One thing that we need to give credit to is that Canadian television series sure know how to make the most with whatever limited resources that they have. Canadian television productions don’t have the large budgets like American productions do and need to come up with unique shows that don’t have flashy special effects or top quality sets or filming locations. For the longest time, Canadian television looked like it was shot on a home video camera. Canadian productions need to think about how they use digital space. And with tight budgets, there’s not a lot of room for risk. There’s not much room for error.


Cheap Canadian Programming



An example of cheap programming comes from ‘The Tom Green Show’. The series aired on Rogers Television 22, a community channel in Ottawa, Ontario, until 1996, when it was picked up by The Comedy Network. The show often featured Green performing bizarre or shocking acts in public. It went from being a public access show and was eventually picked up by MTV and became a short lived hit. Another unique program was ‘The Buzz’. The show was hosted by Morgan ‘Mista Mo’ Smith and Daryn Jones. The show originally aired in the mid-90s as a community channel show on Rogers Television before getting a network deal in 2000. In 2001, the show won a Gemini Award in the “Best Writing in a Comedy or Variety Program or Series” category. Even our game shows are pretty cheap. ‘You Bet Your Ass’ was a Canadian game show that aired on The Comedy Network. It followed a Blackjack and casino motif, with contestants answering questions on popular culture to earn points. Whoever had the most points at the completion of the final round won $500 and then got to see one final category, and may choose to answer one question for a further $1,000, or to answer two questions for a further $2,000. This is a far cry from the brand new car that you might win on ‘The Price is Right’.



Even our late-night programming was cheap. Ed’s Night Party was a late-night variety program hosted by a sock puppet named ‘Ed the Sock’. Ed the Sock was a Muchmusic VJ whose profile was elevated with several highly rated specials on the channel and was given his own show where he interviewed guests in mostly pre-taped segments. Whatever the outcome, it will forever take innovative and energetic Canadians to have a willing spirit and push the boundaries of what they can come up with for a new Canadian-produced series.


Old Canadian Favorites

We’d now like to take the time to pay respects to some of our favorite lesser known Canadian productions. Even if you’re Canadian, you might not know about these programs but we love them anyways and hope that you search out for them on the internet.


Camp Cariboo



-Camp Cariboo is a Canadian children’s television program that aired on several CTV stations from 1986 to 1989, lasting for a total of five seasons. The show is best known for its rerun stint on YTV from 1989 to 1996. The program was hosted by Tom Knowlton and Mark Baldwin. Each show consisted of a variety of short skits, riddles, songs and stories, all portrayed in the setting of a fictional summer camp attended by young campers. Each show would open up with the hosts singing the Camp Cariboo theme song.


Maniac Mansion



-Maniac Mansion was a Canadian sitcom created by Eugene Levy, which aired concurrently on YTV in Canada and The Family Channel in the United States for three seasons from September 17, 1990 to April 4, 1993. The show is based on a video game and centers around the lives of the Edisons, an American family living in a large mansion in the upscale suburban neighborhood of Cedar Springs. The series incorporated several prominent elements of science fiction with the lead character being a scientist whose experiments went bad and turned two of the family members into a talking fly and an adult with the brain of a child. A large portion of Maniac Mansion’s cast and crew were made up of alumni from the Toronto comedy troupe ‘The Second City’ and the 1976-1984 television offshoot ‘Second City Television’.


The Edison Twins



-The Edison Twins is a Canadian children’s television program which aired on CBC Television from 1982 to 1986. It starred Andrew Sabiston and Marnie McPhail as fraternal twins Tom and Annie Edison. The show focused on the adventures of the main cast as they stumbled onto one problem after another, using Tom and Annie’s scientific wit to solve the situation.


Spatz



-Spatz is a children’s comedy series that ran on CITV during the 1990s. It was co-produced by YTV in Canada and Thames Television in England. The show centered around a fast food restaurant situated in a fictional shopping mall in Cricklewood, London. The name Spatz was used as the title for the show because the writers noted that it suggested spats or disagreements and is also the name for a type of garment that is worn in the food industry.


Fred Penner’s Place



-Fred Penner’s Place aired for 30 Minutes on CBC in Canada from 1985 to 1997. It was co-produced by Nickelodeon in 1989 and 1990. The show was hosted by musician Fred Penner who would entertain viewers in his secret hideaway in the forest with songs, music and games. In 1991, Fred Penner was made a Member of the Order of Canada for using music and song to entertain and educate his young audience.


Passe-Partout



-Passe-Partout was a Quebec French language children’s television program produced by Radio-Québec (later Télé-Québec) that was in production from 1977 to 1987. It incorporated both live actors and puppets although neither group interacted with the other. Strangely enough, the show got off the ground because of the popularity of Sesame Street and the difficulty of translating the show for a French Canadian audience. People who grew up watching the program as children are termed the ‘Passe-Partout generation’. Thanks to its educational content, ‘Passe-Partout’ was often used to educate anglophones in Canada about francophone culture in Quebec.


The Littlest Hobo



-The Littlest Hobo is a Canadian television series that first aired from 1963 to 1965 in syndication, spanning six seasons and was later revived for a popular second run on CTV from October 11, 1979 to March 7, 1985. The productions revolved around a stray German Shepherd, the titular Hobo, who wanders from town to town, helping people in need. Unlike Lassie, this German Shepherd would befriend people in need of help. Rather than be adopted, the dog would go off on his own and would head off to another town in search of someone who needed his help. This series, which remains a popular children’s program, continues to be shown as reruns on CTV, CTV Two and other national networks.


Boogie’s Diner



-Boogie’s Diner is a syndicated Canadian sitcom which first aired in 1994. It stars Jim J. Bullock, Monika Schnarre, and James Marsden and ended in 1995. The plot of the show revolves around eight teenagers who work at Boogies Diner, a popular mall hangout. Gerald is the nerdy manager who tries to keep the teenage mischief from affecting the business. After the series was canceled, episodes aired on Nickelodeon and CH in Canada.


Street Cents



-Street Cents is a teen-themed news magazine TV series that originally aired on CBC Television between 1989 and 2006. It was one of a few shows focused on consumer and media awareness for young people. The show’s main focus was on empowering young people to make their own educated decisions about the media and products they consume. The show ran commercial-free in order to not appear biased by favoring any company’s products that might appear in ads between segments. Common segments included ‘What’s your Beef?’ where viewers could call or write to complain about something that they didn’t like or ‘Street Test’ where viewers could compare products to see which product was superior after undergoing several tests.


Hilarious House of Frightenstein



-Hilarious House of Frightenstein was a Canadian children’s television series produced by Hamilton, Ontario’s independent station CHCH-TV in 1971. Some of the memorable characters on the show included Count Frightenstein, Igor and the Wolfman. The producers were fortunate enough to get horror icon Vincent Price to star in introductions for the show’s various segments. Price was attracted to the project because he wanted to do something for kids. All 130 episodes were made in a single nine-month span starting in 1971. The scenes with Price and Miller were all filmed within one summer.

This wraps up our special on Canadian television. We hope that you enjoyed some of the information that we passed along to you and hope that you’re able to experience some of the great television programming that Canada has to offer. We hope that you got some form of education on the Canadian television landscape and enjoyed a stroll down memory lane when it came to some of Canada’s older and more memorable programs.

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