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Rex Murphy on Parliament, Danny Finkleman on stage

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.

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Rex Murphy wasn't much impressed by the "cut and thrust" of parliamentary debate as it made its television debut. "It had about as much cut and thrust as attacking butter in July with a baseball bat," he tells Peter Gzowski on the CBC late-night program 90 Minutes Live. Murphy, a writer, commentator and CBC reporter, thinks the broadcast is simply irrelevant, adding nothing to Parliament and appearing too much like a high school debate.

In a second segment Gzowski introduces Danny Finkleman, a 90 Minutes Live regular who's recently tried his hand at stand-up comedy. Finkleman introduces a film in which he meets Mark Breslin, owner of a Toronto comedy club, and gets some tips on how to engage a crowd. But all the tips in the world can't help Finkleman's floundering debut comedy act, and he quickly gets the hook. 
• Both Rex Murphy and Danny Finkleman went on to host their own radio programs on the CBC. As of 2004, Murphy hosts Cross Country Checkup and contributes opinion pieces to CBC Television's The National. Finkleman spins retro tunes and carps about the frustrations of modern life on Finkleman's 45s.
 
• Finkleman's efforts in this clip might best be summarized by the deathbed quote usually attributed to Sir Donald Wolfit, a British actor: "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard."

• Launched in the fall of 1976, 90 Minutes Live was a combination variety and current-affairs program hosted by Peter Gzowski, who had a good track record as host of radio's This Country in the Morning. As the CBC's response to late-night American programs, 90 Minutes Live was deemed a "disaster" in its first season by critics who dubbed it "90 Minutes Dead."

• In its second season the show changed formats to become a nightly TV magazine. TV Guide praised the move, saying, "Perhaps the chief virtue of the new version is that it can indeed surprise us." Regular features such as skits by Ken Finkleman and Rick Moranis were applauded, as were bits by filmmaker John Kastner, comedy by Steve Shuster, and cooking segments with James Barber.

• "All in all, 90 Minutes Live is the CBC's flagship show. One senses that the network is putting all its enormous resources of talent and expertise on display. It's about time." -- TV Guide, October 1977

• Gzowski left after the second season and 90 Minutes Live was repackaged as Canada After Dark, a standard variety and entertainment show.

Medium: Television
Program: 90 Minutes Live
Broadcast Date: Oct. 17, 1977
Guest(s): Danny Finkleman
Commentator: Rex Murphy
Host: Peter Gzowski
Duration: 17:06

Last updated: June 17, 2013

Page consulted on October 16, 2014

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