home  •    about us  •    courses  •    student work  •    alumni news  •    what's new

CBC Television Series, 1952-1982

by Blaine Allan

Return to
CBC Series Index


Dr. Zonk and the Zunkins

Mon/Wed/Fri 4:30-5:00 p.m., 23 Sep 1974-14 Apr 1975

The Dr. Zonk show was a rapidfire collection of gags and sketches for children. The program was targeted for nine to eleven year olds, and the sketches visualized and dramatized the thoughts and imaginings of a nine year old boy, Billy Meek, played by robin Eveson. He conjured up such characters as Dr. Bob, Miss Lonelykid, Lovestory Man, Ms. A Vaughn, Goomba, Honest Ralph the salesman, and the computer Zunkins, Zooey and Dunkin.

The half-hour show was the product of CBC Children's television department producer Don Elder and director Trevor Evans. They enlisted the talents of a company of young Toronto performers, including John Candy, Dan Hennessey, Bob McKenna, Rosemary Radcliffe, Gilda Radner, Fiona Reid, and John Stocker. The Zunkins puppets were played by Nina Keogh and John Stocker. The series, which ran for thirty weeks, was not received particvularly well. It was criticized for its excess of rambunctious pratfalls, and for its attempts at comedy that just didn't come off. One critic also guessed that the show missed its mark because it was inauthentic, "a trendy, media- minded notion of what kids like" (Maclean's [May 1975]). Perhaps more to the point, a CBC viewers' survey told the producers that children found the program "too childish."

The next year, a few of the cast members achieved greater success: Fiona Reid took the role of Cathy King in King of Kensington and Gilda Radner became one of the charter cast members of NBC Saturday Night Live. John Candy and Rosemary Radcliffe starred in Coming Up Rosie, a second try by Elder and Evans at producing a hip children's show for the CBC.

The Doctors

A four part series on public health. No other information at this time.


Various Days and Times, 16 Sep 1962-27 May 1969

Patrick Watson and Douglas Leiterman were the executive producers of Document, a series of documentary films that ran on the network on an irregular basis, on different days of the week and in varying time slots, until 1965, when it became a monthly replacement for This Hour Has Seven Days on Sunday nights. After Seven Days was taken off the air in May 1966, Document went into hibernation for a year. When it returned, to give The Way It Is a spell one week each months, Richard Nielsen took over as executive producer.

Works by some of the most prominent documentary filmmakers of the period aired on Document. Among frequent contributors were producers and directors Allan King and Beryl Fox, as well as Leiterman himself. Individual programs included: The Servant of All, by Leiterman and Fox (l6 September 1962); Joshua, a Nigerian Portrait, by King (6 March 1963); The Pull To The South (2l March 1963); The Balance of Terror, by Leiterman and Fox (28 July 1963); The Peacemakers, by King (26 November 1963); The Quiet Takeover, by Leiterman, on the computer (l5 December 1963); The Chief, a portrait of John Diefenbaker, by Leiterman and Fox (25 March 1964 and 3l January 1965); Bjorn's Inferno, a profile of poet Bjorn Halverson, by King (20 April 1964); The Image Makers, a study of public relations in Canadian and the U.S.A. (20 May 1964); The Single Woman and the Double Standard, by Fox (l3 December 1964); Richard and Lillian: Two Portraits (27 December 1964); Strike: Man Against Computers, by Larry Zolf (28 March 1965); At the Moment of Impact, by Jim Carney (7 November 1965); Mills of the Gods, Fox's examination of the Vietnam war (5 December 1965); Joan Baez (26 December 1965); A Sense of Captivity, on the penitentiary in Canada, by Ross McLean (23 January 1966); The Story of Sandy (27 February 1966); How To Go Out Of Your Mind, a study of LSD and the institute for psychedelic research at Millbrook (24 April 1966); No Balm in Gilead (22 September 1968); Resurrection City, about the Poor People's Campaign, directed by Robert Hoyt (l7 November 1968); Occupation (23 February 1969); Violence, by James Shaw and John David Hamilton (l3 April 1969); and If I Don't Agree, Must I Go Away?, by Peter Pearson (27 May 1969).

Documentary '60

Sun 5:30-6:00 p.m., 25 Oct 1959-29 May 1960

Documentary '60 succeeded The Candid Eye as a series of twenty-six, half- hour films produced by the National Film Board for the CBC. In part, it continued the work of the earlier program in showing seven of the vivid, yet informal, direct cinema productions overseen by NFB producer Tom Daly. The series also included programs produced by David Bairstow and Nicholas Balla.

