Canada gets plenty of credit among comedy nerds for their top-notch television shows, from SCTV to The Kids in the Hall to Trailer Park Boys. What Canada gets much less credit for, from both comedy nerds and everyone else not Canadian, however, are their more conventional sitcoms, many of which are much darker, riskier, and just plain stranger than their American equivalents. These shows might center around families or workplaces, but they don’t shy away from featuring characters who just happen to be another religion, or live in the middle of nowhere, or are fundamentally unlikable, without making those characteristics central to the show.
That’s what makes Less Than Kind, the sitcom about a dysfunctional family in Winnipeg (for which former Kid in the Hall Mark McKinney now serves as an executive producer) so watchable; despite clichéd TV elements bullies, mean siblings, and wacky relatives, the show would never be confused for Boy Meets World, and not just because it takes place in the godforsaken tundra of Winnipeg and the overweight, high school-aged protagonist sometimes has to be bleeped.
Because our hero, Sheldon, is a big, geeky teen, the show does sometimes go into Degrassi territory, but that’s frequently balanced out by Sheldon’s mother getting high or setting something on fire, his elderly father almost dying or trying to evade the IRS, or his aunt somehow exposing her vagina. Like the soapy drama Being Erica, Less Than Kind is about a Jewish family in a Jewish community without turning the whole thing into Fiddler on the Roof; it’s not so much it plays up religion as plot point, it just doesn’t shy away from this very real aspect of the characters’ lives. The hit Canadian sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie did much the same thing in that religion was obviously part of the show’s premise, but, in later seasons especially, it was so saccharine and family-oriented that, minus a few hijabs, it could’ve easily fit in on TGIF.
I wouldn’t recommend seeking out Less Than Kind before those other classic Canadian comedy shows, but it is worth seeing, especially if there are teens around, and/or Jews, and/or people who are open to our neighbors to the north and want to like a sitcom without hating themselves.