The Littlest Hobo: Maybe tomorrow forever

40 years of the “new” doggie style

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October 11, 1979 was when The New Littlest Hobo debuted on CTV. It was the third iteration of the adventures of a nomadic do-gooder German Shepherd, following the U.S film The Littlest Hobo (1959) and the black-and-white syndicated TV series The Littlest Hobo (1963-65).

The new Hobo was shot on videotape and ran for six seasons. But it’s been immortalized through endless reruns—not to mention the tearjerking theme song performed by Toronto’s jinglest guru Terry Bush. He was also behind “I Adore My Commodore 64” and spots for Canada Dry.

(John Crossen, who wrote the theme lyrics, earned some prominent obituaries that highlighted Hobo when he died last year.)

Guest stars often fit one of three categories: emerging local talent like Megan Follows, Michael Ironside and Mike Myers; Cancon perennials like Billy Van, Al Waxman, Harvey Atkin and Rex Hagon; and Hollywood legends like Abe Vigoda, Keenan Wynn, Vic Morrow, Henry Gibson and Ray Walston.

The true auteur of the series was probably Charles “Chuck” Eisenmann (1918-2010), a Second World War baseball pioneer turned dog handler who owned and trained all of the dogs on both TV incarnations of Hobo. He appeared as a dog trainer in the 1979 season:

When Elwy signed off on Speed

October 2, 1999 was Elwy Yost’s final appearance as host of TVOntario’s Saturday Night at the Movies. Kleenex was flowing as Elwy bid adieu with a screening of his son Graham Yost’s screenplay smash from five years earlier, Speed. Between sharing memories and shouting-out viewers, he played the animated intro to his old nightly series, Magic Shadows. (Elwy died on July 21, 2011 in Vancouver, soon after turning 86.)

Public broadcasting faces 50th year

October 5, 1970 was when Public Broadcasting Service launched as a network across the U.S. It debuted eight days after TVO, which was first branded as OECA. (Ontario Educational Communications Authority remains its formal name.)

Ontario viewers accounted for over half of the pledge-drive donations to the education station that became Buffalo’s PBS outlet: WNED 17 brought more Lawrence Welk, Sesame Street, Monty Python and Doctor Who into our living rooms. But no Canadian channel could compete with the fundraiser characters, especially Goldie Gardner:

A Snuffleupagus by any other name

It was in Sesame Street’s 17th season premiere in 1985 that the adults on screen finally got to see Mr. Snuffleupagus. Until that day, he was assumed to be Big Bird’s imaginary friend, who always disappeared just before a grown-up saw him.

The writers were motivated to make Snuffy seen by everyone as they feared children who may be abused by adults would worry no one would believe them, per their long-standing dubiousness toward Big Bird.

And yet, this thinking didn’t reach TVO for another decade: Polkaroo from Polka Dot Door remained an imaginary friend until 1995’s Polka Dot Shorts.

He Said It, He Video’d It

Nostalgia for Sam the Record Man’s flagship at 347 Yonge Street rarely extends to discussion of its home video department, which started as one of Toronto’s very first VHS and Betamax rental outfits, then expanded as the movie marketplace evolved:

Sam’s was a haven for LaserDisc collectors, until 1991’s opening of the HMV Superstore stole their thunder with Japanese imports and loyalty cards. So, by the time DVD became the mass-appeal format, Sam the Video Man was a shadow of its former self.

My God… a city of Apes!

Citytv’s Great Movies got big on theme weeks in the 1980s: they did Bond Week, Godzilla Week, Elvis Week and John Wayne Week. But we were most enthralled by Planet of the Apes Week. A long-time Retrontario Holy Grail has finally surfaced, thanks to a grainy old 1987 off-air recording. Get a load of Mark Dailey’s excitable pronunciation of “APES!”  

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