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A Trip Down TVO Memory Lane

Thursday, December 7, 2006
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tvologo1.jpg

I was sitting at my desk at work recently when, for no apparent reason, the song Run With Us by Lisa Lougheed started up on the iPod in my head. What prompted it, I have no idea — I haven’t heard the song in probably almost twenty years — but it began a fun night of reminiscing about those carefree, bygone days of my youth where TV filled up much of my waking hours and I ate sugary cereal on a regular basis (thankfully I’ve kicked both those habits).

tvologo2.jpgFor those who need an intro, TV Ontario is Ontario’s public broadcasting station (the provincial version of CBC or PBS). Although, unlike CBC, it is entirely funded by government subsidies and public donations, which means viewers don’t have to suffer through any commericials (although the pledge-drives and incessant solicitations for donations are usually just as annoying). It first hit the air in 1970, and, despite the occasional call for its destruction, is still going strong today (you want the history, go here).

As with most public broadcasters, in order to justify all those subsidies, its mandate has to be to educate. Ergo, throughout its almost 4o year life-span, it has been pumping out a steady stream of educational — especially children’s educational — programming that has the uncanny ability to stick with you even when you’re well past the age of 27. Hence the Run With Us flashbacks.

Run With Us is, of course, the theme song to The Raccoons, which ran as both intermittent specials and a full-fledged series from 1980 – 1992. It followed the exploits of Bert, Ralph and Melissa Raccoon and their friends as they repeatedly thwarted the attempts of the maniacal Cyril Sneer to destroy the Evergreen Forest. As with any Canadian kids show, there were always generous helpings of morals and life-lessons to be learned, but what makes The Raccoons unique in hindsight is just how socialistic it is. Cyril Sneer is the epitome of the stereotypical evil, scum-sucking, earth-destroying capitalist that any Marxist would love to hate. Sneer is determined to milk every single penny he can from the natural resources of the forest, and it’s up to the Raccoons to fend him off simply as a defense of their habitat. It’s no surprise to me that many Canadians of my generation are fairly environmentally conscious — look what we grew up on (the show was also apparently very popular in Russia as well — no surprise given the similarities between the Russian and Canadian landscapes).

A quick search found me The UnOfficial Raccoons Homepage, which has a very generous supply of free multimedia for anyone interested in reliving the animated hijinks of Bert and his pals (including Run With Us in Mp3), and, as always, Wikipedia has a compact and comprehensive overview of the series. You can even get it on DVD at Amazon.

Okay — I know that The Raccoons was actually on CBC and not TVO, but it was from The Raccoons that I got to all the TVO stuff, so I hope you’ll forgive the slight obfuscation. For thinking about the Evergreen Forest naturally lead my mind to dredge up Fables of the Green Forest, a show that was definitely on TVO. Fables of the Green Forest was a cartoon about a bunch of animals living in — wait for it — the Green Forest, and was based on a series of books written by Thornton Burgess in the 1910’s & 1920’s. Once I started down this path, all sorts of titles kept popping into my head — Today’s Special, Dear Aunt Agnes, Cucumber, Readalong, Jeremy, Jamie and the Magic Torch, Belle and Sebastian (where the band got its name), Harriet’s Magic Hats, The Little Prince, Polka Dot Door, Doctor Snuggles, Telefrançais, Simon (hilariously spoofed by Mike Myers on SNL), Barbapapa . . . as you can see, it’s quite a long list. The problem is, I don’t really remember all that much about these shows (it’s been almost 20 years since I would have seen them). I don’t recall whether they were on before school or after, or on Saturday mornings, whether we watched them at school or not (well, Telefrançais we definitely watched at school — Bonjour Ananas!). I began to despair that it would be difficult to find any information, beyond these clips, about all these shows; but, thankfully, a few people have already put in some effort and created a database of sorts.

Classic TVO Kids Shows and TVOntario Children’s Shows of the ’70s Tribute Page are both pretty much the same thing — listings of most of these shows with some screen shots and brief info. If you feel like packing a bag and wandering down memory lane as I did, these sites are the way to go.

There was one more show that I got to thinking about that derserves a more thorough discussion here — The Edison Twins.

