Women Behind Canadian TV: Ellen Vanstone
“Rookie Blue was a hit because it had such a terrific showrunner in Tassie Cameron. She brought her own sensibility to shape that show into the charming success that it was, and it just so happens she’s a woman. It’s the way men take for granted how they bring their sensibilities to a show–for better or worse–so when a woman, or a bunch of women, do that, the same thing happens, for better or for worse.” Continue reading.
I couldn’t get enough of Flashpoint when it was on the air. The characters, the writing and the production values were incredible; every week I knew the writers would throw a storyline my way that would draw me in. And it all started with that iconic opening theme music.
Whether it be instrumental or with words, a TV show’s theme is very often the audience’s first look at a program, and sets the tone for the rest of the broadcast. And, in the case of old shows, the opening strains trigger memories of what you were doing at the time in your life when the show was on.
Here’s a look at some of my favourite Canadian TV show themes; let me know if you agree, disagree or list your fave in the Comments below.
Why I like it: The mix of brief shots of Toronto’s skyline and that melody hooked me right away, followed by the one-two images of the main cast. But the biggest impact Flashpoint‘s opening theme still has on me is the percussion that ramps up in intensity until the final note, punctuated by the clicking off of the rifle’s safety. That signified to me that the drama was about to begin, and no one was safe from harm.
Why I like it:Traders spotlit the world of investment banking, and the theme reflected that with strings and a vocal section delivering what sounds like a hymn to money. Steady and stately, the rising crescendo plays underneath shots of the lead characters looking serious while lightning crackles, tanks roll and protesters rage.
Why I like it: In my house, no one is allowed to fast-forward through the Murdoch Mysteries theme. Robert Carli’s bass-heavy score trundles along with wispy, tinkly, almost supernatural notes above it. That in itself is cool enough, but by adding in those shots of the magnifying glass going over the Toronto Gazette, a hand and its fingermarks and the morgue instruments makes MM an instant classic. (Carli is responsible for a ton of Canadian TV themes, including Remedy, Cracked, Still Life: A White Pines Mystery, Bomb Girls, Good Dog and Wild Roses.)
The Littlest Hobo
Why I like it: Hobo was in my wheelhouse as a lad, a weekend staple on my grandparents’ television set when I was over for a visit. Looking back on it now, Hobo is almost crying-worthy in its cheesiness and the theme reflects that. With those memorable first lines, “There’s a voice, keeps on callin’ me, down the road, that’s where I’ll always be. Every stop I make, I make a new friend…” the tune lets viewers know not only that we’re in for an adventure, but that the dog is always on the move and will be getting into scrapes along the way. (And the dog can apparently sing too; the song is written as if the pooch is performing it.) “Maybe Tomorrow,” composed and performed by Terry Bush, can be purchased in the iTunes store. Yes, I checked.
Why I like it: No list of Canadian TV themes is complete without The Beachcombers and it was my first real introduction into television outside Sesame Street, Polka Dot Door and Mr. Dressup. And while I don’t really recall any storylines other than every week seemed to pit Nick against Relic, I remember the theme fondly. B.C.’s rugged coast is paired with fast-flying motorboats juxtaposed over a jaunty orchestral production that beckoned me west for adventure … and pie at Molly’s Reach.
The King of Kensington
Why I like it: Admittedly, I wasn’t a huge fan of King of Kensington when it was on, but that opening theme always drew me in. A little love letter to Kensington Market, those bustling streets always fascinated me. I always equated Larry King with being like Archie Bunker, the king of his own little neighbourhood, so to see him walking around those streets, slapping backs and shaking hands like a politician held me in thrall. The theme song is pretty straight-forward, introducing Larry, his long-suffering wife Cathy and mother Gladys, who says her son is the “only King around without a buuuuuck.” Good stuff.
Why I like it: There might not have been a lot going on in Corner Gas, but the theme sure did. “Not a Lot Goin’ On,” written by Craig Northey and Jesse Valenzuela, not only works as a theme song but a legitimately good tune on its own. Sly nods to the flatness of Saskatchewan are interspersed with shots of the cast of characters to let you know wackiness will ensue. This and the theme from Friends are my favourite “themes that are real songs.”
The Kids in the Hall
Why I like it: I didn’t watch The Kids on the Hall on the regular, but I sure loved the theme, “Having an Average Weekend.” Written and performed by Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, it’s twangy and fun and comes off more as a music video than introduction to the show. It certainly didn’t give any hint as to the off-the-wall sketches to come.
Hilarious House of Frightenstein
Why I like it: Vincent Price at his creepiest + endless crackles of lightning + a Moog synthesizer = classic TV.
Why I like it: Thanks to the fact every Canadian (or Ontario) kid is given a recorder in Grade 4, we all learned to play the theme for Friendly Giant. And why not? It was easy and non-threatening, just like the show. As an aside, I always wanted to sit in the rocking chair and look up. Look waaaaay up.
