One of my first introductions to Canada was the TV show Due South. Although this 1990s Canadian series was actually set in Chicago, the show was sprinkled with Canadian references beyond the main character’s Mounty uniform. As a preteen growing up in England, I otherwise wouldn’t have known about the Group of Seven, Inuksuks or Maclean's magazine.
Those Canadian references (outlined in an article in the Canadian Journal of Communication) are an example of how TV shows can teach us about Canada, even if it’s unintentional. Below is a list of some more favourite shows – as selected by Canadian Geographic editors and the magazine’s social media followers – which you can add to in the comments.
CBC’s Arctic adventure series, which was cancelled in 2014 after three seasons, is about an airline based in Yellowknife and the family running the business. While much of the show was shot in Vancouver, the crew went to Yellowknife as well, authentically capturing the north’s landscapes, wildlife and people.
The main character, Nick, is a Greek-Canadian earning money by salvaging cedar logs that come adrift near a small fishing community in British Columbia. The province’s waterways are shown during the plot’s boat chases, storms, long-distance swims and more in the show, which first aired in 1972 and was in production for 19 years.
The 1980s family adventure show, set in and around Vancouver, involved a Vancouver Aquarium veterinarian and his children. The show focused on ecological issues, including pollution and poaching.
Whether you’re watching Degrassi, the newer Degrassi: The Next Generation or one of the other spinoffs of the franchise founded in 1979, you’ll probably see and hear Toronto references. The show also goes on the road to other parts of Canada, including when Wheels hitchhiked to Port Hope to see his birth father.
The Forest Rangers
The 1960s series followed the adventures of northern Ontario Junior Rangers putting out forest fires and otherwise becoming heroes, while educating viewers about topics including ecology. The show, which focused on an abandoned fort taken over by the rangers, was filmed in Vaughan, Ont.
Now in its eighth season, Heartland is filmed in High River, Alberta, which stands in as the fictional town of Hudson. With the foothills of southern Alberta as the show’s backdrop, the long-running show focuses on a Western family’s life on their ranch. The real mayor of High River even made a brief appearance on the show in 2013.
King of Kensington
The 1970s sitcom was set in Toronto’s Kensington Market and revolves around convenience store owner Larry King and his neighbours. A statue of the actor who played King, Al Waxman, now stands in Bellevue Square Park, in Kensington, where Waxman was raised.
The Littlest Hobo
The show centres on an ownerless German Shepherd that travels around helping people. In one episode, the dog tries to help someone at the Canada’s Wonderland amusement park. In another, the dog helps a man unfairly caught up in a theft at a subway station, filmed on the Toronto Transit Commission.
North of 60
The 1990s series about living in the sub-Arctic is set in fictional Lynx River, primarily a Dene community in the Northwest Territories. Among the plotlines was conflict over land settlements and natural resources exploitation.