(I still knew all the words to this song).

Anyway, this was a great show because it was able to combine the required educational elements with entertaining mysteries that the twins, Tom and Annie, would solve using their science smarts and know-how. I always remember thinking, even as a kid, that this show never talked down to its audience and was always deceptively clever. I remember a few bits — like how once someone was trapped in a basement and used a mirror and flashlight to signal S.O.S. to people outside, or how a pizza parlour owner’s HAM radio attenna was causing some big problem with something. And someone got married at some point. I wish I could remember more, but, alas, it all appears to be gone. Here’s an episode guide if you want it.

That’s all I could come up with. If anyone’s got any more info on any of these shows — or something I didn’t mention — please pass it along. Now back to my songs.

No two days are quite the same . . . 03971semaj

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45 Comments leave one →
  1. Sarah P permalink
    Thursday, December 7, 2006 1:42 pm

    I’m so glad you mentioned Jamie and the Magic Torch, even though it’s actually a British import. And did you know that Barbra Poppa means cotton candy (or spun sugar) in French?

  2. Thursday, December 7, 2006 2:31 pm

    I owe much to TVO. My very first experiences with Doctor Who were on Saturday nights, and then watching Saturday Night at the Movies with Elwy Yost. So that also means I can blame TVO for all my hang-ups as well.

    I don’t think the TVO people realize what a potential ratings coup they have sitting in their archives. If they were to re-broacast a lot of these classics in prime-time on a weeknight, I think it would prove very popular. I’d watch anyway.

  3. Sarah P permalink
    Thursday, December 7, 2006 4:25 pm

    Okay, a little bit of digging, it comes from

    “barbe a pappa”

    meaning father’s beard. Only pink.

  4. James17930 permalink
    Thursday, December 7, 2006 5:07 pm

    I’d definitely love to see the entirety of Belle and Sebastian. From what I remember, there’s an ongoing story that stretches across the entire series.

  5. Sunday, December 10, 2006 9:54 pm

    I have students with Barbapapa notebooks here. I’m not quite sure if some Korean company’s bootlegging them (due to the cute image and the apparent presence of English) or if these are just unsold leftovers from 20 years ago that’ve made the trip. Though the latter seems unlikely because, you know, it’s 20 years. Surely notebook technology has seen noticeable improvement in that time.

  6. Sunday, December 10, 2006 10:18 pm

    Don’t forget about Parlez-Moi. Some of my earliest TV memories are of watching Sol the hobo clown spout out a special kind of gibberish called “French.” Also Willo the Wisp, that TV-witch thing freaked me out back then.

    Does anyone remember any of the following shows? (I don’t know their names.)

    1) This was a short program where this guy with a basketball and short shorts would show up in the park and children would follow him off to some building. Fortunately, I think they only did arts & crafts and such in there. Then they’d go visit his girlfriend who always sat on a bench in front of a ferris wheel.

    2) An art-focused show where two or three kids were always wandering about learning about colours and what not. There was also a woman painter who on at least one occasion made a painting with an infinite perspective which the kids would get trapped in if they looked at.

    3) The show where four kids travel through some sort of futuristic trivia maze in these carts. If a question was answered correctly, the cart would move safely along. But if they got it wrong, the cart would move along a corridor where large protruding spikes would jab at them. (Seriously, I’m not making this shit up.) This may or may not be the same show where kids hang out in a clubhouse where the typewriter writes by itself.

  7. Sarah P permalink
    Monday, December 11, 2006 9:42 am

    Okay, I’m drawing a blank on all three of your shows, but the last line, about a typewritter typing by it’s self (I’m way too excited about this) — I totally know it. There was the typewritter, but there was also a computer that spoke. And a time and space travel machine in the desk-like thingy in the middle of the room. And they were something like kid reporters or investiagtors. Do I remember the name? Not a chance. But I remember being creeped out by it. And I don’t think it was the same thing as the cart maze…but that might have been from one episode I don’t remember.

