Over the years, a number of Canadian pundits have proclaimed that one of the reasons Canadians don’t support (or at least didn’t support) their own home-grown entertainers was because Canada did not have its own “star system”, as did places such as Australia, England, France, USA and others.
Well, there always has been one in Quebec, but that is a different story altogether and as this space deals mainly with goings-on in English Canada, we’ll leave that one for another time.
But, back in the days when most Canadians could only receive a single channel on their television sets, which was usually CBC-TV, there was a star system, only we didn’t recognize it as such. It was all so terribly dull and Canadian, you see.
That system was the CBC itself, and for all the flack we have given the Canadian Broadcasting System over the years, the television arm of the corporation did, at one time; provide a special outlet for a number of Canadian performers who, for those of us past a certain birth date, will most likely always be remembered.
There was The Tommy Hunter Show, featuring Mike, Mark and Jack, also known as The Rhythm Pals. They came to us on Saturday nights from Toronto. From down Halifax way, we had Don Messer’s Jubilee and Sing-along Jubilee, which featured a young Anne Murray.
Other performers who earned quite a following from their CBC-TV programs included the incomparable Wayne and Shuster, songstress Juliette and comics Don Harron and Gordie Tapp.
On the dramatic side of things, Wojeck with John Vernon was a big hit, as was Quentin Durgens, MP, featuring Gordon Pinsent.
And, who can ever forget the rascally This Hour has Seven Days news program, which made household names of its hosts Laurie Lapierre and Patrick Watson.
We can say a lot of things about the CBC, but we can’t say it didn’t make a good stab at giving us our own television “stars”. If we didn’t follow its lead, we have no one to blame but ourselves.