Saturday, March 21, 2009

Popcorn Playhouse and Other Memories of CFRN


For some reason I was recently flashing back to the Edmonton TV show Popcorn Playhouse (as were you obviously). We loved/hated it but watched it religiously.

It featured Klondike Eric interviewing 5 and 6-year old kids, in the belief that whatever comes out of a child's mouth will be funny or adorable - in the Art Linkletter mold I guess.

Often you would see such journalism feats as these questions: "How old are you?", "What's your name?", or "What revolting object have you just plucked out of your nostril?"

The highlight of the show was when either a kid licked the microphone, or when some kid shoveling sand into the 'gold mine' struck it rich with 5 or more foil wrapped coins.

It was only recently I wondered where the parents of these cretins were at the time of the shows airing - were they just behind the cameras? Or were they holed up in a room somewhere, pounding back scotch and inhaling unfiltered cigarettes with wild abandon?

I also liked the worst puppet in creation, that being Muskeg the Moose - a moose head hanging on the wall with a string tied to his chin ("And the Emmy for Set Decoration goes to..."). I think he told riddles or something.

As a grownup I can feel the pain of the talent involved. The poor hosts must have become alcoholic wretches after that much exposure to that many children.
One of my deeper regrets in life was never being a guest on this show. I think it should be resurrected just for that purpose someday, now that we could appreciate it.

I may be mixing memories here, but I think the Great Gaby Haas and the Ipecac Orchestra would sometimes entertain on this show. You haven't lived until you've rocked to Gaby and his accordion stylings of Beatles tunes believe me.

The only other thing from CFRN TV I recall were the news broadcasters.

There was the goofy-voiced Bruce Hogle, the news director, and also Sid (Syd?) Lancaster, the anchor who smoked. You could see his cigarette sitting there on the desk, smoke swirling upwards, as he gamely tried to introduce news stories.

TV really was dreadful back then wasn't it? How could we ever get excited about a TV camera aimed at a radio announcer reading the news and smoking? Well we did, and it was wildly entertaining let me tell you.

I wonder if his news copy ever caught fire. Try THAT Entertainment Tonight...

1 comment:

Sydney said...

HI Dave,
I remember Popcorn Playhouse, Muskeg, Eric Neville ( the long-suffering host) and the rest of the CFRN gang very well ... Sid Lancaster was my dad. He was definitely 'old school' when it came to broadcasting, I agree ... but such were the times out here too. Dad began in radio, in Toronto, and also worked with Leslie Neilsen, and studied with Lorne Greene (of Bonanza fame) at the Pasadena Playhouse. Long time ago. Thanks for the memories!