    • Monday, December 6, 2010 4:24 pm

      The talking monitor and typing typewriter were from “Read All About It!”, 1980, TVOntario. The plot being that a boy, Chris, and two friends. Lynn and Samantha, investigate a carriage house left to the boy via his uncle’s will. The uncle disappeared seven years before and was legally declared dead. They discover the typewriter, Otto and the monitor, Theta along with a warning from the uncle that there are visitors from another world who invaded the town. They can trust no one. They use the excuse of publishing a new paper to continue using the carriage house before the boy’s 21st birthday.

      I am trying to find out about “It’s Mainly Music” starring Heather Conkie which someone at TVOntario says is “Music Box”. Not sure if they are the same program though Conkie did star in both. I distinctly remember the theme repeating the words ‘it’s mainly music’ though.

      Also there was a children’s live action television film which I think was titled, “The Old Owl Who Sees Everything”. About a little girl who searches for clues left by the Old Owl (her grandmother) to find her birthday present (a pony).

      • Juice permalink
        Thursday, February 13, 2014 8:00 pm

        I was on It’s Mainly Music. There is absolutly zero info on the show out there but i have all episodes on Beta!

        • Sunday, February 15, 2015 8:00 pm

          Hey “Juice”. I host two annual TVO reunions with former hosts. Heather has come out to one of ours before. We’re building an archive to preserve and honour their work. I’d very muck like to hear about your experience on “it’s mainly music”. Would you be so kind to get in touch with me, please? My email is travisdoucette@hotmail.com. Also, please see some of the work I have been doing through the TVO Interview series. I am working with a small group of people to honour and celebrate the significant contributions people like Heather made to educational television:

          Looking forward to your reply!

          – Travis

  8. James17930 permalink
    Monday, December 11, 2006 9:49 am

    That very vaguely rings a bell, but I can’t place it.

  9. Sarah P permalink
    Monday, December 11, 2006 9:54 am

    It was called “Read All About It” — I work is done for today.

  10. James17930 permalink
    Monday, December 11, 2006 12:36 pm

    And here’s the visual evidence:

  11. Monday, December 11, 2006 6:27 pm

    Good work, Sarah (and James, for typing the name into youtube). I always thought “Read All About It” was the title of that Readalong-esque show with the three mice who rode the three-seater bicycle. So I know add a fourth question to my list:

    4) What was the name of the show Read-a-long style puppets and the 3 mice who rode the 3seat bike? As I recall, there was also a house, similar to the one in Read-a-long?

  12. AMCM permalink
    Thursday, January 4, 2007 11:00 pm

    Does anyone remember a 5 minute cartoon short that played on Saturday afternoons, a filler after some other show…it was a single white line with a solid colour background; the line that formed the horizon, the single character, and everything else was continuous. The character spoke real gibberish (not French, I’m pretty sure…) and laughed a lot. It was hilarious and I have no idea what it was called…..?

  13. James17930 permalink
    Monday, January 8, 2007 8:34 pm

    No idea.

  14. Friday, January 26, 2007 5:07 am

    Holy shit, yes I do remember that single line show. And while they did speak gibberish, I do believe it was a very French-sounding gibberish. Man, what the hell was that crazy shit?

  15. Ingrid permalink
    Monday, February 19, 2007 4:31 pm

    Please tell me that someone remembers that Saturday morning (I think) magic show they had?! There would be a small group of kids watching this guy perform some card tricks and such….it’s driving me crazy that I can’t remember the name of it.
    Thanks!

  16. James17930 permalink
    Tuesday, February 20, 2007 1:02 am

    I remember Mr. Wizard, wherein a bunch of kids would be watching this guy (Mr. Wizard) perform some science tricks and such . . .

    But can’t think of anything involving magic.

    Unless you count science as magic.

    Which I sometimes do.

    • Monday, December 6, 2010 4:35 pm

      OK, I’ve read the whole thread (on this page) now before I answered. Mr. Wizard was not on TVOntario and there were only one or two kids who would visit his workshop (or was it his home??) at a time.

      The only magic show I remember was in front of a large audience of children and starred Mark Wilson, a stage magician. The show was “The Magic World of Allakazam”.

