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April 8, 2020 11:55 am  #1

Old CFTO Retrospective Shows How Productive They Once Were

Since Bell got its hands on CTV,  they're certainly had the resources to produce a lot of polished programming, some of which is seen around the world. 

But back when CFTO was a Baton Broadcasting station, and budgets were smaller, it's incredible to consider just how many shows actually came out of their Agincourt studios. That becomes eminently clear in this old special that celebrated 25 years of the station. (It's been on YouTube since 2008, but like so much on the web, I only came across it this week.)

In the half hour program, narrated by one time stalwart Dave Devall, the breadth of shows made (mostly on the cheap and it shows!) is simply incredible. Those of us who go back far enough fondly recall "Bizarre" with John Byner (and the late Bob Einstein),"The Littlest Hobo", or "Definition," but what about obscurities like "The Funny Farm," "Grand Old Country," "Circus," or - God help us - "Downright Disco?"

Lionel Hampton had a jazz show while Ronnie Hawkins fronted something called "Honky Tonk." 

The third part of the special is unfortunately mostly devoted to a long winded speech by then-owner John Bassett, but some of the clips that precede him are simply amazing. And it also shows recently retired newscaster Ken Shaw looking impossibly baby faced and very young.

If this kind of history interests you, it's a tremendous look back at a station that's gone through a lot of changes since the 1980s - but remains forever frozen in time on YouTube. 


April 8, 2020 9:13 pm  #2

Re: Old CFTO Retrospective Shows How Productive They Once Were

In high school our A/V club had a tour of CFTO in the summer of 1973.  They had just built an addition with a large new studio.  When we visited they were producing a Hallmark special for NBC, which never aired in Canada.  They had built the front of a full two story house with front yard and streetscape in the studio, kind of interesting. In another studio were indoor sets for the production.

In another studio Ike and Tina Turner were rehearsing for the Kenny Rogers Show Rollin on the River. Never saw the stars but I was really interested in the crane camera that would move all over the studio with a cameraman riding along and could move about 10 or 12 feet above the floor. So bulky and cumbersome compared to what is used today. 

I remember the fellow that gave us the tour was so proud of the fact that CFTO was using brand new EMI colour cameras that were imported from the UK. They were the only station in North America that had them and in the day they were considered the best studio cameras available in the world with superior resolution and natural colour.  He told us the EMI cameras were only used in the UK, parts of Europe and CFTO.  Very expensive cameras, a little smaller and lighter than others on the market and this allowed for more on air camera movement.

CFTO was a major facility back then but has since had 3 or 4 more additions over the years.  CFTO  was the CFRB of television stations in Toronto. Always sold out, always number one in the ratings and a real money machine.

Last edited by paterson1 (April 8, 2020 9:16 pm)


April 10, 2020 6:18 pm  #3

Re: Old CFTO Retrospective Shows How Productive They Once Were

Didn't they shoot Starlost there?


April 10, 2020 6:46 pm  #4

Re: Old CFTO Retrospective Shows How Productive They Once Were

Chrisphen wrote:

Didn't they shoot Starlost there?

Sure did!!!   starring Robin Ward....


April 10, 2020 7:34 pm  #5

Re: Old CFTO Retrospective Shows How Productive They Once Were

Great post... It warms me to remember when companies tried and were invested in their product.. Nice stuff...


April 11, 2020 12:30 pm  #6

Re: Old CFTO Retrospective Shows How Productive They Once Were

Bell would likely argue that the facility that once was CFTO is actually more productive than 40 or 50 years ago. The 401 facility is much larger  than in the 70/80's and has had some major additions to both studios and office space.

In terms of programming they would argue that there is a lot more produced every day than ever before. TSN is anchored out of the this building with all of it's in studio daily shows, as is CTV News Channel which produces 15 hours of programming daily and the local and CTV national news. Many of Bell's  specialty channels are headquartered in Agincourt. 


Last edited by paterson1 (April 11, 2020 12:31 pm)


April 11, 2020 4:15 pm  #7

Re: Old CFTO Retrospective Shows How Productive They Once Were

CFTO used to air a Star Search type of show in the early to mid 60s.

Anyone recall it or have an y video of it?