The Degrassi franchise — consisting of five separate but interrelated TV series, several TV movies and a webseries of shorts — about Toronto youths and their realistic high school experiences, is Canada’s longest-running dramatic series. It has aired off and on for over 35 years, spanning more than 500 episodes. Praised by many as the most successful example of television franchising in Canadian history, Degrassi is licenced in over 140 countries and has launched the careers of several Canadian talents, most notably Drake. The show has received four Primetime Emmy nominations, two International Emmy Awards, 25 Gemini Awards, 16 Canadian Screen Awards and a Peabody Award.
The Beachcombers is one of the most successful Canadian television series of all time. The half-hour family adventure show ran for 387 episodes over 18 seasons (1972–90) and is Canada’s second-longest-running scripted television series. Widely panned by critics, it was nonetheless an audience favourite and was named one of Canada’s all-time best television series in a 2017 poll conducted by the Toronto International Film Festival. Watched by more than 1 million viewers per episode in its prime, the series played a pivotal role in the development of film production in British Columbia and provided an early template for uniquely Canadian content on television.
Based on novels published by Working Partners under the name Lauren Brooke, Heartland is a family drama that airs on CBC TV on Sundays at 7:00 p.m. It premiered in 2007 and is the longest-running one-hour drama in Canadian history. Set on a family ranch called Heartland, the Alberta-shot series follows Amy Fleming’s (Amber Marshall) relationships with her family, with ranch hand Ty Borden (Graham Wardle) and her special abilities as a horse whisperer. Winner of five Directors Guild of Canada Awards for best family television series, Heartland averages more than 1 million viewers per episode and is broadcast in more than 100 countries.
Throughout the Diaspora, the Scots have been enthusiastic organizers, forming various types of ethnic or national societies in their places of settlement. These associations were bulwarks in the preservation of identity, culture and class for their group. The creation of St. Andrew’s Societies as with those of Highland, Caledonian and Burns clubs followed specific patterns, and served specific cultural and social needs. With the exception of the early Highland Societies, which were allied with the Highland Society of London, these associations were organized independently of one another and usually remained that way through their existence, although many created and maintained informal links which were stressed at key celebrational events. From the first society founded in Saint John in 1798, St. Andrew’s Societies have been an important part of Scottish associational life in Canada.
Orphan Black is a critically acclaimed science fiction TV series created by John Fawcett and Graeme Manson. It stars Tatiana Maslany as more than a dozen clones who attempt to solve the mystery behind their creation. Over its five-season run (2013–17) on Space in Canada and BBC America in the United States, Orphan Black developed a dedicated cult following and won numerous awards, including a Peabody Award and 36 Canadian Screen Awards, including three for best dramatic series and four for best lead actress. In 2016, Maslany became the first Canadian actor on a Canadian show to win an Emmy Award for acting in a dramatic series.
Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre was founded in 1998 by 13 actors with the assistance of a grant from the Stratford Festival. Considered the best year-round repertory company in Canada, it has presented such acclaimed productions as Anton Chekov’s Uncle Vanya (2001, 2002, 2008) and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America (2013). Since relocating to Toronto’s Distillery District in 2006, Soulpepper has presented such Canadian plays as Sharon Pollock’s Doc (2010), John Murrell’s Waiting for the Parade (2010), and Ins Choi’s Kim’s Convenience (2012). In January 2018, the company was rocked by allegations of sexual harassment against founding artistic director Albert Schultz and accompanying lawsuits against Schultz and Soulpepper.
Slings & Arrows (2003–06) is a television comedy series that satirizes the backstage antics of a Shakespearean theatre festival. Written and created by Susan Coyne, Bob Martin and Mark McKinney, it was produced by Rhombus Media for The Movie Network (TMN) and later aired on Sundance TV in the United States. It starred such Canadian stage and screen stars as Paul Gross, Rachel McAdams, William Hutt, Martha Burns, Stephen Ouimette, Don McKellar, Colm Feore, and Sarah Polley. It was named one of the Top 10 Canadian TV shows of the decade (2000s) by Maclean’s, won 13 Gemini Awards (including two for best television series), and remains one of the most critically acclaimed television programs in Canadian history.
