memories of the ’80s – Kids in the Hall

In the Great White North, we’re known for producing some funny people, and in the late 1980s, five guys went from being sketch comedy club faves to tv stars with The Kids in the Hall.

Forming as a sketch comedy group in 1985 with Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney, Scott Thompson and Dave Foley, the group were lured to the US for various tv opportunities as individuals.

In 1988, the group created a tv special on CBC and HBO and its success led to the television series The Kids in the Hall on CBC TV and HBO in 1989, a quirky and surreal series of sketches, produced by Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels.

Similar to Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Kids in the Hall had many reccuring characters, often portrayed women and openly discussed sexuality, fetishes, sports, oddities of life, regional differences and society’s norms through monologues.

Scott Thompson’s Buddy Cole became a fan fave, as well as rebellious teen Bobby Terrence, stoner Bauer, The Chicken Lady and precocious Gavin. Other regular sketches were 30 Helens Agree, It’s a Fact!, Headcrusher, Police Department, Sizzler Sisters and The Daves I Know.

The series spawned many obsessions and certainly was a cult fave for those who watched late night tv and HBO. In the US, in the 1990s the series started airing on CBS TV late night, which increased the group’s fan base. This led to the film Brain Candy, which didn’t have much success at the box office but became a cult fave.

In recent years, the group has reformed, but its the early days of The Kids in the Hall that is quintessentially funny and oh so Canadian.



memories of the ’70s – Romper Room

For kids in Canada in the 1970s, they soon woke up to their own show – starring Miss Fran on Romper Room.

Created in the United States in 1953, the show’s focus on preschoolers, those who were five and younger, was new to the television airwaves.

The first shows aired nationally in the US were hosted by Miss Nancy, but soon the show was syndicated locally. In Canada, the first version appeared in Windsor, for the Detroit and Windsor tv market starring Miss Ardis and Miss Flora.

Other cities such as Halifax, Saint John, Hamilton, Kelowna, Winnipeg, Barrie, Montreal and St. John’s created local versions of the popular show. But the show went national on CTV via CKCO TV in Kitchener Ontario with Miss Fran.

Miss Fran (Fran Pappert) would welcome kids (those watching and in person) with the Pop Goes the Weasel theme song and had Mr. Do Bee as well as the very popular Magic Mirror segment, where the host would call out kids names that she would see via the mirror.

Airing until 1992, Romper Room was the way so many Canadian kids started the day at 6:30am – it was 30 minutes of kid-friendly fun and silliness with a dash of education.

memories of the ’80s – The Golden Girls

Despite the fixation on youth culture, 1980s tv featured four women who were seniors – and certainly unabashedly living their lives to their fullest: The Golden Girls.

Created by Susan Harris in 1985, the girls were Dorothy (Bea Arthur), an outspoken divorcee with two children; Sophia (Estelle Getty), who is Dorothy’s mother and a opinionated widow who had lived in a retirement home but moves in with the girls; Blanche (Rue McClanahan) a widow with six children and sex on the brain; and Rose (Betty White) a soft-spoken widow with five children who works as a grief counsellor.

The girls share a house in Miami, Florida and their lives, with episodes revealing the reality of aging, women’s issues, dating, health, children, money as well as the hilarity of how all these issues intersect.

The girls also deal with one another personalities, each one offering their own perspective of the world and how society has changed. There’s plenty of poking fun at each other’s stereotypes, much to the delight of viewers.

This show was an immediate hit after its debut in September 1985. For seven seasons, the girls were bound by love and death and laughs, and were rewarded with 68 Emmy nominations, including 11 Emmy wins, as well as each actress winning an Emmy for their acting.  It is one of three television shows in history to have awarded every lead actor an Emmy Award.

In the time on air, The Golden Girls was ranked in the top 10 for tv series each year until their final seventh season.

And despite not being young actresses or those involved in a dramatic evening soap opera style series, The Golden Girls was everyone’s favourite way to spend a half hour in front of the television.

memories of the ’70s – A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Since the Peanuts gang was particularly fond of holidays, Charles Schulz created A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which aired for the first time in 1973.

As the 10th animated special starring Charlie Brown and friends, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, it starts with a classic scene of Lucy holding the football for Charlie, but of course, pulling it away at the last minute.

But the real story is Charlie’s dilemma over Thanksgiving, where he’s supposed to head off with the family to dinner at his Grandmother’s house, but he has Peppermint Patty, Marcie and Franklin inviting themselves over for dinner.

So thanks to Linus, Charlie is hosting dinner, with the help of chefs Snoopy and Woodstock, with a quick discussion of the American story of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving. But dinner isn’t a success and Patty blames Charlie, but cooler heads prevail and all the kids head to Grandmother’s house, while Snoopy and Woodstock enjoy a traditional dinner of their own.

