From Don Messer's Jubilee to The Hart and Lorne Terrific Hour
In the '60s, Canada was changing, and Canadian television had to change with it
Don Messer's Jubilee was a Canadian television favourite throughout the '60s. In fact, it was the #1 show in the country behind the massive popularity of Hockey Night in Canada. With its family-friendly content, and lots of fiddle and dance, this musical variety show was a hit with parents and grandparents, and Don Messer himself was a household fixture.
In the clip above, musician Frank Leahy recalls the popularity of Messer in small-town Ontario: "In our house we had a picture of the Pope in our kitchen and then right beside him was Don Messer. That's where he ranked in our house."
Although the Jubilee was relatable to rural Canada, the '60s also marked a time of great change and cultural shift for the country, and in an effort to respond to those changes, the CBC cancelled the show in 1969. As author and lecturer Geoff Pevere explains, there was a growing sense that too much of CBC's programming did not reflect a Canada of the future or what Canadians were looking at out on the street.
The kids were also tired of watching their parents' TV, so the CBC responded by letting them run their own show. And along came Hart Pomerantz and Lorne Michaels' (yes, that Lorne Michaels) The Hart and Lorne Terrific Hour.
Their music and comedy sketch show featured guests such as James Taylor and Cat Stevens when they were just starting out. And as Pevere explains above, the new music featured on this show attracted a youth audience and represented some of that aggressive counterculture and a climate of change so prominent in the day — all in colour.