It's our 10th season here at George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, and to celebrate, we're looking back at TV shows that have stood the test of time. Last week, we told you about the 45th anniversary of 60 Minutes. Today, we honour another TV landmark: 41 years ago today, Canadians got their first look at The Marketplace, a consumer-affairs show that would prove to be one of the all-time hits of Canadian television.
The show was actually supposed to air a week earlier on September 28, 1972 — but it got pre-empted for game eight of the Canada-USSR Summit Series, when Paul Henderson squeezed the stick and pulled the trigger on his epochal series-winning goal.
When the program finally did premiere on the following Thursday, hosts George Finstad and Joan Watson (described in a CBC press release as a "comely brunette housewife") presented the viewers with a hard-hitting look at the spiraling cost of food in Canada. Other topics covered that first season: the shifty sales tactics of encyclopedia peddlers in the Maritimes; an investigation into low-income housing; the difficulties of getting service and repair in rural Canada; and an analysis of the price of cod, from the fisherman who sells it for eight cents a pound to the consumer who buys it for eighty.
The original theme song was an ode to Canadian frugality by Stompin' Tom Connors called "The Consumer," which you can hear in this montage of classic Marketplace moments:
The show caught on quickly, and by 1980, it was averaging one million viewers per episode. Over the years, hosts, logos and even the show's title have cycled in and out, but the show's razor-sharp focus on testing products, scrutinizing questionable advertising and generally looking out for "good old dependable John Canuck" (and Jane Canuck too) have remained unchanged. And those investigations often got action: Marketplace reports helped lead to a ban on toxic urea formaldehyde foam insulation, and to regulations to make children's sleepwear less flammable.
Marketplace kicked off its 41st season last night on CBC with a look at questionable veterinary procedures, but let's close with a classic (and oh-so 1970s) exposé of those Sea-Monkeys that used to be staples of comic book ads (the segment begins at 6:09):