Featuring music by Vince Guaraldi and the voices of Bill Melendez, Todd Barbee, Stephen Shea, Hilary Momberger, Robin Kohn and Christopher DeFaria, the special is sweet, sentimental and has a lesson, an atypical Peanuts special.

First aired on November 20, 1973, the Thanksgiving tv special has aired every year in November on CBS until 2001, where it has since aired every year on ABC TV. And no matter what, certain traditions are just too good to not have.

memories of the ’80s – Newhart

Comedian Bob Newhart returned to the small screen in the 1980s to welcome back his old audience and bring in a new fanbase with his sitcom Newhart.

Newhart’s new show debuted on CBS in October 1982, paired with actress Mary Frann as a couple who owns an  inn in rural Vermont and are surrounded by an odd group of friends, employees and guests.

Newhart plays DIY author Dick Loudon and Frann plays Joanna, both who moved from New York City to small town Vermont. The supporting cast included Tom Poston as George the handyman, Jennifer Holmes and Julia Duffy as rich sisters Leslie and Stephanie who take jobs at the inn for a lark.

Three other unique characters included Larry, Darryl and Darryl, backwoodsmen who live in a shack and soon become regulars to hang out at the inn, played by William Sanderson, Tony Papenfuss and John Volstad.

Newhart once again showed off Bob Newhart’s low key comedic style, letting the cast be the dramatic foil to his quiet demeanor. Eventually Newhart starts a tv show in Vermont, showcasing the DIY and the rural life.

Int he top 20 for almost all of its eight season run, Newhart was a tv viewer favourite, a sitcom that looked at small town life, with a unique view, and certainly let the crazy characters almost steal the show.

memories of the ’70s – The Bob Newhart Show

A well-known comedian in the 1960s, Bob Newhart took his low-key brand of laughs and created a sitcom for the 1970s: The Bob Newhart Show.

Newhart played psychologist Dr. Bob Hartley, with his wife Emily played by Suzanne Pleshette and his best buddy Howard played by Bill Daily. Marcia Wallace played Carol, a smartass receptionist.

Despite stiff competition from other networks sitcoms, including MASH, Maude and Sanford and Son, fans of the comedian loved his 30 minute show. Each episode opened with a monologue by Newhart, speaking on the phone to a patient.

There were several recurring patient characters that became favourites including Elliot Carlin, a seemingly normal person who created problems, Mrs Lillian Bakerman who avoided talking about anything concrete but knitted constantly or Michelle Nardo who would do all the talking during the session.

Debuting in September 1972 for CBS Television, the straight man efforts of Bob Newhart as he dealt with his family, friends, colleagues and patients were popular with viewers. The show was steady in the top 20 for several seasons, thanks to being in the time slot after The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

The show received several Emmy nominations but never won. But for fans of comedian Bob Newhart, this weekly show was a treat in his unique comedic style.

memories of the ’70s – The Waltons

In the early 1970s, there was one family we spent time with weekly: The Waltons.

Based on the book Spencer’s Mountain written by Earl Hamner Jr, the series (also created by Hamner) focused on the life of a rural Virginia family through the Depression and World War II.

A 1963 film, Spencer’s Mountain was produced and directed by Delmer Davies, and starred Henry Fonda and Maureen O’Hara.

The television series debuted as a tv movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, airing December 19, 1971. The hour long drama debuted on CBS TV in September 1972, although with different actors playing John and Olivia Walton – Andrew Duggan and Patricia Neal. They were replaced by Ralph Waite and Michael Learned for the series. Grandpa and Grandma Walton were played by Edgar Bergen and Ellen Corby.

Told from the point of view of the eldest son John-boy Walton, the series showed what is was like for families surviving the depression, and the changes that occurred from 1933 and during the war years of the 1940s.

Each episode would be narrated by John-boy, who was 17 when the series starts, played by Richard Thomas. His six siblings were Jason, Mary Ellen, Erin, Ben, Jim-Bob and Elizabeth.

Showing a wholesome family with traditional American values in the early 1970s, CBS put the series opposite tough opponents in the same 8pm timeslot, The Flip Wilson Show and The Mod Squad.

At the time the US Government had criticized televison and held congressional hearings into the current state of television. Many of the actors thought the series would be ignored by the viewing public, and created to appease the government.

Although it didn’t get the top 10 ratings in the first season, the series was recognized for the amazing acting, awarding Richard Thomas and Michael Learned repeated Emmy nominations and awards.

After its first year, the series earned a Peabody Award, for its showcase of issues. The series may not have fixated on the extremes of life, but it did show the despair, poverty, alcoholism and hardship that came from surviving that period of American history.

Viewers were enamored of the life the Waltons led, as much as the folksy camradererie of three generations of family that lived under the same roof – and the learned to deal with the changing world.

And as dedicated viewers know, for 10 seasons, every night, the bedtime chatter always ended with evening greetings – Good night John-boy.