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August 9, 2018 11:02 pm  #1

Friday Flashback: Firsts & Lasts Part 1

Everything has a sign-on and a sign-off. If you’re lucky, there will be a long pause between each one. With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the Firsts and Lasts of local and network TV.
CBLT Changes The Channel – Three Times!
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of a single TV channel – especially in the analog days – switch dial positions so often. But it happened to the CBC’s Toronto flagship not once, not twice, but three different times.
They first signed on in September 1952, the first television station in Ontario in the days when few had a TV – and those that did were tuned into the one outlet on the air in Buffalo, WBEN.
CBLT began life on Channel 9. But in 1956, it was forced to move to Channel 6, to make way for what would eventually be CFTO on its old dial position. They made sure to inform viewers of the change.

And then, in 1972, it happened again. Channel 6 became channel 5, this time to accommodate the sign on of Global, which had two repeaters in Desoronto and Paris, Ont. Once again, the Corp. was forced to let its audience know what was coming.

CBLT’s final move may have gone mostly unnoticed by viewers when it converted to High Def and its signal was reassigned yet again to Channel 20, although it still shows up as Channel 5 on your over-the-air set.
City TV Debuts Everywhere – And Nowhere
It was the first commercial UHF station in Canada. And it was all done on the cheap. When City TV debuted on Channel 79 in September 1972, it often looked worse than a community cable station. Shows like “Greed” (starring Joey Bishop relative Rummy Bishop, with a young Dan Aykroyd as its announcer) was just one of the in house productions.
Its very first night, the station presented a show about “Casanova,” the famous lover. It featured some minor nudity that became the talk of the town. And it didn’t end there. 
The Friday night “Baby Blue Movie” softcore porn garnered the kind of attention that owner Moses Znaimer could otherwise never afford. And it earned the station a fame it probably didn’t deserve, especially when few people could get its relatively weak signal. Here’s a flyer from just before the sign on, telling people how to get the newcomer and what to expect.

City moved down the dial to Channel 57 in 1983. Its HD channel is 44. Now owned by Rogers, the porn is long gone, eclipsed by much more hardcore material on the cable networks.   
“The Voice” Is Silenced
He had an amazing voice and he was an amazing man. After a very public battle with prostate cancer and then a lesser known one when the disease attacked his kidneys and lungs, City TV’s Mark Dailey finally succumbed to the terrible illness in early December 2010. His funeral attracted a who’s who of celebrities, City TV staffers and friends. And there were a lot of each.
Here’s a look at the memorial pamphlet that was handed out at his service.
The Following Program Is Brought To You In Living Color – But Not In Canada
For years, Canadian viewers watched as American broadcasters constantly left us behind. They had three networks and lots of independent channels. We were lucky to have two of the former (CBC and CTV) and only a few of the latter. And it took years to get either of them.
RCA and CBS were battling over a colour TV system as early as the 50s. (RCA, which owned NBC, finally won, saving us from a clunky system that used a “colour wheel.”) But Canadian stations endlessly went on in monochrome. Why the forerunner to the CRTC dithered on this for so long will never be clear, but the article from 1966 below proves just how long it took to put some hues in our news.
 And Now For Something Completely Different
There’s a famous story that when Merv Griffin had the crew from “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” on his show, he asked “which one’s Monty?” Truth is, this BBC smash was hardly known on this side of the pond and was a complete mystery in the U.S., when the CBC decided to bring the show to Canada back in Sept. 1970. Notice that the ad simply called it “Flying Circus.” Who was Monty, indeed.

Come On Down!
It’s been around so long, there are millions of people alive today who never knew a time when what was then called “The New Price Is Right” was not on the air. (It began as a very different kind of show in the 50s, hosted by the great Bill Cullen.)  The modern version, just half an hour in length, debuted in 1972 and almost 50 years later, is still a throwback to a simpler time in TV. And if the Bare Naked Ladies are right in their hit “It’s All Been Done,” it will still be around on a “30th century night.” Here’s how it was introduced to viewers.

Ay Carumba! Don’t Have A Cow Man!
"The Simpsons" has been on the air for so long, 10-year-old Bart is actually almost 40 now. It started as an interstitial in the Tracey Ullman Show. It graduated to its own half hour program at a time when there hadn’t been a hit animation in primetime since The Flintstones. And yet it endures to this day, at one time all but saving a fledgling Fox network from oblivion. It remains the longest running prime time TV show in North American history.  
Here’s how it was first advertised way back on January 7, 1990.

I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together
It was the last of the great network variety shows and it went off the air with a tug of the ear. After 11 years, Carol Burnett called it quits and that type of sketch and music show would rarely be seen on TV again. Here’s a look at the last two hours of a comedy legend.

The First “Shark Tank” Wasn’t “Shark Tank”
Hey, here’s an idea for a hit show – have people come on and plead for financial backing for their great invention or business idea. Sound like Dragon’s Den or Shark Tank? Guess again. Turns out there was a similar program called “The Big Idea” – and believe it or not, it actually aired way back in 1956, when many of today’s “Sharks” were either not born – or still guppies.

Where Did America’s Funniest Home Videos Get Its First Videos?
How do you start a show about funny home videos without actually having any? The producers of what would become a very long running TV show solicited them in this ad that ran in various publications in August of 1989. It must have worked. What started as a special on ABC is still on the air today.

Play “Boule”
Everyone remembers that first Blue Jays game in the snow in 1977. Others who go farther back recall another first – the official debut of the Montreal Expos in April 1969. The line-up was a mixture of greats and not so-greats. And guess who they faced in that very first official contest? It was the New York “Miracle” Mets, the unlikely winners of the World Series that year.

The Big 10 Goes To Zero
So far, everything has been about TV. But here’s one about radio. It’s a Chicago Tribune article from Feb. 16, 1978 about the end of an era in the Windy City – when WCFL finished its legendary run as a major Top 40 station. As the story notes, those involved weren’t ready – and definitely weren’t happy.

Next week, in Part 2, you’ll see Mark Hamill before there was a Star Wars, find out the show Paul Shaffer was on before Letterman – as an actor, beam into the genesis and ending of a show where no man has gone before, and say goodbye to a Canadian institution.


August 10, 2018 9:11 am  #2

Re: Friday Flashback: Firsts & Lasts Part 1

Monty Python were comic genius

Also the closest American equivalent was perhaps the great Firesign Theatre. Maybe the ID to MP's ego or The Mothers of Invention to the Python's Bonzo Dog Band. A lot of their stuff was radio and TV parody. Granted not for everyone and one had to listen carefully to catch some of the jabs:


Last edited by Fitz (August 10, 2018 9:11 am)

Cool Airchecks and More:

August 10, 2018 9:38 am  #3

Re: Friday Flashback: Firsts & Lasts Part 1

I found the WCFL item interesting. I used to listen to Super CFL at night with my transistor hidden in my pillow at age 12 or so . The signal would boom in at night in Trenton Ontario where my family resided those days. I recall Larry O'Brien and Lujack . Years later when my radio career had ended and I became a truck driver, I used to dial in AM1000 and listen to the re-roll of Steve Dahl and Gary Meir. Another guy from that era I really admired was Kevin Mathews, one of the most  creative shows ever.