The kids were alright

Degrassi’s empire began 40 years ago

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September 12, 1979 was when “Ida Makes a Movie” aired on CBC Television. Adapted from the 1974 children’s book by Kay Chorao, the half-hour was made by Linda Schuyler and Kit Hood, using locations on DeGrassi Street, where Schuyler resided. TVOntario’s jolly movie host Elwy Yost had a cameo:

The drama special proved popular enough that it was spun off into The Kids of Degrassi Street, a series of 26 morality tales, which aired on the CBC between 1979 and 1986. It was also distributed on 16mm film by Playing With Time Inc. Curriculum tie-ins made them popular with teachers on rainy days. The series was then slightly rebooted as Degrassi Junior High in 1987, which had some of the same actors playing different characters.

Kids remains the most grounded and realistic of the Degrassi franchise, a maudlin Polaroid of what early-’80s Leslieville was like.


More famous Toronto kids       

September 14, 1989 was when The Kids in the Hall series began its run on CBC—a pilot aired there a year earlier, while the series was a few weeks along stateside on HBO. KITH aired until 1995, followed by their disavowed feature film, Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy. Mike Myers’ brother Paul recently wrote their authorized memoir, One Dumb Guy. (Bruce McCulloch is also newly interviewed on Canadaland.)


Tall Tale Capital of the World

September 9, 1989 was when CTV aired the final episode of The Red Fisher Show, a fishing and hunting series hosted by legendary outdoorsman and nature poet B.H “Red” Fisher. On his studio set of Scuttlebutt Lodge, Fisher hosted sports figures like Stan Mikita, Eddie Shack and Gordie Howe, and tough guys like Slim Pickens, Ben Johnson, and Alan Hale Jr., to share their riveting outdoor stories of adventure over stock footage of nature:

The series started in 1968, and inspired countless comedy spoofs including The Red Green Show, and John Candy’s “The Fishin’ Musician” on SCTV. Here at Retrontario, we recently uncovered the intro to his show at the end of an old VHS tape. (We’d love to see more, so if anyone out there has more clips of the series please get in touch.)


Sum old award for sale

The iHeartRadio MMVAs weren’t held this year, due to a timing clash with MTV, or something. Back in 2001, when it was still the MuchMusic Video Awards, Sum 41 were the stars of the show, and easily won as Favourite Canadian Group. That trophy below is now for sale on eBay, with a starting bid of $368.83.


Doubling up on M*A*S*H

Moses Znaimer asked the Citytv programming department to take the unusual step of running two reruns of a syndicated show back-to-back daily in fall 1979, to capitalize on its ongoing popularity. The M*A*S*H Hour was born, and the practice was later adapted by independent stations across North America. This promo stars a young Ziggy Lorinc, who was then starting out as a staple of Citytv:


Have tickle trunk, will travel

While Tom Hanks’s performance as Mister Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood won accolades at TIFF, we came across this classified advertisement in a local Scarborough paper from 1983 heralding the appearance of our own kid whisperer Mr. Dressup at the opening of a day care in Scarborough. 


R.I.P. Rod Coneybeare, 89

Best known for playing The Friendly Giant friends Jerome the Giraffe and Rusty the Rooster, from 1958 to 1985, Coneybeare also provided voices for The Busy World of Richard Scarry, X-Men: The Animated Series, and The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3.

The vintage Jerome and Rusty puppets were permanently removed from the CBC Museum in 2007, after the estate of giant Bob Homme (who died in 2000 at age 81) objected to them being used in an off-colour skit at the Gemini Awards. But his puppeteer had more eccentric ideas: after trying to be Canada’s answer to Hugh Hefner on CBC Radio, Coneybeare attempted a psychedelic show for tweens which lasted just six weeks, The Bananas.

Send tips, comments, and other flotsam and jetsam to @retrontario on Twitter, or ed@retrontario.com.

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