Canada’s Most Memorable (English) TV Thing: Round of 32

(Note: Voting in the first round has concluded, but you can vote in the Sweet Sixteen here)

Things we learned, after a personal lark became a national argument:

1) Many people are very aggrieved that Big Comfy Couch, The Odyssey, This Hour Has Seven Days, Camp Cariboo, Intelligence Twitch City, and countless cooking and sci-fi did not have the opportunity to lose a first round match.

2) People were EXTREMELY aggrieved that they had to choose between Hinterland’s Who’s Who and Heritage Minutes, Fred Penner and Sharon Lois and Bram, Polka Dot Door and Today’s Special, and Front Page Challenge and Reach For The Top at the very beginning. THAT’S JUST CALLED GOOD BRACKETING, PEOPLE.

3) The Canadian acting icons of your past are watching this tournament, and liking your tweets.

Sadly, no tournament can go without controversy, which brings us to Degrassi vs. Traders.

At the end of Day 1 of voting, Degrassi had about 75% of the vote, somewhat expected for a Canadian institution going up against a weird drama about an investment firm, even if it made the Prime Minister’s principal secretary sad.

And then, during the seven hours I was sleeping, every other showdown got about 500 votes … while Traders/Degrassi got about 3,000 votes, virtually all of which went to Traders. And overnight, that matchup got about three times more ballots cast than visitors to this site.

OPRAH IT GETS WORSE

Traders ended up with the most amount of votes of ANY entry in the first round, which seems … actually impossible. So, after polling Twitter, I decided a 2,500-vote deduction for Traders was fair, giving Degrassi the win. It could be more, frankly, since a bot continuing to add votes during the daytime seems very likely but less provable, unless I pay $200 for a premium Polldaddy account, which, um, no.

(Was that the weirdest paragraph ever written by a Canadian journalist? It’s up there, I feel)

ANYHOW, let’s look at the bracket.

Only 5 of the 32 winners received less than 60% of the vote, which makes a certain amount of sense in the first round: King of Kensington (58.9%), Heritage Minutes (58.6%), Street Sense (58.3% over Wok With Yan, in an impressive performance by the #16 seed), Da Vinci’s Inquest (50.6%, in a 72-vote victory over Street Legal) and The Newsroom, with a 6-vote win over Kenny vs. Spenny.

On the flip side, just 5 of the 32 winners received more than 85 per cent of the vote: Body Break (85.2%), The Littlest Hobo (89.1%), Mr. Dressup (92.9%), Kids In The Hall (95.1%) and SCTV, with a whopping 98.2% over The Trouble With Tracy.

Our first round produced 32 worthy winners, which means every matchup this time should be very competitive. It’s time for Round 2.

(Polls close at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on Thursday)

COMEDY BRACKET

These are…these are very different kinds of sketch comedy shows. Does anyone want to write a nice thing about Royal Canadian Air Farce while they have the chance?

(Also, now that multiple CBC radio shows have done segments about this weird project I’m doing on my personal site, I feel 100% fine posting this Kids In The Hall skit)

As Colby Cosh said when he analyzed this tournament for the National Post (?!?) “[The top] four comedy invitees to the tournament were SCTV, Corner Gas, The Kids in the Hall, and Trailer Park Boys. That’s… pretty much the Mount Rushmore of Canadian television for grown-ups, isn’t it?”

There’s just such an arguable gap between those four and everything else, both in pure humour and modern influence, that it’s hard to see who might upset them. But do your best, Larry King.

The Newsroom against Kenny vs. Spenny was perhaps the greatest style clash of the first round, and I’m pretttty sure Newsroom eked out a win because I’m a journalist, and Canadian Journalist swear by The Newsroom (for good reason!) and there are more of those people on Official Canada Twitter than people who like zany stunts.

I’m also pretty sure its run ends here, because people who liked The Newsroom in the 90s as a young adult revered SCTV in the 80s as a teenager. But we’ll see!

***CLOSE RACE ALERT***

On Day 1 of voting, The Red Green Show took a lead. Even though they were the lower seed, I thought an upset possible, based on the following:

  1. My brother, who is much more blue-collar than I, saying “your friends may not vote for the Red Green show, but it would do well” in regards to this tournament.
  2. Red, Harold, Dalton, Ranger Gord and the rest THUMPING Made In Canada, with 82.7% of the vote in the first round. And Made In Canada was good! But it was good to nerds like me.
  3. https://twitter.com/McScoopDog/status/930513324281753600

But then, this happened:

Corner Gas took the lead. People were not pleased.

