The 10 best Canadian TV shows of the past 25 years

The 10 best Canadian TV shows of the past 25 years

To celebrate the big QC, the Gemini Awards (a.k.a. the Emmys without any famous people—oh, come on, you know you were thinking it) has launched an on-line poll to let Canuck couch potatoes determine the most beloved homegrown TV show from the past 25 years. The good news: The Littlest Hobo, Dear Aunt Agnes, The Edison Twins and Just Like Mom all ended in ’85 and ’86, which makes them just eligible. The bad news: you’re old. Here, in no particular order, our top 10 picks and memorable moments from the shows, plus a whole whack of worthy runners-up. View the slide show now >>

1. Degrassi Jr. High
All versions of the decades-spanning real-teen drama would make our top 25, but in the interest of whittling, we’re gonna go with Jr. High. It’s the classic Zit Remedy Era, back when Joey Jeremiah still had hair and Wheels had yet to lose his innocence in a hitchhiking episode gone wrong. (Is there any other kind?)

2. Today’s Special
What’s not to love about a show in which a gang of mismatched department store dwellers live in happy human/mannequin/puppet/mouse puppet harmony? Bonus points for Jodi’s pink jumpsuit (she’d fit right in with today’s onesie-obsessed Queen Street crowd), Jeff’s only-in-the-’80s mullet and a theme song that is—admit it—a little bit groovy. You know you’re singing it right now.

3. Road to Avonlea
The ebullient earnestness of Anne of Green Gables met the gossipy goodness of Coronation Street in this turn-of-the-century, P.E.I.-set drama that launched the career of a coltish young towhead named Sarah Polley. We only wish we’d thought of an RTA drinking game sooner. (Aunt Hetty disapproves of something, take a swig; trouble at the lighthouse, take two.)

4. Ready or Not
Busy and Amanda were BFFs before Paris Hilton put her skanky stamp on the term. If you can’t remember what was so embarrassingly, deliciously awesome about this show, may we suggest a re-watching of the “Busy’s Period” episode. Cringe!

5. Street Legal
Back in her pre-Stratford, pre–Peter Mansbridge days, Cynthia Dale was the kick-ass Olivia Novak, strutting around Old City Hall with sky-high heels and enough chutzpah to take on any Bay Street lawyer. The show ran for eight seasons and set the benchmark for the onslaught of legal dramas in the ’90s. Yeah, Law and Order, you owe us.

6. Beachcombers
Long before green was in, Nick Adonidas and his band of enviro-vigilantes were fighting the good planetary fight. And long before the burly beard descended on Queen Street and various other hipster communities, these guys were rocking facial hair that would make Paul Bunyan blush.

7. The Kids in the Hall
These five government-bankrolled cross-dressers weren’t afraid to crush heads, wear squirrel fur or orgasm in a mad puff of feathers. We love the Kids both because they were the natural inheritors of CODCO and SCTV, and even more because they were the last time the CBC did anything risky.

8. Due South
Paul Gross in a Mountie uniform. ’Nuff said.

9. Slings and Arrows
Paul Gross has never been better than he was as Geoffrey Tennant, the batcrap-crazy artistic director of the fictional New Burbage theatre festival. Throw in a ghost (hat tip, Hamlet!), an exigent prima donna (played by Gross’s real-life wife, Martha Burns), Kid in the Hall Mark McKinney as the fest’s general manager and pre–it girl performances by Rachel McAdams and Sarah Polley and it’s a drama nerd’s dream come true. Similarities to Stratford are purely intentional.

10. Being Erica
It’s rare that north-of-the-border TV gets much love from our pop culture–immersed American neighbours, but such are the immeasurable charms of Being Erica’s leading lady, Erin Karpluk, whom Entertainment Weekly called “ridiculously winning.” EW also dubbed last spring’s season finale “the best finale (involving time travel) you didn’t watch.” In yo’ face, Lost! (Because who watched that?)

The runners-up
Mr. Dressup, Wok With Yan!, Babar, Trailer Park Boys, Edison Twins, The Tudors, Just Like Mom, North of 60, ENG, Flashpoint, Friendly Giant, My Secret Identity, Da Vinci’s Inquest, The Newsroom, You Can’t Do That on Television, Danger Bay, Traders, Fraggle Rock, Catwalk, Dear Aunt Agnes, Hammy the Hamster, The Littlest Hobo, Passe Partout, Polka Dot Door, The Green Forrest