      There was the local Detroit show starring Milky the Twin Pines Magic Clown, but no mention was made of the magician being a clown. 8-)

  17. BeagleDriver permalink
    Saturday, February 24, 2007 10:30 am

    The line cartoon on TVO was La Linea, you can find it at YouTube:

  18. James17930 permalink
    Saturday, February 24, 2007 1:14 pm

    Holy shit! I remember that now.

  19. Friday, March 30, 2007 11:42 pm

    I miss watching TVO…I live in Detroit, MI so my TV picked up the Ontario channels from across the bridge to Canada.

    I still make jokes about missing Polkaroo but no other American gets it.

  20. Sarah P permalink
    Sunday, September 30, 2007 7:24 pm

    http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=tvofreak&p=r

    They’ve got the entire (?) first season of Read All About It up. Wow.

  21. James17930 permalink
    Sunday, September 30, 2007 7:38 pm

    Maybe I should use this in my classes.

  22. Sunday, September 30, 2007 11:30 pm

    Thank you, Sarah!

    The crazy trivia maze was from Read All About It. Check out

    Especially after the 11 minute mark.

    It wasn’t all made up in my head. Surely they’ll have to release me from the asylum now…right?

  23. Fiona permalink
    Sunday, February 3, 2008 3:46 am

    Drew – That art-focused show was called Artscape – two kids arrived late for a field trip to an art gallery and ended up with a “special” audio guide. They somehow got trapped inside one of the paintings and had to learn about art to get out.

    Here’s a trivia question I wish someone would answer for me – exactly how many shows did Heather Conkie *have* on TVO? I remember two, Dear Aunt Agnes, Report Canada and… there was at least one other. I would only have been about 5 or 6 at the time but even I noticed she was on my TV rather a lot.

  24. Sunday, February 3, 2008 11:16 am

    Thanks, Fiona.

    As for Heather Conkie, I do recall a show about music that starred her and a talking phonograph. According to Wikipedia, Dear Aunt Agnes was a spinoff from a show called It’s Mainly Music, in which Heather played both a young woman and her landlady Agnes. I guess that must have been the talking phonograph show.

    • Michelle permalink
      Tuesday, December 15, 2009 3:43 am

      I remember all these shows – TV Ontario was great TV!

      I was actually in an episode of the Music Box with Heather Conkie.

      I remember very little from the shoot, I was pretty young and very excited.

      I do recall that I said “Inst-woo-ments” (Instruments with a speech impediment) and we sang a song about conductors while a waved my hand pretending to be a conductor – it was a lot of fun.

      I also recall wearing jeans with folded up bottoms and a bright gold t-shirt with the logo. I would love to find some footage!

      • Morgan permalink
        Wednesday, June 2, 2010 10:21 pm

        If you can find footage of Music Box, I would LOVE to see it. I can remember watching it in school, and for some reason I remember the theme song really well…. I know part of it went “It sings and plays, it even talks. It makes things appear with a single pop. It’s mysterious it’s miraculous, it’s the magic of the music box, the magic of the music box!” I cannot find this show ANYWHERE online or anything and I would really love to see it again…even just the theme song :) p.s. I’m American, but I grew up in the Rochester, NY area so we got a lot of the same shows I think…

        • Malcolm permalink
          Wednesday, July 14, 2010 7:21 am

          Hi Michelle, I have all episodes of Music Box if you’re interested. I live in Australia but have sent discs to people from the US and Canada before and they worked for them, so send me a message at malcmcpherson@hotmail.com. Hope this helps.

  25. Sunday, February 3, 2008 11:50 am

    Okay, this is a little off topic, being a question about a show that was aired on CTV (hey, half of the post was about a CBC show), and not necessarily aimed at children. Does anyone remember a show on Saturdays around midday and was about a house where the basement was some sort of gateway through time? I have no idea what the title was, though if it were up to me I would have called it Time Basement—who wouldn’t be intrigued by that name? Oh, and whoever lived there had a butler.

  26. James17930 permalink
    Monday, February 4, 2008 12:18 am

    Absolutely no idea.

  27. Sarah P permalink
    Monday, February 4, 2008 3:43 pm

    Drew, the phonograph show was The Music Box. I watched it all the time. Amazingly, it’s not listed as one of her credits on IMDB. As far as your basement thing goes…not a clue.

