CBC Digital Archives

A teary debut for Gzowski's 90 Minutes Live

CBC Television convinced journalist Peter Gzowski to front this late-night talk show after the success at the helm of CBC Radio's This Country in The Morning. In 1976, late-night talk shows were new territory for CBC Television, and the show was panned from the start. But Gzowski soldiered on for two seasons, interviewing a host of personalities five nights a week at 11:30 p.m.

It's an inauspicious beginning. The first guest on Peter Gzowski's much-anticipated TV show is in tears. It's not because Freda Payne is "so happy to be in Nova Scotia." The American pop phenomenon is actually having an allergic reaction to the newly painted studio, which is making her tear up uncontrollably. Gzowski can't hide his discomfort as he forges on in front of a live TV audience. It doesn't bode well for Gzowski's much-anticipated TV debut. The bizarre and awkward inaugural interview marks an ominous start to CBC-TV's 90 Minutes Live
• The line-up for the first 90 Minutes Live, broadcast from Halifax, included a routine by an 11-year-old gymnast, actor Gordon Pinsent singing Send in the Clowns, Max Ferguson wishing Gzowski luck in his best Pierre Trudeau voice and former Vietnamese army colonel Nguyen Cao Ky and his wife.

• Gzowski launched the first 90 Minutes Live program asking the audience to "wish us luck, eh." He would need it. The show was attacked mercilessly. The Toronto Sun described Gzowski as "gauche, erratic, inattentive, irrelevant, often rude, often sycophantic, coy and dull." Maclean's called the show "an embarrassing mix of awkwardness and incoherence."

• Despite the scathing reviews, the Globe and Mail gave this inaugural show, seen only in Nova Scotia and P.E.I., a positive writeup: "Gzowski Show Has Big League Aura."
• Freda Payne had the number 1 record on the disco charts with her debut album Band of Gold. But Gzowski admitted that he had never heard of her. Payne later blamed her teary reaction on her microphone, which had been painted white at her request.

• In 1964, Gzowski auditioned to be a co-host on CBC-TV's This Hour Has Seven Days, which became one of Canada's most influential public affairs program. Both Gzowski and Peter Jennings, long-time anchor of ABC News, were turned down for the job, which went to Patrick Watson and Laurier LaPierre.

•  For a more complete look at Peter Gzowski, see the CBC Digital Archives topic Peter Gzowski: Voice of Canada.
Medium: Television
Program: 90 Minutes Live
Broadcast Date: Feb. 23, 1976
Guests: Freda Payne
Host: Peter Gzowski
Duration: 6:28
Edited for copyright reasons.

Last updated: June 7, 2013

Page consulted on December 5, 2013

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

Woodstock Remembered

They say if you can remember Woodstock, you weren't really there. Of course, that's not entire...

Barbara Frum: Pioneering Broadcaster Part 2

The sudden death of Barbara Frum on March 26, 1992 shocked Canadians. The loss of one of the c...

Peter Gzowski: Voice of Canada

For three hours a day, five days a week - for 15 years - millions tuned in to CBC Radio's Morn...

Barbara Frum: Pioneering Broadcaster Part 1

The sudden death of Barbara Frum on March 26, 1992 shocked Canadians. The loss of one of the c...

June Callwood: Canada's Conscience

No one was excluded in the world of June Callwood. The celebrated journalist/activist with a "...

1985: Electric eels light up Christmas tree

The electric eels at the Vancouver Aquarium light up a tree for the holiday season.