Why don’t Canadians like Canadian TV? Check out these Canadian Screen Awards nominees, many of which have a comparable U.S. counterpart

When Canadian TV comedy “Kim’s Convenience” ended prematurely last month — to the consternation of its fans worldwide — the final episode was watched by an estimated 890,000 Canadians, which sounds good until you learn that’s about 1.2 million less than watched a regular episode of American police procedural “The Rookie,” that week’s No. 1 show.

“Schitt’s Creek,” arguably the most successful Canadian TV series of all time, went off the air a year before “Kim’s,” seen by 1,221,000 viewers, less than half those who caught U.S. medical show “Grey’s Anatomy” — although at least that week’s top 10 included a Canadian drama, the doctor series “Transplant.”

Traditional ratings like these Numeris numbers don’t tell the whole story at a time when delayed viewing and streaming are the norm, and more and more Canadians are cutting the linear TV cord altogether.

But they do raise a nagging question as the Canadian Screen Awards unfold this week, at which “Kim’s,” “Schitt’s” and “Transplant” are all up for prizes: how do you get Canadians to care about the homegrown equivalent of the Emmys or Oscars when they seem more interested in American content?

As I puzzled over that issue, knowing I wanted to promote the Screen Awards and the creativity they reward, I came up with a tongue-in-cheek idea for my editor, who frequently tells me that, based on the metrics the Star uses to determine what gets traction on its website, “Readers don’t care about Canadian TV.”

What if I took each of the shows nominated for Best TV Comedy or Drama and compared them to a U.S. program, seeing how we Canadians like American stuff so much?

(Apologies to the nominees in the film and digital categories, but as a TV writer I spend hours watching TV shows, which doesn’t allow time to consume much else.)

As I set out to find resemblances, my appreciation for the Canadian shows deepened: there is nothing else exactly like them. They all bring their own flavour to their genres and deserve to be seen. Here are the nominees in alphabetical order and how to catch up if you haven’t watched them already.

Best Drama

Burden of Truth (Stream on CBC Gem)

Nominations: 3

It’s a bit like … the CBS All Access drama “The Good Fight,” only because both shows revolve around female lawyers who leave cutthroat corporate law firms and take on more human-centred cases, but “Burden” is set in Manitoba not Chicago, and has as much to do with lawyer Joanna’s (Kristin Kreuk) complicated family and small-town history as the legal cases.

Billy Campbell and Karine Vanasse in "Cardinal."

Cardinal (Stream on Crave)

Nominations: 15

It’s a bit like … the AMC drama “The Killing.” Both boast atmospheric landscapes, begin with the disappearance of an adolescent girl and feature a male-female detective partnership, but “Cardinal” is inextricably linked to its northern Ontario setting, and the chemistry between leads Billy Campbell (also a star of “The Killing) and Karine Vanasse raises it to a whole other level.

Christopher Plummer in "Departure."

Departure (Stream on StackTV)

Nominations: 5

It’s a bit like … “Air Disasters” (technically a Canadian show that airs on the Smithsonian Channel). The long-running factual series reconstructs plane crashes with an emphasis on the how and why. In “Departure,” the investigation into a passenger jet disaster plays like a combined thriller and detective drama and the cast is top notch, including late Canadian legend Christopher Plummer.

Hamza Haq in "Transplant"

Transplant (Stream on Crave)

Nominations: 6

It’s a bit like … ABC’s “The Good Doctor,” which is also about an outsider with extraordinary medical skills who must prove himself when he joins a big city hospital. But rather than being autistic, Dr. Bashir Hamed (Hamza Haq) is a Syrian immigrant, a plot line that freshens the conventions of the medical drama.



Katheryn Winnick in "Vikings."

Vikings (Stream on Amazon Prime Video)

Nominations: 5

It’s a bit like … HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Both have kings and queens, family feuds, big battle scenes and strong female characters. “Vikings” is more tightly focused on one family and its descendants, and its world building is more grounded in reality than fantasy.

Best Comedy

From left, Jennifer Whalen, Meredith MacNeill, Carolyn Taylor and Aurora Browne of "Baroness von Sketch Show."

Baroness von Sketch Show (Stream on CBC Gem)

Nominations: 6

It’s a bit like … nothing else really. TV isn’t exactly loaded with all-female sketch comedy shows. The closest thing to the Baronesses’s women-centric humour is HBO’s “Black Lady Sketch Show,” which debuted three years after the Canadian series.

Kim’s Convenience (Stream on CBC Gem)

Nominations: 11

It’s a bit like … ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat,” in that they’re both about Asian families with immigrant parents. Whereas the Taiwanese Huangs have a restaurant in Orlando and three school-age boys, the Korean Kims run a convenience store in Toronto and their two children are adults building their own lives.

Nathan Dales, Jared Keeso, Michelle Mylett K. Trevor Wilson in "Letterkenny."

Letterkenny (Stream on Crave)

Nominations: 6

It’s a bit like … nothing, really. Nothing has the same combination of mundanity, absurdity, profanity, lewdness, oddball characters and witty, idiosyncratic dialogue. Think a titch of CBS’s “Northern Exposure” for its portrayal of a quirky small town, although I’m pretty sure nobody in Cicely, Alaska, ever had a philosophical discussion about whether you can whistle with your butt.

Schitt’s Creek (Stream on CBC Gem)

Nominations: 21

It’s a bit like … ABC’s “Modern Family,” which also features awkward but heartfelt family dynamics, albeit among a bigger family, including a gay couple of its own. But the riches-to-rags conceit, the small-town setting, the way the Rose family plays off the larger cast and the inimitable character of Moira Rose (Catherine O’Hara) make “Schitt’s” very much its own thing.

From left, Jessalyn Wanlim, Dani Kind, Catherine Reitman and Juno Rinaldi in "Workin' Moms."

Workin’ Moms (Stream on CBC Gem)

Nominations: 11

It’s a bit like … FX series “Better Things.” Both take a funny but unsentimental look at working motherhood, but instead of just one mom, “Workin’ Moms” features a whole maternal ensemble of entertaining characters juggling kids, jobs, friendships and significant others.

The Canadian Screen Awards will be presented virtually by the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television May 17 to 20, streaming on its website, Twitter and YouTube channels. The main ceremony is May 20 at 8 p.m. See academy.ca for information.

Debra Yeo is a deputy editor and a contributor to the Star’s Entertainment section. She is based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @realityeo