My Life in Canadian Netflix Hell

I'm American, but I've spent a big chunk of the last eight years in Canada, first for affordable education, and then for love. Canada is a gentle foster motherland, suckling me on her polite, maple-flavored bosom. But Netflix here is some bootleg FUBAR bullshit.

Don't get me wrong, Canada's got a lot going for it. The beer is better and the flannel is warmer, and that whole thing about people saying "sorry" all the time is true. Toronto has a crack mayor who careens around town like a rapidly deflating balloon full of drunk farts, but the city still runs so smoothly I'm like 72 percent convinced Canada could turn into an anarchist nation and people would still compost and wait in line to board the metro and generally go about their reasonable lives. I like it here. (If my immigration case worker is reading this: I LOVE IT HERE!)

But damn, the streaming media options are liquid garbage. All of the interesting YouTube videos are uploaded by users who have not made the video available in Canada. You want Hulu Plus? Well, fuck you.

And Netflix, as experienced by our neighbors to the north, is an anemic imitation that besmirches the brand. It shouldn't even be called Netflix. Netflix Lite, maybe. Netflix Canada Trashcan, probably, although that might negatively impact subscription sales. It's the same price as the U.S. version, too, which makes it even more insulting.

My long (non)-national nightmare with Canadian Netflix began two years ago, when I left the U.S. for Toronto. I'd lived in Montreal years before, but Netflix streaming wasn't a thing then. [Sidebar: I can't even imagine how shitty a Netflix: Quebec would be if the province ever fulfilled its separatist goals. It would literally just be the movie C.R.A.Z.Y. and old clips of Bon Cop Bad Cop. If you don't know what either of those things are you have probably never spent time in la belle province de poutine.]

Once in Toronto, I attempted to continue my journey through sexual crime with Detectives Benson and Stabler, only to discover that Canada's Netflix had zero episodes of Law and Order: SVU. This was back when U.S. Netflix had the whole series, so it was infuriating. I tried to watch my favorite Michael Scott moments, only to discover Canadian Netflix only has the U.K version of The Office. And anyone who tells you they prefer the U.K. The Office is either British or lying to themselves. Dunder Mifflin forever.

I tried to stave off my homesickness by introducing my Canadian friends to the liberal '90s screwball utopia of The West Wing, but apparently Canada hasn't forgiven Sorkin for Studio 60. Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, and Louie all vanished north of the 49th parallel. Altogether, Canada has fewer than half the available titles that the U.S. version of Netflix offers, which is probably why one third of English-speaking Canadian Netflix users hop onto the U.S. version through proxies and other methods of dubious legality. I use Hola, which I hope will never die. It's a free browser extension that lets you access media and websites from outside of your region. There are Canadian services like UnblockUs that do the same thing but they cost money, and I find Hola the easiest to use anyways. Any third-party service using a VPN will work, though sometimes streaming can be even slower.

Most Canadians I know get sweaty palms about jaywalking but don't think twice about rerouting their Netflix to the south, because if there's anything worse than not having something you want, it's not having something you want and watching your neighbor enjoy it. The Canadian landscape may be sparsely populated, but its streaming media need not be. Right country, wrong distribution deals.

In fairness, there are some rare cases where I feel ~lucky~ to have Canadian Netflix. I give Canadian Netflix props for having The Good Wife, which U.S. Netflix does not have. Same with Community. And while you have to have U.S. Netflix to watch Bad Boys, you have to have Canadian Netflix to watch Bad Boys II. Netflix just signed deals with Disney, Pixar, LucasFilm, and Marvel to stream films in Canada, which will seriously bulk up the children's section in Canadian Netflix. I've noticed more movies and TV shows I actually want to watch pop up, although they're usually not enticing enough to prevent me from switching over to the U.S. site.

To sum up the Canadian Netflix experience, there's an excellent episode of 30 for 30 about Wayne Gretzky's trade from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings that looks at the way the trade devastated Canadian fans. It's only available to watch through U.S. Netflix. First the Americans stole Gretzky, and then they stole all the good TV.

For my Canadian brethren breathless at the injustice of an inferior Netflix suggestion, the upswing in agreements is a balm... plus, it could be worse. We could be in the U.K.

Source: Shutterstock / shipfactory