‘The over-50 audience was outraged’

Bits and pieces from the interviews – transcribed, shown to the interview subjects, then edited and sanitized in some cases – featured in Rewind and Search by Mary Jane Miller.

Ivan Fecan

Curse you, Red Baron!

The Queen’s coronation in 1953 turned into a steeplechase of transatlantic airliners.

MAVOR MOORE: It was [Stuart] Griffiths who had the idea of putting a hot film processor, as it was called, on the plane so the film could be processed on the way home. None of the other networks had thought of that. We were on the telephone with London and Montreal because the films were going to be put on the air from Montreal (it’s closer to London that Toronto). We were out to beat the big networks.

The plane with the film aboard set out from London. We got word that the NBC plane had started ahead of us, heading for New York. The CBC plane had not yet got off the ground in London. Then we heard that the NBC plane had developed trouble and had returned, while our little airforce plane [sic] was merrily coming across the Atlantic. It landed at Gander, and then we had a frantic phone call.... It was an American air force base, and the Americans would not let them through with the film....

Our guess was that the base had already heard from the American networks saying “If by any chance the Canadians come through, hold them up!” Anyway, there was a pause, and Griffiths on the phone said, “Oscar, how many of them are there?” Oscar said, “Two.” Griffiths said, “How many are there of you?” Oscar said, “Three.” Griffiths said “Rush them!” and hung up. They did, they got through, and they got down to Montreal. Then they came on the air with the tail end of the film, because they hadn’t rewound it. [192–193]

Then NBC ended up piggybacking on the footage, which CBC relayed down to Buffalo. “But the feedback we got from that, which is the point of this long story, is that most of the Canadians watching the Coronation watched it off the Buffalo station, not the Canadian one.”

Trina McQueen

CBC drama has been a marginal activity until now, even though somebody who’s passionate and cunning an overcome the institutional bias against drama... because it’s troublesome and expensive. But it is also what the majority wants, in addition to news and current affairs. [...]

[F]orty years of marginal activity. Therefore, it’s got to be thought of as very high quality. If you’re doing it as a marginal activity, and you have failures, then the public perception is that your failure rate is probably 50%. Every problem that you talk about – people’s lack of identification with it, people’s perception of it as “not good” – results in part from its marginalization. You have to search so hard to find any Canadian TV drama, and then to find the treasures, you have to search even harder.

I remember as a kid, and I know it’s not popular to say this, I hated Don Messer’s Jubilee so much that it turned me against the entire CBC, against the notion of the CBC as an entertaining network.... One program that turns people off, in which they do not see themselves, can destroy their perception of CBC drama. [236–237]