Given there’s now a concerted push by Big Corner Gas to win, I thought it fair, in the Interest Of Balance, to procure a motivating statement for The Red Green Show.

Be honest: have you ever laughed out loud at Corner Gas?

That’s what I thought.

For my money, there’s no better example of prime slapstick dad humour and sheer absurdity than the Red Green show.

It was the perfect parody of Canadiana. Red is how we see ourselves. Harold is how everyone sees us. Ranger Gord (whose canonical full name is Gordon Ranger) is our crushing loneliness. And we are all Bill.

It aired every weekday for many years, making it the sick-at-home show. Pair it with seven or eight Price is Right reruns and baby, you’ve got a full day of nonstop entertainment.

Nowadays, the show is immortalized in a website that sells two t-shirts in L, XXL and XXXXL. It contains jokes about Bill Clinton and was definitely coded by Harold.

It, like the show, is perfect.

Jack Hauen, Coordinating Editor of The Ubyssey

DRAMA BRACKET

LIKE SERIOUSLY WHO ELSE WOULD THE DOG BE NAMED FOR.

Meanwhile, reading Buzzfeed’s review of the series, the reasons Hobo is beloved start to make sense.

THAT’S RIGHT YOU HAVE TO PICK ONE. NO CONFLATING THE TWO INTO ONE GOOEY PEI PANACEA PROTO-GILMORE GIRLS. PICK. ONE. CHOOSE. NOW. I’M. A BAD PERSON.

(also remember that for Anne of Green Gables, we’re counting the original miniseries in 1985, the 1987 sequel, and the 2000 “Continuing Series” episodes. )

Da Vinci’s Inquest survives a tough matchup against Street Legal, but one of its advantages last round — people in Vancouver like it when a show filmed in Vancouver shows off Vancouver as a real place — sort of dissipates against the pride of Gibsons, B.C.

Danger Bay, if you’re gonna lose, lose honourably. That’s all I ask. None of this Traders bot stuff.

CHILDREN’S BRACKET

Do I wish that I created some sort of elaborate illustration showing The Friendly Giant squashing Polkaroo?

More Than Anything No.

Oooooooh. Now this could be close. Two shows originating in the 80s, much loved but not necessarily worshiped, opposites in tone and structure.

(Also, it boggles the mind that in 1986, you could watch new episodes of The Raccoons, Mr. Dressup, Fred Penner’s Place, Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Elephant Show and Fraggle Rock on CBC. That, friends, is a murderer’s row — but did the CBC utilize it as such, NBC-Comedies-On-Thursday-Nights style? Or did they space them out throughout the week? These are the sort of questions that torment my day.)

Mr. Dressup is going to win. It just is. So let’s take a second to remember Reboot, and placate everyone who grew up terrified of Megabyte and Enzo’s Season 3 transformation, with this testimonial from my friend Ricardo Bortolon.

Reboot is the most important children’s show ever made in Canada. Which made it expensive, and thus left it with a short run, which in turn limited the number of people and generations who got to witness it directly. But! So many folks have been and will be impacted by its legacy.

It set the bar for computer-generated animation and turbocharged the industry (which has made Vancouver a CGI destination), it spotlighted to a generation what made them unique (there was a whole episode just riffing on Paint.exe AND postmodernism!), and it made mainstream the aging and maturation of its protagonists (it’s absurd how significant this was).

And it was funny! And dramatic! And engrossing! It would go from one-off parodies to gripping horror one week to the next. It was good.

Look, I get why Mr. Dressup hoovers up the vote: it was a nice old man who was seen by an immense number of children. And saccharine, repetitive children’s programming like this is sugar for kids. But as much as it may be pleasant to many, what’s truly memorable is what’s remembered by those who didn’t experience it. ReBoot is important and will remembered long after its viewers are dead, unlike Mr Dressup (beyond lists for longevity) DELETED BECAUSE TAKING CHEAP SHOTS AT MR. DRESSUP IS 100 PER CENT STRAIGHT UP A FELONY.

