed but I guess that’s a tad heavy on the journalistic research

    • Yes, I know they have finished filming their second seasons — hence my mild surprise that they weren't on the schedule yet. (And while it is safe to assume that a show with episodes in the can will be coming back on the same channel, it's not an absolute given either.)

    • They have to air them somewhere, but since CTV owns A-Channel (nothing a quick read of this article wouldn't have revealed) they could put them there. More likely they'll end up on CTV in spring/summer, but who knows.

  2. I didn't know 'WKRP in Cincinnati' wasn't that popular in the US…I've seen the 'as God is my witness I thought turkeys could fly' quote on many American chatsites.

    I liked WKRP, but then I prefer offbeat unpredictable shows anyway.

  3. In music there have always been examples of acts that broke here or were more popular here before the States – Supertramp is one example that comes to mind.

    I know there must be other instances besides BBT but the only one that I can think of right now is The Lone Gunmen and obviously that didn't last long enough to become a touchstone or anything else for that matter.

  4. I seem to remember that Another World was hugely popular in Canada… the number one soap I think. While it languished in last spot in the States before being canceled about a decade ago.

  5. Those are both horrible, horrible shows.

    • every television show mentioned in this article is horrible save for modern family (which is quickly becoming trite and formulaic) and corner gas, provided you can suspend your knowledge of the existence of american shows.

      • Yeah, both of these guys are right. I made it through 5 minutes of the Big Bang Theory pilot before it got the boot, and I'd rather watch snuff films than 2 and a Half Men. I really don't have enough bad things to say about both of those shows.

        To all you people watching BBT, please switch to Community on NBC.

  6. I guess I find something fundamentally odd about the phenomenon of Canadians watching American TV on Canadian channels. For one thing, aren't we simply ripping of their creative content? For another thing, doesn't it betray some of our knee-jerk anti-American tendencies? I mean, some of us love to hate America, but we literally can't get enough of their culture — to the point where we can't produce enough of our own.

    btw, can't stand Big Bang Theory, absolutely loved WKRP.

  7. Wasn't America's Funniest Home Videos ridiculously popular in Canada even after its ratings bottomed out in the US?

    • That makes sense. Jamie just wrote "combination of sweetness and meanness hits our national comedic sweet spot somehow". AFHV is exactly that: cute kid doing cute things, then, BAM, gets hit in the face with something by someone.

  8. Now that I think about it, isn't Jon Stewart much more popular here than in the States?

    • Why would anyone thumbs down my comment? It's true, isn't it?

      • Given that he's on a network here (and airs after mostly-successful late night newscasts to boot), and on cable in the US, I think it's probably a fair assumption.

        • I read somewhere a while ago that about a third of Jon Stewart's audience is Canadian. He doesn't have nearly the reach or influence that is often assumed by liberal beltway types. In fact, when Obama incredibly decided to appear on the comedy show, it was a desperate attempt to appeal to his base — and foreigners.

  9. Funny thing about BBT – when my wife and I recently moved up to Montreal from the US, we were deluged with ads for BBT, to the point that my wife asked me, "What, is this show Canadian or something?" I paused for a moment before remembering that it is set in California or something.

  10. (Trivia that likely has nothing to do with BBT's Canadian popularity: one of the old pictures that goes whizzing by in the opening titles is a shot of Regina from the 1880s.)

    So what is CTV doing with these two shows in Saskatchewan, where there are no A stations, and the out of market affiliates are available only on digital cable or satellite? My guess is that both will be crammed onto CTV, one of them likely in the 10pm hour.

    • Speaking of the opening titles, isn't the theme by the Barenaked Ladies?