Films broadcast in the series included: I Was A Ninety-Pound Weakling, the witty examination of fitness, directed by Wolf Koenig; End of the Line, on the railroads' conversion from steam to diesel, directed by Terence Macartney-Filgate; This Electronic World; Glenn Gould: Off the Record and Glenn Gould: On the Record, directed by Wolf Koenig and Roman Kroitor; Emergency Ward, a report from the Montreal General Hospital; The Back- Breaking Leaf, on the Ontario tobacco harvest, directed by Terence Macartney-Filgate; The Little Sisters, a portrait of cloistered nuns; Tri- Services Review, on the domestic and foreign activities of the Canadian military in 1959; The Performer, a program on the arts in Canada, with interviews with soprano Teresa Stratas, pianist Oscar Peterson, and dancers Celia Franca and David Adams; Men Against The Ice, on the conquest of the Northwest passage, produced by David Bairstow ; Steering North, on Arctic navigation; The Inquiring Mind, an examination of scholarly research in different fields, directed by Bairstow; The Cars in Your Life, a look at automobile culture, directed by Terence Macartney-Filgate and Fergus McDonnell; Poisons, Pests, and People, produced by Bairstow; Life and Radiation; The Power of Matter, broadcast in two parts; Between Two Wars, a series of three films (The Good Bright Days; Sunshine and Eclipse; and Twilight of an Era) on Canada from 19l8 to 1939, produced by William Weintraub; On Prescription Only, a study of chemotherapy; Georges P. Vanier: Soldier, Diplomat, Governor General, the portrait directed by Clement Perron; and Bright Land, a film about the West Indies.

Dollars and Sense

Sun 1:00-1:30 p.m., 1 Oct 1972-10 Jun 1973

Sun 1:00-1:30 p.m., 30 Sep 1973-16 Jun 1974

Sun 1:00-1:30 p.m., 5 Jan-29 Jun 1975

Dollars and Sense was a weekly, half-hour examination of business, labour, and finance, produced in Toronto and presented by Gordon Jones. The show's executive producers were John Lackie (l972-74) and Doug Lower (l974-75).

Don Messer's Jubilee

Fri 9:30-10:00 p.m., 7 Aug-25 Sep 1959

Mon 7:30-8:00 p.m., 28 Sep 1959-26 Jun 1961

Mon 7:30-8:00 p.m., 25 Sep 1961-25 Jun 1962

Mon 7:30-8:00 p.m., 1 Oct 1962-1 Jul 1963

Mon 7:30-8:00 p.m., 30 Sep 1963-29 Jun 1964

Mon 7:30-8:00 p.m., 28 Sep 1964-28 Jun 1965

Mon 7:30-8:00 p.m., 13 Sep 1965-13 Jun 1966

Mon 7:30-8:00 p.m., 12 Sep 1966-12 Jun 1967

Mon 7:30-8:00 p.m., 11 Sep 1967-10 Jun 1968

Fri 8:30-9:00 p.m., 20 Sep 1968-20 Jun 1969

Don Messer's Jubilee appeared on the national network in the same time slot for virtually an entire decade, and became one of the most beloved programs CBC television has ever produced. Produced in Halifax by Bill Langstroth, it presented a selection of old-time, country, and Maritime-flavoured folk music, and gained the loyalty that characterizes audiences of traditional, country music.

Messer was born in Tweedside, New Brunswick, the youngest of eleven children in a musical family, and had played the fiddle since he was a boy. He had organized a band, the New Brunswick Lumberjacks, in the 1930s, and played on the Saint John radio station and in towns and villages throughout the Atlantic provinces. When Messer took the job of director of old-time music for CFCY radio in Charlottetown, he took his band with him, they changed their name to the Islanders, and produced a radio broadcast three times a week. Television broadcasts to the Maritime network, which consisted of stations in Halifax, Saint John, Sydney, and Moncton, started 7 November 1957, Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. National broadcasts started when Messer's show replaced Country Hoedown for the summer of 1959. When the summer ended, Country Hoedown--a more citified production--returned to its Friday slot and the more homespun Messer show migrated to Monday nights, where it stayed until its penultimate year on the national network.

