Reel Toronto: Alphas
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Reel Toronto: Alphas

Once again, Toronto plays New York City in a B-grade TV series—but it never gets old.

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.

ALPHAS (640x355)

Things have been looking up for TV shoots in Toronto the past couple of years, with high-quality productions such as Hannibal, Orphan Black and Suits setting up shop. But our bread and butter continues to be more B-level fare like Alphas. Despite a decent pedigree (writer Zak Penn also worked on the X-Men movies, not to mention the underrated PCU), its sort-of X-Men-lite/Heroes vibe carried it through only two seasons.

Naturally, a series of hyperkinetic montages of New York City make it seem that’s where we are (at least most of the time)—but, also naturally, it was entirely shot here.

[Oh, and can we apologize for the photo watermarks we weren’t able to remove? Please, feel no obligation whatsoever to watch either Ghost Hunters or Haven. They’re not even shot here!]

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So basically, we’ve got this team of quirky misfits, each of whom has a secret power, and they all get together to find other special peeps, fight bad guys, etc. Because they’re all secrety, they work in an anonymous location. In the pilot it’s here…

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…on Dundas, near Kipling.

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For the rest of the series, they move even further out into the burbs—to this tower, out in Mississauga.

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The pilot alone really gets around town, man. Here’s the awesome Callum Keith Rennie conversing in Queen West’s Kops Records.

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Further west on the same street…

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…we have this dude visiting his apartment, at Queen and Brock.

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Then there’s a chase down the street…

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…and through this laneway.

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We meet our hero, Cameron Hicks, down in the financial district…

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…outside First Canadian Place.

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At the end of the episode, the whole team gets together…

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…on the roof of Commerce Court, with One King West there in the back.

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We always like it when things blow up…

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…as they do here, thanks to an explosion in David Pecaut Square.

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This is a fairly authentic-looking New York City subway entrance…

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….but the tile is a bit of a giveaway. We’re actually looking at this entrance to the King subway station.

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This grocery store…

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…gets a bit of a CGI skyline behind it to make it seem as if it’s in New York, but it’s actually on the Danforth.

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Here, we go into the lobby of the Thompson Hotel…

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…then up to the lovely rooftop bar…

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….and past the pool—and then, oops!, there’s the CN Tower reflected in the glass.

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In the second episode, there’s some nice downtown driving, past this pizza place on Dundas

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….and the nearby Esso station.

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Special effects make this building look burned…

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…but as we see in subsequent scenes, we’re on Duncan…

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…south of Richmond.

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Are we crazy, or can you actually see where the film crew blocked off the road in this shot? Oopsie daisy..

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The bus station we visit in the third episode is not actually in Yonkers.

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Indeed, this handsome edifice…

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…is in fact the GO station in Hamilton.

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And later, we get onto what is pretty clearly a TTC subway car…

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…despite the clever addition of an American flag.

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We blow through the St. Patrick station…

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…and inevitably end up at our very fave station, Lower Bay (or Bay Lower if you’re all into proper TTC nomenclature, which we aren’t).

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There are a lot of chase scenes on Alphas.

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This one is out on Yonge…

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at Charles.

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And look who’s being chased! Why, it’s Tatiana Maslany, before she got cloned and stuff.

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These dudes are sitting in a truck…

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…which our Spidey sense tells us is parked outside the Kipling Variety Store.

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In the fifth episode, we hit the road and visit this lovely small town, actually Georgetown.

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You do see more Canuck banks abroad than you used to, but this CIBC is still kind of a giveaway, flag or no flag.

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The local sheriff’s office looks as if it was in this men’s store

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You can’t see it in the shot, but this confrontation takes place outside the historic Scotsdale Farm, which was also featured in the recent season of Orphan Black.

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The sixth episode opens with an attack here, on Sheppard Street, with First Canadian Place there in the back.

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It’s a key location in the rest of the episode, and the big set piece in this one is (obviously) another chase. We start off just around the corner, on Temperance, which, because of its short length and narrowness, often appears as a New York Street

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We also go out onto Bay Street, which, you know, looks a lot less like something in New York.

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It wraps up with a run…

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…up the steps…

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…at the Cloud Gardens park.

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There’s also a visit to this bar, the Cadillac Lounge.

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This here gas station is supposed to be in remote Maine…

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…but this reverse shot helps us place it on Lakeshore Drive, in Mississauga.

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This Brooklyn Farmer’s Market certainly has some recognizable cobblestones…

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Yep, we’re actually…

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…in the Distillery District.

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And, lookee, they throw us a bone in the final scene!

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This augmented greenhouse, seen in the season finale, looks as if it could be the one at Valley Halla.

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Hey, it’s fine local actress Liane Balanban!

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And now we’re back downtown. They don’t have Mill Street beer in New York yet, but there’s an extended sequence on this street…

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…which turns out to be College, just west of Spadina.

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This Buddhist temple (still visible in older streetviews) is gone now, however.

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This weirdo religious retreat is actually King City’s Eaton Hall.

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You may recognize the trellis in this garden, as it also appeared in the final moments of A History of Violence.

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The building played William Hurt’s mansion at the end of that movie, but it’s also appeared in a lot of other things, including as the Udinov estate in Nikita.

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This vintage-looking dry cleaner…

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…is actually the Laundry Lounge, near Yonge and Wellesley.

Alphas made it back for a second season, but a third never materialized. If they ever do decide to resuscitate it, we’ll certainly be here waiting, ready to do a little New York City on the cheap.