Originally founded in 1995 by a consortium led by Alliance Communications (55%), CBC (20%), and Rock Demers Productions La Fête (17%), Showcase Television is a Canadian specialty channel dedicated to scripted television. Its main purpose was to showcase premium-quality dramas and comedies, raging from classic CBC programs and shows owned by Alliance, to Canadian independent films. In 1998, the channel aired the HBO series Oz, which was later followed by shows like Cracker, and Prime Suspect. The bold, gritty, and edgy nature of these shows would inspire the framework for the next decade of the channel's history.
In the 2000s, when the merged Alliance Atlantis gained total ownership of the channel, Showcase's programming would become known for playing fast-and-loose with Canadian broadcast regulations; this was the channel where movies and shows with high amounts of nudity and swearing would be aired before the watershed hours. To drive this point home, on Fridays, Showcase would air a block of erotic-themed programming called "Fridays Without Borders".note This "devil-may-care" attitude would carry over to its own commissioned programming: Trailer Park Boys is Showcase's best known original series and practically embodied the channel's attitude at the time.
In 2001, Showcase would launch two spin-off channels: Showcase Action and Showcase Diva.
Showcase Action was aimed at male viewers and, true to its name, primarily aired action movies and shows. In 2009, the channel changed its name to simply "Action", but the new name would become an something of an Artifact Title as, overtime, actual action programming was downplayed and the channel would shift towards male-aimed reality shows. Today, Action is better known as a dumping ground for TruTV shows and has broaden their scope to become a more general male entertainment network. Think Spike TV, but with more movies and no sporting events. Showcase Diva was aimed at female viewers and mostly focused on dramas. Overtime, the channel became home to programming from Lifetime. Diva would eventually relaunch as a Canadian version of Lifetime in 2012.
In 2007, Canwest and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, under the joint name CW Media, acquired the channel (as part of the breakup of Alliance Atlantis). Looking to capture a more mainstream audience and attract advertisers, Showcase would rebrand in 2009 as a network for Hollywood blockbusters and cable dramas. As a result, the more edgier shows, including the "Fridays Without Borders" block, were all removed from the schedule. Showcase would also catch some flack for being reduced to a dumping ground for USA Network and TNT imports as well as NCIS reruns, at the expense of the high-quality Canadian programming and edgy fare it used to air before Canwest took over. The next year, however, Showcase would launch its next big Canadian original series, Lost Girl.
The success of that show would, yet again, inspire Showcase's makeup, ushering in more original sci-fi programming such as Continuum, and Haven - a co-production with Syfy. In addition to rating success for Showcase, the impact of these three shows would also be felt on Syfy, who also aired Lost Girl and Continuum in the United States. At the time, many of that channel's critics were quick to point to out how these shows were the only actual sci-fi programming on Syfy. Perhaps out of coincidence, Showcase has been airing Syfy original programming more frequently than Syfy's own Canadian analog: Space.
Canwest's assets, including Showcase and its siblings, were later bought by Shaw Media in 2010, owned by the same family that owns Corus Entertainment. As part of a re-organization in 2016, Corus assumed control of Shaw's media assets.
Not to be confused with the Showtime multiplex channel focused on Showtime original content, nor the Australian channel and defunct British channel of the same name.
Showcase has created the following series:
- Almost Heroes
- Billable Hours
- Bliss — also known as Cuentos Prohibidos in reruns on TLN
- Cra$h & Burn
- Exes and Ohs
- The Foundation
- It's Me...Gerald
- Haven — Co-production between Shaw Media and Syfy)
- Kenny vs. Spenny — Originally aired on CBC
- Single White Spenny
- King — The 2011 crime drama starring Amy Price-Francis.
- Lost Girl
- Moccasin Flats
- Moose TV
- Paradise Falls
- Pure Pwnage (Yes, THAT show)
- Show Me Yours
- Trailer Park Boys — Originally ran for seven seasons on Showcase. It was later revived by Netflix.
- Travelers — Co-produced with Netflix) for its first two seasons. Netflix would take over as the sole broadcaster and distributor of the series starting with the third season in 2018.
- XIII: The Series