Why I like it: I’ve become a big fan of Heartland since I’ve been reviewing it full-time here on the site, and every Sunday this tune worms its way into my brain where it replays at least midway into Monday. Written by Jenn Grant, just the chorus of “Dreamer” is used by CBC’s long-running family drama but it’s enough to let you know the show is about living your dream—and life—to the fullest.
Republic of Doyle
Why I like it: Smash cuts of St. Johns’s, cast shots jumping across the screen, the beloved GTO pealing around a corner, the chorus of Great Big Sea’s rocking’ tune lets you know in scant seconds that you are in for one hell of a fun ride. Oh yeah!
What did I miss? What are your favourite Canadian TV show themes? Let me know below.
I miss Cracked. CBC’s dark drama starred David Sutcliffe as Aiden Black, a Toronto detective who teamed with psychiatrists to help folks with mental issues. Sutcliffe returned to primetime TV during Thursday’s new episode of Rookie Blue, where he made an immediate impact as a father with a pretty strict belief system.
“Perfect Family” was in stark contrast to last week’s return, focusing more on circumstances outside the precinct rather than inside, though Dov and Marlo’s continuing investigation into the evidence room bombing uncovered a link between a missing munitions contractor and the force itself. Also, a tearful Andy confirmed to Swarek she’ll stick around to help raise his and Marlo’s baby, the spark between Juliet and Nick burned a little brighter and Dias is getting in deep with Jarvis.
But the bulk of “Perfect Family” was a character study and analysis of changing times and family values viewed as out of date. Written by Adriana Maggs, the script spotlit a missing 16-year-old girl named Hayley Hill (Orphan Black‘s Zoé De Grand’Maison). Bringing her family in for questioning revealed some interesting little tidbits about her father, Lloyd (Sutcliffe). The boss of the house, Lloyd was religious, believed in abstinence and wasn’t above doling out punishment with his belt or making Hayley sleep in the garage. None of what he was doing was against the law, but it was certainly disturbing.
I caught myself shaking my head at Lloyd’s backward thinking before I quickly realized there are people who think that way, and raise their children without cell phones, banning them from wearing revealing clothing and demanding respect from their elders. In Lloyd’s eyes, the world is going to hell and he was making sure his family wasn’t going along for the ride. Was what Lloyd was doing out of line? Not in his own eyes.
But by the end of the episode the blinders were off his wife’s eyes and she was ready to face him in court over his actions, which included making Hayley sleep in a freezer when she misbehaved. (I knew right away that son Jeremy would poison his sister’s pop; the way he looked at her when she drank it betrayed his actions.) Lloyd’s arrest after he beat the crap out of Connor, the boy trying to save Hayley from harm, closed the door on the case, but cemented in Swarek and Andy’s minds the type of parents they want to be—and not be—for the baby.
Notes and quotes
I love the jangly rock music that started the episode.
Travis Milne has a gift for physical comedy. That scene where he was checking Jarvis’ wife’s car had me snickering.
Andy wishing she was a fish so that she wouldn’t feel emotions was alternately heartbreaking and hilarious.
“People talk. Screw ’em.” Amen, Dov. Amen.
“I know how to Skype a Thai hooker if I’m so inclined.” —Dov
This is the second week in a row that Gail hasn’t had much to do. Fingers crossed that changes next week.
Rookie Blue airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Global.
Flashpoint may have gone off the air in 2012, but the cops of Toronto’s Emergency Task Force are still in our hearts. Ed Lane, specifically, who won our latest poll asking who their Favourite Canadian TV Cops were. Lane, played by Hugh Dillon, took the top spot with 5,737 votes.
In second place came Rookie Blue‘s Sam Swarek (Ben Bass) with 3,636 votes, Corner Gas‘ Davis Quentin (Lorne Cardinal) with 1,542 votes, Durham County‘s Mike Sweeney (Dillon again!) with 1,465 votes and Davis’ Corner Gas partner Karen Pelly (Tara Spencer-Nairn) with 995 votes.
Rounding out the Top 10 were Swarek’s primetime partners Gail Peck, Andy McNally and Oliver Shaw, Murdoch Mysteries‘ Det. William Murdoch and Haven‘s Nathan Wuornos. Several readers commented that Wuornos’ lady love, Audrey Parker, should have been an option but since she’s an FBI agent rather than a police officer, she wasn’t included as a choice.
Thanks for all of those who participated in voting!
Have you heard the news, Rookie Blue fans? Season 6 of Global’s homegrown cop drama returns on Thursday, May 21, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Andy, Swarek, Oliver, Dov and the rest make up the latest crop of cops created for Canadian TV shows. How do the Rookie Blue folks stack up against Det. Murdoch and the Toronto Constabulary? Where do Haven‘s east coast coppers rate against B.C. boys and girls in blue?
We’ve put together an exhaustive list of current and past Canadian TV cops for you to choose your three favourites from. If we missed any, type them up in the comments section. Let the voting begin!