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Today, we are having a blog post looking a bit different. A few months ago, someone gave me the idea of a video on tv shows set in Toronto as a comment on Youtube. I thought it was a nice idea to let you discover Toronto from different angles and familiarize yourself with the streets. I know how much you want to see the city before you arrive (remember I used to look at google maps to visit Toronto).
You can also watch my Youtube video about it for more details.
The first show we’re going to talk about is perhaps one of the best-known tv shows set in Toronto. Kim Convenience is the story of a Canadian-Korean family. The parents immigrated to Toronto in the 60s. They own a convenience store on Queen East, and we follow their daily lives with their 2 children in their twenties.
The tv show is based on the play of the same name by Ins Choi, a Canadian-Korean author. He wrote the play based on the story of his family. After submitting his play to several theaters, no one wanted it. He performed it at the Toronto Fringe Festival (on Bathurst and King. I’m always mistakenly tagged in their photos because of my name Fringinto). After the success during the festival, they finally managed to find interested theaters.
For my part, I’d already been watching the show since the first season, I think. It was the first show where I really saw Toronto. With references that I could understand and that I knew (for example, they go to the Raptors game, she goes to the OCAD school and you recognize the places). Big step in 2018. The show became available on Netflix worldwide. This big change brought it an international audience and a lot of visibility. It went from a Canadian show to an international one.
- Where to watch Kim Convenience ? CBC app in Canada / Netflix France
- How many seasons ? 5 seasons
- October 2016 to April 2021
- Thanks to the show, Simu Liu, the actor who plays the son, is chosen to star in a Marvel movie. He became a world-famous actor, playing the superhero Shang-Chi. He is the first Asian actor to star in a Marvel Studios film.
- I read in an interview with Grand Theater in 2013, Ins Choi said his main motivation for writing Kim’s Convenience was to make the public understand and respect Korean-owned family convenience stores. He went on to call it “a love letter to his parents and to all first-generation immigrants who feel at home in Canada”.
- I discovered through research that the father and mother, Umma and Appa, were played by the same actors in both the play and the TV show.
- Strolling along Queen East, you can see the store that served as the exterior set. The signs had been changed for filming. Originally, the store was called Mimi Variety. Years later, this is still the store’s official name, but the owners have kept the Kim Convenience sign. It’s become a stop for fans of the show passing through Toronto.
In fact, if you have the pleasure of passing through, come on in! There’s a guestbook inside for fans who drop in and want to leave a trace of their visit.
In terms of notoriety, I think we’re not far off the previous tv show. Workin’ Moms has become a phenomenon for its authenticity. We follow the daily lives of 4 moms returning to work after maternity leave. They share their daily challenges with us. The show is very funny, but also very touching. The main characters all have busy careers and show the difficulties of juggling their new lives as moms with their professional lives.
I stumbled across the show by chance. I was curious to discover that we had a new tv show to add to the tv shows set in Toronto.
As with Kim Convenience, going online on Netflix was a springboard. In 2019, in the middle of season 3, the show was available on Netflix worldwide which brought it an international audience and a lot of exposure. It went from being a Canadian show to an international one. I loved being able to keep discovering familiar places in the episodes!
- Where to watch Workin’ Moms ? Netflix (France) / Netflix Canada + CBC app
- How many seasons ? 7 seasons
- January 2017 to 2023
- The lead actress of the Workin’ Moms show is also the creator. She explained that many of the situations were inspired by her own experience.
- Catherine Reitman , who plays Kate Foster, and Philip Sternberg, who plays her husband, Nathan Foster, are married both on the show and in real life. It was their production that produced the show.
- Not only does the show have women as lead actresses, but this is also the case behind the camera too. 69% of the crew are women.
- The tv show was filmed around St Lawrence Market, Leslieville, so you can recognize a lot of the locations if you walk around these parts.
