One of my favourite #FilmedInTO shows is Nirvanna the Band the Show (2016–18). Filmed around the streets of downtown Toronto by way of guerilla filmmaking, I think it is one of the finest showcases of the city – sometimes in a way I’ve never seen before!
I first discovered NtBtS totally out of the blue one day when I randomly stumbled upon “The Bank Heist” episode on TV while channel surfing. I wasn’t sure if what I was seeing was real or not though I would later discover that it was actually something called a mockumentary format which blends scripted and reality television together. Much of the show’s enjoyment is watching unsuspecting passersby react to their antics or stupidity. Heh. Needless to say, I found it so captivating that I was glued to my TV until the end and later sought out more episodes of the show. The rest was history… until VICE Canada just dropped dead one day.
The series is the brainchild of Toronto filmmaker Matt Johnson and music virtuoso sidekick Jay McCarrol, who can play virtually any movie theme on the piano by ear. (Makes me wish I didn’t quit piano lessons when I did! 😭)
In a nutshell, it’s a live-action “Pinky and the Brain” featuring a hilarious duo trying to book a show at the Rivoli, a live music venue in Toronto’s Queen West neighbourhood, in the most hilariously convoluted ways. Each episode brilliantly parodies classic films right down to the opening credits including Home Alone, Star Wars, and Jurassic Park – to name a few – and features a prominent Toronto location in each episode.
One of the best moments was when they stole a map at the Royal Ontario Museum, triggered the alarms and made a run for it with security in pursuit, escaping into the TTC tunnels below the streets of Toronto! These kinds of unexpected shock factors are what makes the show so great in my books – especially as a viewer unfamiliar with their works or style of filmmaking, tuning in for the first time. 😱
Matt and Jay Have a Moving Sale
When it was announced that they were doing a meet & greet at the very house where the show was filmed, I was ecstatic. While I’ve met them a few times already over the years now – such as randomly rollerblading down College Street for the first time, when they were filming at FanExpo and again but out-of-character at TIFF Next Wave – this was the ultimate photo op for a huge fan of the show. Nothing beats being right in front of the house featured in the show with Matt and Jay themselves! 😎👌🏻
Since I watch the show quite religiously, I had to go see the guys again. Even though this was my fourth time meeting them, it was amazing to be a part of the show’s history this time! Soon to be sold, they were holding a moving sale of all their old set pieces, props and costumes from the show as well as their films The Dirties (2013) and Operation Avalanche (2016) at the synonymous house located at Queen and Shaw which has also been the production office for Zapruder Films. Of course, there was also merchandise including DVDs which was what I really hoped for since finding their releases anywhere else has been virtually impossible. Too bad there aren’t physical media releases of Nirvanna the Band the Show (2016–18) yet as I would’ve loved to get that signed.
Matt and Jay were even in proper costume, which ultimately made our meeting this time to be *the* perfect photo – worthy of being framed and displayed in my Nerd Lair! Since we were also better acquainted now, them being in-character and treating me like royalty made it all the more memorable for me. “Anything for you George,” Matt said to me when I made my particular photo requests. 😅
Apparently, this show is still so very obscure as it seems like nobody has ever heard of it – even Toronto locals whom I think would enjoy it. Most people either know of it (and LOVE it) or go “WTF never heard of it” when I bring it up, later passively forgetting about it shortly after. Such a shame because NtBtS is a true made-in-Toronto gem and these guys deserve more credit for creating such a unique show unlike any other.
For those in Canada, you can stream Seasons 1 and 2 of Nirvanna the Band the Show for FREE on CBC Gem! Regardless of where in the world, the show is also available here:
* If you are in Canada, please watch via CBC Gem so as to give them the metrics showing that people are watching this show! 🙏🏻
Note: If you like the show enough to download the episodes to keep in storage for potential future offline viewings, simply change “details” to “download” in the above URLs and then ‘Save Link As’ for whatever format you prefer. 🤓