As the show's musical director and arranger, Messer was the program's musical focus. In name, at least, he was also the program's host, but Messer did not speak much and projected an unassuming on-air personality. In fact, he had gathered an ensemble of musicians and performers who characterized the show as much as he did. Charlie Chamberlain, the large and broad, bilingual singer dressed in lumberjack's clothing, had served as a comic foil for Messer's show since he joined the troupe in the 1930s. Another veteran was Duke Nielsen, reputedly a roustabout, fire eater, and bear wrestler who could play twenty-two different musical instruments. Marg Osburne had joined the Islanders as the second featured vocalist in 1947, and conveyed a folksy elegance in contrast to Chamberlain's rowdier image. The Islanders also included Rae Simmons, Waldo Murdo, Cec MacEachern; and Warren MacRae. In addition to weekly guests, the show also featured organist Ray Calder and vocalists Catherine McKinnon (l964-66) and Johnny Forrest (l966-69). The Gunter Buchta Dancers, a troupe of ballroom, folk, and square dancers also appeared regularly on the broadcasts. Choreographer Buchta had actually three groups in three different age ranges: the seniors (ages seventeen to twenty-five), the juniors (thirteen to sixteen), and the Little Buchta Dancers (six to eight). The voice of Don Messer's Jubilee was announcer Don Tremaine.

The network's decision to cancel the show in 1969 provoked a strong response from viewers across the country. Although the CBC did not reconsider its decision, the show was picked up for syndication by private station, CHCH-TV Hamilton. On the national network, Don Messer's Jubilee was succeeded by, ironically, Singalong Jubilee, also produced in Halifax by Bill Langstroth. Though no less formulaic than the Don Messer Show, it presented more current music as well as the traditional, and showcased younger talent, such as Langstroth himself, Gene McLellan, and Anne Murray.

Photo (courtesy of CBC) shows Charlie Chamberlain.

Dorchester Theatre

Fri 9:00-9:30 p.m., 28 Jun-27 Sep 1957

This was a summer series of half-hour dramas, produced in Montreal by Ken Davey. The plays included original works in English and translations of scripts previously produced on the French language service of the CBC. Titles included Teeter Totter, by M. Charles Cohen, The Bicycle, by Marcel Dube, and The Imperfect Crime, by Eloi de Grandmont.

Double Exposure

Formerly titled Pick Of The Week (q.v.), Double Exposure was a title given to daytime broadcasts of films and programs already aired on the CBC. Programs were coordinated by Lyal Brown, Rosalind Farber, and Harry Randall.

Double Up

Mon 9:30-10:00 p.m., 1 Jul-2 Sep 1974

Sat 6:30-7:00 p.m., 28 Sep-5 Oct 1974

Double Up, a summer replacement for the panel quiz show, This Is The Law, had as its most obvious source the 1950s program, You Bet Your Life, with Groucho Marx. On that obviously chintzy game show (in contrast to The $64,000 Question, Groucho asked questions that were worth $50 or so), the simple quiz ran second to the chat with the contestants, where Groucho always remained at least one step ahead of his guests. Double Up also had a simple question-and-answer type of quiz (the show's title referred to the fact that, of the three competing pairs of contestants on each show, one would return at the conclusion for the chance to double their money), and also depended of the cleverness of host Hart Pomerantz. Pomerantz, a practicing lawyer, had worked as a comedy writer and performer with his partner Lorne Michaels. For several years, he had also been the comic relief panelist on This Is The Law. Hart never became Canada's Groucho.

Double Up was produced by Jack Budgell and Danny Finkleman, also trained as a lawyer, and who had knocked around the CBC for several years as a mass culture fan and common-man-trying-to-make-his-way-in-the-world style of commentator on CBLT-TV's The Morning After and CBC Radio's This Country In The Morning, and he would soon have his own CBC radio show on Saturday mornings. Warren Davis was the show's George Fenneman-like announcer.

The Doug Crosley Show

Sat 7:00-7:30 p.m., 16 Jun-21 Jul 1973

For years, Doug Crosley had appeared in stage shows, including Spring Thaw, and on CBC shows such as Juliette as a slick Robert Goulet-like crooner of ballads and show tunes. When he returned home to Winnipeg from Toronto in the early l970s, he grew his hair and a moustache, and changed his image. For this half-hour summer show, created by Perry Rosemond, Crosley also changed his musical associations, and performed tunes with a country tinge. The program was produced in Winnipeg by Larry Brown, and written by Tom Ashmore and Omar Williams. Singers Liliane Stillwell and Sherisse Laurence, country band Humphrey and the Dumptrucks, and the Dave Shaw Orchestra, along with weekly guests, shared the stage with Crosley.

