Sunday, March 09, 2008

The TV Detective Returns

Got an email a short while ago that revived the TV Detective side of me, and not a moment too soon. I confess I am getting increasingly tired/bored with constantly writing about the PTC and I pretty much assume you are getting bored with me writing about it. Anyway, Christine Cowan writes:

I have been searching online for a while now for a show that none of my friends/family seem to remember. What I do recall: the opening of the tv show had a (small) covered waggon and actors dressed as peasants or gypsies following behind walking through the countryside. The show itself took place indoors on a modern-day studio/stage. They were still dressed in old garb and acted out fables or cautionary tales (no props or backgrounds). 2 stories I do remember are the Fisherman and his Wife (has a wish granting fish in it); and a Grimm Fairytale about a (beautiful) girl drowned by her jealous sister – her bones & hair found by a miller who makes them into a singing harp which later reveals her murderer to her family. The show closed with the troupe silhouetted outside a dusk. PLEASE say it sounds familiar! If it helps, I suspect it was either a late 70's or early 80's show (given I was born in '74) and I lived in rural Ontario and only got a handful of stations on the aerial – Global and TVOntario came in the clearest.

This rang a bell for me because I had a similar question just at the end of last year which unfortunately I blew off, or at least didn't answer at the time. It came from Meleita Dart, who wrote,

I have been thinking about a Saturday morning TV show that I used to watch in the early 70's. I believe it was call "Sunshine Theatre" but I can't seem to find any information on it.

Can you recall this show? It was namely upcoming actors who would act out fairtale such as "Jack and the Bean Stalk" etc.

I've been thinking about this quite a bit – okay, I haven't been losing sleep over it but I have been thinking of it since Meleita first wrote me, and I'm pretty sure that the series you are both thinking of is Story Theatre. Christine's description of the opening titles is exactly what I remember about the series; a group of wandering players sort of skipping, dancing along behind a sort of gypsy style wagon; I think tambourines were played, although the opening credits were shot silent and a soundtrack put on over them.

The show was based off of Paul Sill's Broadway hit Story Theatre – in fact one of the stories told in the play was The Fisherman and his Wifebut the TV show was shot at the BCTV studios in Vancouver and aired during the 1971-72 season (which was the first season that we had CTV in Saskatoon). The show had an amazing cast, many of them drawn from Second City in Chicago. Hamilton Camp, Paul Sand, Richard Schaal and his then wife Valerie Harper, Richard Libertini and his then wife Melinda Dillon, and Peter Bonerz had all appeared in the original Broadway cast of the show. Most had ties with Chicago's Second City troupe (and many would end up working for Mary Tyler Moore). They were supplemented by a number of actors including Avery Schreiber, Severn Darden, and Alan Alda. The series first ran on CTV on Sunday evenings during the 1971-72 season. There was only one season made and it didn't generate big ratings or international sales (and as was usual in this period CTV needed sales into the United States to keep shows on the air...or so they claimed). According to the listing of CTV shows done by The Canadian Communications Foundation, the series apparently was repeated by the network in 1972-73 and again in 1974-75 in a Saturday morning time slot.

This leaves me with a bit of a problem as Christine mentions that she was born in 1974 and the only available rerun dates I have for the show are for the CTV reruns, which are just a little too early for her dates. But she does mention that TVOntario was one of the small number of stations that were available to her growing up, which makes me wonder if maybe CTV sold reruns of Story Theatre to them during the late '70s and early '80s. I think it is possible; indeed I think I may have seen episodes of the show during the early years of the Saskatchewan Communications Network, the educational channel here in Saskatchewan. It's no longer available here

I have been looking online for either a video of the opening credits (preferable) or even a photo from the show to go with this article. Maddeningly nothing is available online. You'll just have to take my word for it.


Anonymous said...

I was just thinking of this show for no particular reason. I don't know why, I just was. Haven't thought about it in 40 years.

Anonymous said...

Here's the theme song

Sing it all together- Rolling stones

Anonymous said...


Jennifer said...

the youtube link another commenter posted didn't work for me, but i found this one today: opening credits + a story!

Puddleg said...

Story Theatre played in New Zealand during the early 1970s, on the state network (the only TV channel) NZBC.

Anonymous said...

There is a nice summary of the show at