The 10 best TV shows to stream on CBC Gem

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The news that CBC won’t be relying on Netflix as a production partner for future projects briefly shook the Canadian media landscape: did that mean Schitt’s Creek and Kim’s Convenience would be going off the streaming service?

The simple answer is: nope. Netflix has no financial stake in the majority of the shows it carries in its library; it just pays CBC for the streaming rights. (Actual Netflix co-productions to date: Sarah Polley and Mary Harron’s adaptation of Alias Grace, and Moira Walley-Beckett’s ongoing series Anne With An E.)

CBC will just be looking for other partners when it embarks on an especially ambitious project. And if you’re worrying about Netflix abandoning Workin’ Moms or Baroness Von Sketch Show out of spite, all of the CBC programming you can watch on Netflix is also available to stream at the CBC website, and via the Gem app… along with a lot more stuff that Netflix doesn’t carry. To that end, here are 10 CBC productions you can – and absolutely should – catch up to right now.

Alias Grace

Margaret Atwood’s novel – exploring the true story of Grace Marks, a housemaid tried for murder in 1840s Richmond Hill – comes to the small screen as a six-part miniseries adapted by Sarah Polley (who also produced) and directed by Mary Harron. Measured and harrowing, it’s exhaustive in its historical detail and entirely riveting thanks to Sarah Gadon’s uncompromising performance as Marks. (Anna Paquin, Paul Gross and Edward Holcroft do pretty well for themselves too.) And yes, it’s a little on the grim side. It has to be. Stream it here.

Anne With An E

Breaking Bad writer and producer Moira Walley-Beckett may have seemed like an odd choice to helm a new version of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s beloved East Coast drama, but she’s done a fine job reinventing the property for a modern audience, offering a new perspective on the period setting. (Playing The Hip’s Ahead By A Century over the credits was a nice way of signalling her version wouldn’t be quite so beholden to our nation’s comforting illusion of a genteel past.) And three seasons in, Amybeth McNulty’s Anne Shirley feels like the definitive interpretation of the character. If you’ve been hesitant to check it out, give it a chance. Anne will surprise you. Stream it here.

Baroness Von Sketch Show

Now in its fourth season, Carolyn Taylor, Meredith MacNeill, Aurora Browne and Jennifer Whalen’s acclaimed sketch series remains true to its mission of deconstructing social and sexual mores, gender stereotypes, political posturing and general human jerkitude while also building a character-based joke machine that rivals the glory days of The Kids In The Hall. It’s also worth noting that so many Baroness sketches are rooted in everyday disappointment – one episode built punchlines around Taylor finding out her mother plans to vote for an anti-immigration candidate, and Whalen discovering her new boyfriend is into close-up magic – which might explain why people find the show’s comedy so realistic. Stream it here.

How To Buy A Baby

Creator/producer Wendy Litner’s short, sharp sitcom – inspired by events in her own life – has built two seasons out of the story of Jane (Meghan Heffern) and Charlie (Marc Bendavid), a Toronto couple struggling with infertility. Season one, directed by Molly McGlynn (Mary Goes Round), followed the pair through IVF; Season two, directed by Adriana Maggs (Goalie), watched as they put themselves forward as potential adoptive parents. Pitting its slightly neurotic and understandably stressed leads against a parade of comic guest stars (among them Séan Cullen, Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll, Becky Johnson, Emma Hunter, Celine Tsai and Marilla Wex), it’s charming, funny and really quite moving. Stream it here.

Jensplaining

Fast-paced and informal without ever feeling insubstantial, this 10-episode series lets Dr. Jennifer Gunter stand up against the flood of misinformation built into health fads, quack cures and conspiracy theories that create a fog of doubt around modern medical science. Each episode focuses on a specific topic, including menstruation, vaccinations, beauty, online advice, menopause, weight loss and sex. And each one will leave you feeling a little more confident about relying on experts rather than Facebook friends when it comes to making crucial health-care decisions. Stream it here.

Kim’s Convenience

An ingenious reworking of Ins Choi’s Soulpepper stage smash, Kim’s Convenience folds a universal generational narrative into its very specific story, set in a diverse, bustling and entirely recognizable Toronto. Paul Sun-hyung Lee’s blustering, self-conscious Appa has become the show’s public face, but the entire ensemble – Jean Yoon, Andrea Bang, Andrew Phung, Nicole Power and future Marvel star Simu Liu – is doing terrific work, and shouldn’t be overlooked. Stream it here.

The Neddeaus Of Duqesne Island

Produced in an eerily convincing approximation of a Canadian documentary from the 70s, this deadpan web series drops in on a family that’s been living on a secluded island in Northern Ontario for more than a century with little to do besides chop wood, crochet sweaters and maybe experiment with inbreeding. (Colin Mochrie’s mildly disgusted narration hints at perversions that never made it to air.) Creator Aaron Schroeder and producer Kelly McCormack – who also play the very odd siblings Elmer and Eloida – get the details just right, from the yellowish colour of the (fake) film stock to the plaintive woodwind underscore. Stream it here.

Save Me

Fab Filippo’s anthology series about Toronto paramedics and the people they meet on the job changes its approach and its tone with every new episode, and grew even more daring in its second season. There’s a charming look at the lives of two struggling stand-ups (Emily Hampshire, Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll), and a small, moving vignette about two sisters (Hampshire again, opposite Rebecca Liddiard) whose conversation is derailed by a man (Joris Jarsky) in crisis. The one about the idiots and the lawnmower? That’s a deadpan farce. And Toronto viewers will appreciate the way the show captures the feel of the city’s scattered communities and cultures. Stream it here.

Schitt’s Creek

Its final season won’t air until 2020, so you still have plenty of time to catch up to this marvellously open-hearted sitcom about a family of formerly wealthy idiots (Catherine O’Hara, Annie Murphy, co-creators Eugene and Dan Levy) who lose everything and wind up running a motel in the eponymous hamlet. The show provides a constant flow of snappy little moments designed to be passed around with friends on social media, but also wants the best for its weird, idiosyncratic characters. Just look at the loving and truly sweet relationship between Dan Levy’s David and his business partner Patrick (Noah Reid), which warms the entire series from the inside out. Stream it here.

Terrific Women

Spun out of Sara Hennessey and Stephanie Kaliner’s live talk show, Terrific Women stars the Toronto writer/performers as Linda Davis and Joy Johansen, two 70s suburbanites who host a talk show in a rumpus room, interviewing a series of weird guests while downing bespoke cocktails provided by their sidekick-slash-bartender Alejandro (Phil Luzi). You can enjoy the goofy pleasures of the confident, loose performances, or just bliss on the polyester-and-vinyl production design and horrific period hairstyles. Hey, some people find that comforting. Don’t judge. Stream it here.

@normwilner