Third series I wanted to introduce to you in this article. It’s one of the oldest Toronto-set series on this list. And yet I only discovered it this year. My boyfriend suggested we watch it together, and a few months later my mother told me she’d watched it too. A series that stands the test of time!
In Rookie Blue, we follow the daily lives of new recruits to the Toronto police force. Between blunders, adapting to their new lives and worries in their personal lives, there’s never a dull moment. The characters are endearing and sometimes a little irritating for their bad decisions.
- Where to watch Rookie Blue ? Netflix (Canada) / France: couldn’t find it
- How many seasons ? 6 seasons
- June 2010 to July 2015
- We wondered why in the early days of the series we see American and then Canadian bills. I suppose the network was trying to be “less” Canadian to be more easily exportable (by the way, it was broadcast in the US too). I haven’t found out why, but I have come across articles in American newspapers criticizing the Canadian series for erasing its Canadian side to appeal to a wider audience. Yet you can clearly see that it’s Toronto police cars, you can see the CN Tower, and other references to the surrounding cities.
- I liked the fact that they used real Toronto street names, it helps to recognize and also to see that sometimes, for the purposes of the series, they go the opposite way from what they advertise!
- Important to note if you decide to watch the series: this is Toronto 2010-2015. It’s impressive to see the difference when they film over the city, there were so many fewer tall buildings.
- I realized later that I’d actually already passed the place where they were filming. You can walk past the police station on Front St East if you like! It’s not actually division 15 but 51.
- Last little tidbit. You’ll recognize one of Rookie Blue’s main actresses, Enuka Okuma, in Workin Moms from season 5.
This is the oldest series on our list of series set in Toronto! I watched it after Rookie Blue. And like the previous series, you can recognize Toronto. The series follows a team from the Toronto Police Strategic Response Unit. They intervene in extreme situations where traditional police officers are not trained, for example: hostage situations. The first episode opens in a place where I’ve already taken several photos for Instagram!
- Where to watch Flashpoint ? Crave (Canada)
- How many seasons ? 5 seasons
- July 2008 to December 2012
- As I was saying, we watched Rookie Blue first, but Flashpoint came out first. The series had 2 years where they were filmed and aired at the same time. We recognized actors from Rookie Blue in Flashpoint. The family of Toronto actors is small!
- At the start of the series, it’s never said that we’re in Toronto, except that if you live here, you’ll quickly recognize it: the first episode takes place in the Financial District! As the seasons progress, it becomes clearer that the action takes place in Toronto.
- Originally intended as a film, the idea was submitted to CTV, who encouraged actors to send in scripts. Eventually they decided to make it a series and added 2 main characters: Jules and Lewis.
- I’d like to point out that this is the first Canadian series, filmed entirely in Canada, to be broadcast in the US. A major milestone for a Canadian production!
- The first episode is inspired by a real-life event in Toronto, where the special unit had to deal with a hostage situation.
Frankie Drake Mysteries
The last series we’re going to talk about today: Frankie Drake Mysteries. It’s funny because it’s the most recent series in this article, yet we’re going to take a leap back in time as the series is set in the 1920s. We follow the life of Toronto’s first female detective: Frankie Drake. The series is inspired by the book Toronto’s Girl Problems, published after the First World War. The book deals with the “problem” of women who don’t want to go home after the men return from the war.
- Where to watch Frankie Drake Mysteries ? Amazon (US) or for free on CBC app
- How many seasons ? 4 seasons
- November 2017 to March 2021
- I was surprised to see that real cult historical figures are represented in the series. I’m just starting it, but I’ve already seen Hemingway!
- It’s completely different from the other series we’ve talked about, yet it deals with political and social situations that are still issues today.
I’d love to do more versions of this article for you if you’ve enjoyed discovering series set in Toronto. Please let me know in the comments. I could tell you about series filmed in Toronto but not shown in Toronto (but if you live here, you’ll recognize them). Or movies also filmed here or series shot in Canada!
If you enjoyed learning more about Toronto, check this blog post about 31 activities to do in Toronto during winter.