One of TV’s Best Ever Comedies Is a Canadian Series About Shakespeare

Slings & Arrows featured some of Canada’s greatest stage actors, Oscar winners, and comedic legends. So why is it still largely unknown in the U.S.?

Luke Kirby and Rachel McAdams in Slings & Arrows
Photo: Acorn TV

Being Canadian is an odd experience for those who have never tried it. It can teach you humility and pride at the same time, and how to deal with disappointment come NHL playoff time. Yet Canadians, compared to Americans, will always be viewed as the “Prince Harry” on the global stage (if you’ll forgive the colonized-metaphor). Canadians are cuter, perhaps slightly more politically correct, but ultimately not seen as important as their big brother. 

On occasion, Canadian television will break out and receive the international attention and acclaim it so rightfully deserves, almost American levels of attention. More often than not, it’s a comedic gem that lends itself to a unique slice of Canadiana, shining a light on the embarrassing underbelly of the country that tries so hard to remain hidden. Shows such as Trailer Park Boys, Letterkenny, and Schitt’s Creek reveal that underbelly, while thankfully also highlighting  some of the brilliant comedic talent Canada can produce.  

Yet there is a hidden gem celebrating its 20th anniversary this year that so few people talk about, it’s almost criminal. 

It may be that Slings & Arrows appears to be too niche at first glance. It follows the story of the small fictional Canadian town of New Burbage and their globally acclaimed Shakespearean festival. Following the death of their perennial rock and artistic director, Oliver (Stephen Ouimette), the festival finds itself struggling to forge a new identity, and they quickly have to choose between creating a viable business and artistic integrity. Brilliantly over its three (all too brief) seasons, the show covers a new production within the festival: Hamlet in season 1, Macbeth in season 2, and King Lear in season 3. The writers of the show cleverly mirror the phases within life that Shakespeare often used within his work, while dishing out a ton of laughs by showing the foibles of a dysfunctional company.


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