Down Home Country

Fri 9:00-10:00 p.m., 11 Jul-5 Sep 1975

Tom Gallant, a New Brunswick singer and songwriter, was the star and host of Down Home Country, a summer replacement for The Tommy Hunter Show (produced at one-half the budget). The show was produced by Stan Jacobson, who had had gained experience in variety at the CBC, and in country music programs with The Johnny Cash Show, in the U.S.A. In Down Home Country, he tried to combine country with music, and to feature new, principally Canadian, talent. Guests included Chad Allan from Winnipeg, "Diamond" Joe White from Calgary, Colleen Peterson and Sneezy Waters, both from Ottawa, Jesse Winchester, the U.S. expatriate living in Montreal, John Edmunds from Cape Breton Island, Hal Marks, Myrna Lorrie, the Good Brothers. The show also reached farther out for prestigious country music performers from the United States, such as Kenny Rogers, Waylon Jennings, and Jessi Colter.

Gallant was supported musically by a trio of singers called Blue Jane (Stephanie Taylor, Diane Miller--who had appeared together as two-thirds of a "girl group" called the Girlfriends a decade before on Music Hop, a CBC series also produced by Jacobson--and Judi Richards). Comedy was provided by character actor Harvey Atkin, as Chuck Wagon, comic Peter Cullen (formerly of CBC Radio's Funny You Should Say That) as Luke Warm, and comic and musician Nancy White (later the satirical and topical "civil service songwriter" for CBC Radio's public affairs show, Sunday Morning).

Drama At Ten

Mon 10:00-11:00 p.m., 25 JUl-3 Aug 1955

Mon 10:00-11:00 p.m., 13/20 Aug 1956

Drama At Ten, a summer series, repeated one hour productions that had been previously presented on General Motors Theatre. They were: Roman Gesture, by Ira Perry, produced by Silvio Narizzano (25 July 1955); Witch Magic is White?, a comedy about modern day witchcraft by Martyn Coleman, adapted by Leslie Duncan, and starring Winnifred Dennis, Tony Van Bridge, Eric Christmas, and Margaret Braidwood (l August 1955); and Deadlier Than the Male, by Terry Newman (8 August 1955).

Next year's series included The American (l3 August 1956) and Arthur Hailey's adventure play, Flight Into Danger (20 August 1956).

Dress Rehearsal

Tue 4:30-5:00 p.m., 7 Jul-25 Aug 1970

Tue 5:00-5:30 p.m., 6 Jul-21 Sep 1971

Tue 5:00-5:30 p.m., 4 Jul-11 Jul 1972

Thu 5:00-5:30 p.m., 23 Aug-6 Sep 1973

Thu 5:00-5:30 p.m., 6 Jun-25 Jun 1974

The first six shows in the 1970 summer series from the network's Children's television department were a preview of Drop In (q.v.), a young people's magazine show slated to start in the autumn season. The concluding two programs were similar, public "dress rehearsals" for Ooops (q.v.) and Cabbages and Kings (q.v.). Subsequent series also provided advance looks at potential children't programming on the CBC. The show was overseen by Ray Hazzan (l970) and Don Elder (l97l-74).


In the early 1960s, Rex Hagon and Susan Conway had etched themselves into the memories of Canada's youth as two of the children on The Forest Rangers. They were less successful in the 1970s as hosts of Drop-In, a general interest program for ten to fourteen year olds. Although the program was eclectic, shows usually concentrated on a specific theme, such as magic (with guest Doug Henning) or love or changing fashions. Hagon, Conway, fellow hosts Pat Rose and Nina Keogh, and occasional visitors Lynne Griffin and Jeff Cohen explored such topics through in-studio interviews and filmed reports. Drop-In also included puppet performances by Nina Keogh, comic sketches, called the Drop-In Little Theatre, and music by semi-regular Ron Nigrini's Gentle Rock Band, and by guest bands, such as Copper Penny, Milestone, the System, Yours Truly, and the Perth County Conspiracy.

Drop-In's rather flaccid format expanded to include, by the 1972 season, a selection of hosts from eight centres across the country. By the 1973 season, the producers sent Keith Christie to shoot thirteen shows on Canadian children's activities in France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and the U.K.

The producers of Drop-In were Bob Gibbons (l970-72) and Hedley Read (l972- 74); the executive producers were Ray Hazzan (l970-73) and Don Elder (l973- 74).

The Drug Business

The Drug Business was a series of three, half-hour programs on the manufacture and marketing of drugs in Canada.

Return to CBC Series Index

Queen's University