    • Jess permalink
      Thursday, March 31, 2011 11:23 pm

      I have been trying to find the name of that show for like 20 years. I remember I had it on tape and I asked everyone who may of remembered it what the name was and no one remembered…this just blew my mind right here.

      • Friday, April 1, 2011 7:51 am

        I still haven’t found out the real name of Time Basement. But I did stumble upon the name of another Canadian Sci-Fi series that went unnamed in my memories for two decades: The Starlost. Sort of like Dr. Who, but without the TARDIS, time travel, or The Doctor.

        • Ron Beal permalink
          Sunday, March 19, 2017 3:38 am

          Reading this post in search of some other TVO stuff, then I went on another site looking and stumbled on a show that might be what you’re looking for, Adventures of Timothy Pilgrim? It was on TVO, not CTV, but sounds similar to what you described.

          • Saturday, September 9, 2017 3:31 pm

            Hi, Ron. Thank you for your help. There are some definite similarities to Timothy Pilgrim but I am 99% sure this was not the same show as “Time Basement”. By coincidence I too discovered Adventures of Timothy Pilgrim last winter while rehashing my search.

  28. Sunday, July 20, 2008 9:47 pm

    Wow! The Raccoons, Inspector Gadget, Today’s Special, Dear Aunt Agnes, Read Along, Jeremy, Harriet’s Magic Hats, The Little Prince, Polka Dot Door, and Read All About It! THANK YOU THANK THANK YOU to all! Some fabulous Canadian shows in there! I grew misty-eyed from those memories, which are absolutely priceless! I have every episode of Dear Aunt Agnes which we enjoy. You’ll never know how much my family and I love this gem of a show. Our kids also LOVED Friendly Giant, Harrigan, Yes You Can, Waterville Gang, and Gigglesnort Hotel, all of which I am trying to collect episodes of. I wish I could get some leads. It is sad we don’t see those on air any more.

    • David permalink
      Saturday, July 16, 2016 11:51 pm

      i encourage you to upload these (esp Dear Aunt Agnes) to someplace, maybe youtube, to share this lost part of history with all of us!

  29. Susan permalink
    Tuesday, July 12, 2011 9:33 pm

    There is this one series that I remember watching at school (teacher showed us videos) and at home when I was a kid in the 80s – so it could be from the 70s…. It was a show about a bunch of kids wondering through a space ship like place and there was this scary head… It was eerie and science fiction…the kids had to solve riddles or something….. Does anyone know?

  30. Sunday, August 24, 2014 2:23 pm

    This site is a treasure trove: http://www.retrontario.com/

    But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
    Time Basement – I know you’re out there

  31. Sunday, February 15, 2015 8:15 pm

    I have so enjoyed reading these comments.

    My name is Travis and along with a small group of other archivists, we have been building an archive of classic TVO and other educational programs. In fact, I have done interviews with many TVO personalities and have had the honour of meeting many of them (including Heather) from the annual TVO reunions I host every year.

    You can watch some of the interviews here:

    Our goal in doing this is to preserve and celebrate the rich history Ontario has in educational programming.

    I know some on this thread have mentioned having off-air copies of TVO episodes they appeared in. If you have anything TVO related from the 70’s or 80’s, I would very much enjoy connecting with you in hopes that you can tribute to this special project.

    If that’s you, please email me at travisdoucette@hotmail.com.

    We are specifically looking for any clips or ANYTHING related to “Report Canada”, “Report Metric” and “Cucumber”. We have a few clips/episodes, but would like to expand the archive. From what we understand, “Report Canada” was broadcast live, so any existing episodes would be recorded, ‘off air’.

    Looking forward to hearing from some of you!

    t.

  32. Anonymous permalink
    Thursday, March 23, 2017 4:14 pm

    Anyone remember a cartoon short in French that had a king who thought a “B” should be an “E” (I may have the letters wrong) and he would have his knights beat people over the head who said the wrong one? Then he would keep beating them until the thought bubble over their head with the letter changed to the one he wanted? Weird I know, but it was an interesting intro to the idea that tyranny often makes a population dumber over time.

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