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Canada's Satiric Public TV Marks 50

September 06, 2002|From Reuters

TORONTO — One of Canada's best known and most widely trusted public servants, CBC Television, turns 50 today and will mark its birthday with a celebration of its satirical past, even though much of its history has been a serious struggle for survival.

When the CBC went to air for the first time in Toronto and Montreal in 1952, the comedy was unintended, with its logo hitting the screens upside down.

But since then, the public broadcaster has helped nurture a dynasty of satirical comedy troupes that have kept the country chuckling at itself in a self-deprecating way that has been taken as a national characteristic.

The first anniversary show, "The Joke's on Us: 50 Years of CBC Satire," will be broadcast tonight, launching a week of documentaries and specials reflecting on the network's five decades of existence.

"Kids in the Hall," "SCTV" and the "Red Green Show" are among the satirical programs nurtured by the CBC that went on to acclaim outside the country. "SCTV" alone produced such entertainers as Martin Short, John Candy, Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Joe Flaherty and Dave Thomas.

Dave Foley of "Newsradio," Lorne Michaels, creator of "Saturday Night Live," and comic actors Michael J. Fox, David Steinberg and Mike Myers were all on CBC shows in their youth.

Canadians take their comedy, and the CBC, seriously. In a recent poll of 1,100 Canadians, 81% deemed the network an important element in maintaining and building national identity.

"The CBC is like the canary that miners take down the mine shaft to warn them of the presence of poisonous gas," said Evan Solomon, host of CBC Newsworld's "HotType" books show.

"When the CBC is ailing, it is a warning sign that there are poisons in the air for the whole country. It is a warning that we are losing our ability to generate ingenuity.... If the CBC disappears in the next 50 years, we are no longer the country we wanted to be when we were founded," Solomon added.

Throughout its life, the CBC has continually battled commercial networks and cutbacks.

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