Remember earlier in this when people were choked up about trifling matters like Today’s Special going out in the first round, or Kenny vs. Spenny losing to The Newsroom?
That was child’s play compared to the angst we’re going to start seeing.
We’re now left with just 16 entries in this tournament, and every single one is known and loved, and every single one
except arguably Street Cents is one of those instant shorthand references people use to reference the weird mosaic that is the Canadian television industry.
Now we have tough choices to make. Ones that, because this is now a stupidly national thing with newspaper columns and podcast segments devoted to it, has STAKES.
(Stakes apparently important enough for the official Corner Gas Facebook Page to get involved, and possibly flip one of the races last round. Not that I have SEVERE ETHICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THAT OR ANYTHING)
But now I’m spoiling the results. To the bracket!
A few fun facts
to me and literally nobody else from this:
- There’s a surprising amount of generational diversity left: while 6 of the 16 started in the 1980s, there are multiple entries from every decade between the 60s and the 00s.
- There’s also a surprising degree of unanimity of what constitutes the most memorable Canadian television: all but one of the 16 winners last round got more than 55 per cent of the vote. And all of the #1-4 seeds advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, with the exception of Road To Avonlea, which lost to its Lucy Laud doppelganger Anne of Green Gables.
- CBC unsurprisingly dominates the children’s and drama brackets with seven of eight entries, but in the comedy bracket we have a CBC, CTV, Global and Showcase matchup, which I enjoy.
But you’re not here to read my ramblings. You’re here to tear your soul apart.
On to the voting.
(Polls close at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on Sunday)
We’re now at the point where the heavy underdogs are worth really celebrating, both within the context of this game and as actual pieces of national culture. Like, Trailer Park Boys, whether it’s your cup of tea or not, was an early pioneer of the modern mockumentary genre, a giant rebuttal to the notion Canadian TV was full of warm and hokey middle-class problems, and the first real non-sketch comedy that was funny and important, not “funny and important for Canada.”
And yet, it’s gonna get crushed.
Don’t you get it? Am I the only one that gets it?
Okay, a lot of you made clear your disdain for Corner Gas as it was getting defeated by The Red Green Show.
But! Name me another scripted show in Canada that got 2.9 million viewers for its series finale? You can’t, because there literally is none.
The beauty of Corner Gas is how unsuspectedly it lulls you in. Yes, you can your first episode of it and be bored. But watch your next 20 and you’ll respect its consistency. And watch another 20, and you’ll start to appreciate the myriad of solid character dynamics (a mark of any solid ensemble comedy), the way Dog River, Saskatchewan feels fully lived-in, the way a show that makes no attempt to appear modern in pace or visuals feels utterly at home with great comedies of the last decade, wherever they were produced.
And yet, (gestures over to the 5,000 pound gorilla that is SCTV)
The Final Four of the Drama Bracket excites me, because all four could plausibly win. Degrassi is probably the most influential today, Beachcombers is probably the most *Canadian* in tone and pervasiveness, and Anne of Green Gables — which we’re counting as the first miniseries, Anne of Avonlea and, Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story — is probably best from a prestige standpoint.
And then there’s Littlest Hobo. Which is the hardest to explain to someone not from this country.
(It’s going to win this entire thing, isn’t it?)
NOW WE COME TO THE DEATH MATCHUPS.
A reminder, because it matters now: for the purposes of this competition, The Kids of Degrassi Street, Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High are all one. The Next Generation doesn’t count, because it ended to recently. So draw your mind back, and think about whether the dated, stilted dialogue of the 80s Very Special Episode-heavy Degrassi matters to you, compared to the Beachcombers, a show Grant Lawrence described as “A Greek guy and his First Nations buddy drive around in their shitty boat collecting logs. Every week. For twenty years.”
Gah. This is a hard one.
How old were you when you considered the sets and the proportions of Rusty and Jerome and realized that the Friendly Giant was, in fact, not a giant?
Did it matter one bit?
No. No it did not.
The genius of The Friendly Giant was leveraging its simplicity in form to provide wonderful children’s education in function. If you were between 3 to 6 or so, it was easy to follow along because it was the same steps each time — intro, catchphrase (“Look up. Look waaaaaaaaaay up”), song, drawbridge down, rocking chair, catchphrase AGAIN, conversation, book, song, wrapup conversation, rocking chair, drawbridge up, COW OVER THE MOOON — but along the way, you learned to have nice, simple conversations, talk about a book you read, and gain a basic appreciation of folk, classical, and whatever other musical genre the Jazz Cats could play.
It did not try to be anything else. It did not need to be anything else.
All that matters is, once upon a time, not long ago and not far away, two generations of Canadians got their first TV lessons in decency from a five-foot-nine giant, a giraffe and a rooster, 15 minutes at a time.
And we were better off for it.
(And there’s Fraggle Rock, I guess. IT’S MY TOURNAMENT I CAN BE BIASED)
The Raccoons is so gosh darn pleasant, such a wonderful convergence of classic animation and Canadian wilderness, so firmly rooted in mid-1980s environmentalism that hits the nostalgia sweet spot with many Millennials, that there’s a reason it’s still beloved today, even with only 60 episodes to repeat in syndication.
It’s fun. It deserves to be considered, as this tournament shows, the most memorable animated show in (English) Canadian history.
And it’s gonna get crushed so bad by Mr. Dressup.
Jonathan Torrens got two shows into the Sweet Sixteen (RIP Jonovision). Do either advance to the Elite Eight? These are the pressing questions of our times.
Street Cents is in tough though, because Body Break got 85% against Téléfrancais, and 77% against Jonovision, and yeah, I enjoyed Body Break as a child, but damned if I can remember a specific thing about it today.
Remember, we’re not talking about the new, more dramatic Heritage Minutes. We’re talking about the simple and exposition-heavy and delightful Heritage Minutes of the 90s, of which I have watched and rated everyone, in case you thought this was a one-time situation of me being deeply weird about Canadian culture.
But Wayne and Shuster, 30 years after they last performed, still have a ton of cultural currency in this country among the 50+ crowd, and there could be some backlash to the Minutes and Body Break having such a deep run.
Sooooo we’ll see.