The day Midday said goodbye after more than 4,000 episodes on CBC
The show that brought viewers a daily mix of current affairs and Canadiana came to an end in 2000
You could rely on Midday to bring you something unexpected if you watched it long enough.
That's because the long-running current affairs show was full of many different stories from across Canada, from the very day it hit television screens in 1985.
Like, the story of a beaver named Bucky who lived indoors with a human family, a 35-pound cat improbably named Fluffy, a woman who fed raccoons at the back door of her home for 24 years, as well as a long tunnel under a bank that stumped police and seemed to be the work of a failed and unidentified bank raider.
And so much more — a three-person debate on regional hotdog preferences, a chair that wasn't for sitting, the making of a 45,000-egg omelette and a profile of a man who sheared 20,000 sheep a year included.
It was all part of the Midday mix and deliberately so.
'A coast-to-coast panorama'
Envisioned from the get-go as a CBC program that would show off regional content, Midday would also serve up a daily newscast so the audience could get caught up on the news from home and around the world.
An early print advertisement declared Midday would be "a coast-to-coast panorama of national, international and regional news," which would also include "sports, business and entertainment, celebrity interviews, plus features on fashion, food and fitness."
Executive Producer Mark Starowicz said the show would be a lot like the kind of show TV viewers watched a little earlier in the day.
"I've nicknamed it 'a morning show at a convenient hour,'" he told TV Guide, in an interview published just days before Midday made its debut on Jan. 7, 1985.
"It will definitely be a light-spirited program, consciously injecting a populist and tabloid touch here and there."
Many stars and stars-to-be
Midday's less formal tone and broad mandate gave the show the latitude to explore many subjects in its programming and the opportunity to talk to many people about their lives and their work.
Many big-name TV and movie stars, in fact, — Gillian Anderson, Big Bird, Tom Cruise, Robert Englund, Daniel Day-Lewis, Hugh Grant, Keanu Reeves and Kiefer Sutherland among them — would make time for Midday over the years, as did many famed and acclaimed writers, musicians and artists, including Paul Anka, Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, Alice Munro, Daphne Odjig, Kenny Rogers and Richard Wagamese.
Midday also gave viewers early glimpses of up-and-coming Canadian stars like the Barenaked Ladies, The Kids in the Hall, actor and future filmmaker Sarah Polley, as well as Yannick Bisson, years before he would go on to star on Murdoch Mysteries.
It was also the show that Mr. Dressup visited to talk about his retirement. Because Midday was the kind of show that could also explore those kinds of stories, too..
'Deadly serious and deadly ridiculous'
"The show was about range," former Midday host Ralph Benmergui said, when reflecting on the show's 15-and-a-half-year run, as it came to an end on June 30, 2000.
"You got to do deadly serious and deadly ridiculous."
He recalled one such story in which Midday featured an interview with a boy who liked to stand in a closet and pretend he was operating an old-fashioned elevator at an Eaton's store.
"You got to do prime ministers and you got to do kids doing silly things," Benmergui said. "It was fun."
A bit like Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Original Midday host Valerie Pringle had a similar take about the mix of material covered on the show.
"I mean, sometimes it was Ripley's Believe it or Not!" Pringle said, laughing as she recalled some of those zanier stories, which included a woman who sang backward.
"But there were, in the space of that, woven a lot of human, sad, wonderful stories and then, we were good on the news. It was a show we were really proud of."
By that final broadcast in 2000, Midday had seen more than 4,000 shows go to air.
Many changes in the chairs
In January of 1985, the show had started out with three hosts — Pringle, Bill Cameron and Keith Morrison, the latter two of which already worked on The Journal and who would alternate in their on-screen time with Pringle, who had joined CBC to take part in Midday.
Veteran journalist Sheldon Turcott would serve as the newsreader for the 10-minute Midday newscast, a role he would hold for the first 10 years of the show's run.
Before the end of Midday's first year on air, Peter Downie would join the show, serving as Pringle's co-host for the next few years, until he left and Benmergui joined the Midday crew in 1989.
By 1992, more change was en route for Midday as Kevin Newman took Benmergui's place and Pringle left soon after to join CTV's Canada AM.
That last change opened the door for Tina Srebotnjak, one of the show's producers and on-air contributors, who would stay with Midday as a host until the end of its run. Brent Bambury, formerly of CBC Radio's Brave New Waves, took the chair beside her in 1995 and he was there when the show's run wrapped in 2000.
The last show brought together six of the current and former hosts to reminisce about their Midday memories — with a montage of the show's various iterations to help jog their memories.
"Fifteen years of Midday and quite a few hairstyles flashing before our eyes," said Bambury.
Srebotnjak noted that she and Pringle had generally seen the longest tenure of the hosts, while most of their male colleagues had moved on after a few years.
"Valerie and I always say: 'We train them and we ship 'em out,'" she joked.
A bit like the thousands of Midday episodes that made their way from studio to screens across Canada for 15 years.