Man, the stylistic differences of 90s YTV shows were wild. Anthology horror series for tweens, next to groundbreaking CGI episodic-adventure series, next to classic Nelvana fare, next to improvized children’s fare like PJ Katie’s Farm and The Zone, next to proto-YouTube stuff like Video & Arcade Top 10…you know what? Just read this 13,000 word oral history done by the Torontoist in 2015. How it didn’t win a Pulitzer, I’ll never know.

But the Raccoons will win. I’m pretty sure it’ll win. It’ll win, right? It would suck if it lost without me giving space for a Raccoons tribute.

MISCELLANEOUS BRACKET

So if Streets Cents and Jonovision both win this round, we would have the Jonathan Torrens knockoff round in the Sweet 16, and I’m not going to lie, this is making me far too excited.

But that might not happen, because Body Break steamrolled the competition last round, getting 85 per cent against Téléfrancais, despite the fact that it lacks the surrealism or so-bad-its-good qualities that we usually love in interstitial programs.

Wayne and Shuster got almost 4,000 votes in the first round, which is an impressive amount for a series of specials that haven’t aired anywhere in decades and have no real cultural relevance with the youths of today. It’s like they were really, really, really influential or something.

But historical appreciation for the evolution of Canadian comedy may be in tough against high school nostalgia.

LOGDRIVER’S WALTZ VERSUS SMELLING BURNT TOAST WHO YA GOT?

NEXT UP: THE SWEET 16

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31 Comments

  1. Neal Nicholson

    Thanks for doing this, Justin. Any chance of a radio version? That’s where your employer/my employee really stands apart.

  2. As a kid born in the 90’s I seem to have missed out on Fraggle Rock but I did grow up on Mr. Dressup, Fred Penner’s Place, and a smattering of The Friendly Giant and (oddly) Royal Canadian Air Farce.

    Looking at how things are going right now, I’m going to miss Fred Penner’s Place. Fare thee well, you were important to me.

  3. Sadly there was no must-see-TV equivalent of Canadian programming in the 80s. Mr Dressup and Fred Penner were always on mid-mornings, The Raccoons were on during a weeknight prime time (I’m thinking 7:30 Tuesdays or something such) and I believe Fraggle Rock was Saturday or Sunday nights.

    The Elephant Show… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    • Steven Fisher

      If I remember right, The Racoons was all over the place: I remember it started on Monday nights, and I’m pretty sure it was part of a Sunday night block with The Fraggles and Disney for a while before moving again (possibly more than once) to finish its run on Tuesdays.

      I was ten when it started and I’m pretty sure I missed more than half the episodes due to schedule flux before I grew out of it. 🙂

  4. Jennifer Dixon

    I loved spending my Sunday nights as a kid watching Disney, The Muppet Show, and Fraggle Rock! I can still remember the theme song, Dance your cares away, worry’s for another day, let the music play, down at Fraggle Rock!

  5. kjyost

    Freaking Eastern folk are ruining the Red Green / Corner Gas vote. Corner Gas is the only show to be good and show real(ish) prairie life ever… Red Green was good and all, but Duct Tape vs Old Dutch Chips? Come on!

  6. RENE

    Corner GAS and Red Green are pitted against each other. Not fair. They were both equally well written and good shows. I would have voted for both if they were in different matching.

  7. Sarah

    I hated last round when Made in Canada was against Red Green. I hate you now for Corner Gas against Red Green. As for paper written for nerds, I’d read that.

  8. Doctor Fever

    I can’t tell you how ridiculously sad and disappointed I am that Frightenstein didn’t make it out of the first round.
    I watched that show religiously as a kid. It introduced me to comedy, the ‘classic monsters’, rock and roll…
    I even went out as Billy Van’s Count for Halloween one year when I was around 9 or 10.
    Screw the Doozers. Forever.

  9. Tyler

    I’ve read this article and the twitter feed over and over, but can’t find a link to the actual voting portal. Everything’s just a big circle back to this article. Can anyone help a guy out with a direct link to the actual voting portal? Thanks!!

  10. Alexandrea Bowes

    I feeling like a wack of Much Music shows should have been included in this. But then I didn’t start this poll so it’s not my choice.

    • D.W.

      I remember one time watching “Test Pattern”, the MuchMusic game show, and a contestant was asked the question: “Was the Paul Simon film One Trick Pony any good?” The contestant answered “I didn’t see it but I hear it sucked”. He got the points for that. Classic television.

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