Mr. Dressup was one of Canada’s most beloved and longest-running children’s television series. The program starred Ernie Coombs as the jovial Mr. Dressup and ran for 29 years (1967–96) and more than 4,000 episodes. A precursor to the popular American series, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Mr. Dressup was influential in tailoring children’s programming towards developing the child’s emotional and logical intelligence. The series won three Gemini Awards and earned Coombs an appointment to the Order of Canada. A 2017 crowd-sourced online vote unofficially declared Mr. Dressup Canada’s most memorable television program.
Murdoch Mysteries is a TV series based on Maureen Jennings’s mystery novels about William Murdoch, a Victorian-era detective who is ahead of his time and uses forensic science and technology to solve Toronto’s most complex crimes. Often referred to as a Victorian-era CSI, the long-running show features a mix of humour, intrigue, science fiction, history and period production values that is unique to police procedurals. It attracted a cult following after premiering on City TV in 2008 but garnered a much larger audience after being picked up by the CBC in 2013. It was Canada’s highest-rated scripted television series in 2016 and is broadcast in more than 100 countries.
Theatre Passe Muraille (meaning “theatre beyond walls”) was the first alternative theatre in Toronto. It focused on breaking down barriers and exploring new ideas and methods of storytelling. Despite financial crises over the years, it has maintained its alternative roots as a producer of provocative and groundbreaking Canadian theatre, as well as a launching pad for emerging companies and artists.
Founded in 1974, the Famous PEOPLE Players (FPP) is a world renowned, non-profit musical theatre company based in Toronto. It features black light puppetry performed by adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. An early model for the meaningful inclusion and professional development of people with disabilities, the FPP has toured internationally, received support from such stars as Anne Murray, Paul Newman and Phil Collins, and been featured in television programs and documentaries. Founder and motivational speaker Diane Dupuy was made a Member of the Order of Canada for her artistic and humanitarian work.
R. Murray Schafer’s Apocalypsis is a theatrical musical pageant in two parts — Part 1: John's Vision is adapted from the book of Revelation, about the end times, while Part 2: Credo is a serene and ecstatic meditation on the majesty of God. A massive and complex production that requires at least 500 performers, Apocalypsis was commissioned by the CBC in 1976 and premiered at Centennial Hall in London, Ontario, on 28 November 1980, as part of the city’s 125th anniversary. William Littler called it “one of the most spectacular events in the history of Canadian music.” In 2015, Toronto’s Luminato Festival closed with an acclaimed, $1.5 million production featuring a cast of nearly 1,000 musicians, singers, conductors, dancers and actors. The score to Part 1 and Part 2 are published separately and available through Schafer’s Arcana Editions (Part 1, 1981; Part 2, 1986).
“Tax shelter films” were films made in Canada between 1975 and 1982, when the federal government allowed investors to deduct 100 per cent of their investment in Canadian feature films from their taxable income. This resulted in a massive increase in Canadian film production and what became known as the “tax shelter era.” Total feature film production in Canada increased from three in 1974 to a peak of 77 in 1979. Industrial infrastructure increased and a growing industry of craftspeople gained valuable experience. Some of the films achieved critical acclaim or commercial success, but the majority were practically indistinguishable from poorly made American films, and many were never distributed.
Based on an ancient Inuit folktale, Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) is the first Inuktitut-language feature film ever made. A critically-acclaimed commercial success, it won numerous awards worldwide, including the Camera d’or for best first feature at the Cannes Film Festival and five Genie Awards, including Best Screenplay, Best Direction and Best Motion Picture, as well as the Claude Jutra Award (now the Canadian Screen Award for Best First Feature). It is widely considered one of the best Canadian films ever made, and in 2015 was ranked No. 1 of all time in a poll conducted by the Toronto International Film Festival (see Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time).
Stories We Tell sees Sarah Polley invite her family and friends to share a family secret. This intimate and genre-bending film mixes interviews and home movies as Polley explores the greater truths that lie between conflicting narratives. The film received numerous awards and accolades, including Best Feature Length Documentary at the Canadian Screen Awards. It was named one of the Top 10 Canadian films of all time in a poll conducted by the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2015, and one of 150 essential works in Canadian cinema history in a similar poll in 2016.
Guy Maddin blends fact and fiction, documentary and drama, reality and myth in this dreamy black-and-white tour of Winnipeg. Widely regarded as Maddin’s best film, My Winnipeg won the award for Best Canadian Feature Film when it premiered at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). A 2015 poll conducted by TIFF named it one of the Top 10 Canadian films of all time, while another in 2016 listed it as one of 150 essential works in Canadian cinema history.