A Trip Down TVO Memory Lane
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).
For 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