The Comfort Of Familiarity: Five Classic Canadian Public Television Idents

Published on July 30th, 2011 in: Canadian Content, Issues, My Dream Is On The Screen, Retrovirus, TV |

By Emily Carney

Many television-philes like myself are obsessed with classic station identifications, or idents, from our childhood years. Whenever I hear the old PBS ident music from the 1980s, immediately I hearken back to the days when I used to watch Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood before taking my Dukes of Hazzard Big Wheel out for a leisurely spin.

exploding pizza

In the last few years, I’ve familiarized myself with some Canadian TV idents which are as cool, diverse, and strangely comforting as their American counterpart’s idents. Here’s a small list of the very best Canadian idents from the past few decades.

1. TVOntario Ident, 1982

This ident originally was sound-tracked by the smooth-as-silk jazz of Bob James, who also did the incidental theme music to the TV show Taxi; apparently James’ record label requested that the original audio be removed for copyright purposes. At any rate, TVOntario’s 1982 ident was simple and relaxing with its straightforward modern white script against a black background. It gave the viewer the sense that TVOntario was giving you ALL of the public programming at once, with the reporter and cameraman depicted in the large “TV” logo. Personally, this is my favorite TV ident ever, even more so than this PBS ident from the 1990s.

2. TVO (TVOntario) Sign-On, 1994

Ah, remember the Good Old Days when TV would go off the air at midnight? You woke up at six in the morning to classical music followed by sign-ons showcasing the national anthem and various rural scenes involving tiny woodland creatures and little kids smiling, and you liked it. And we were happier then. (Author’s note: Read this last paragraph in a crotchety old woman voice.)

3. CBC “Exploding Pizza” Ident, 1982

The best YouTube comment for this classic ident from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation simply reads, “Amazing how a five-second TV promo can evoke so much emotion.” The ubiquitous orange-toned “exploding pizza” graphic with the “C” in the middle and the synthetic trumpet jingle are inextricably associated with the CBC from the 1980s. The classic logo would later be seen in the recent film Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World; Scott Pilgrim has an awesome CBC T-shirt in the movie. The CBC ident is perhaps the most satisfying, soothing TV ident from the 1980s, certainly is much less terrifying and loud than the CBS Special Presentation ident from the 1970s to the 1990s.

4. CBC “Ici Radio-Canada” Ident, 1982

This is basically the same as the “exploding pizza” ident, except this time it is in French. This is the CBC ident from their French-language channel in 1982, and is reflective of the upswing in diversity of Canadian culture.

5. Radio-Québec Ident, 1968

At one time, Télé-Québec was called Radio-Québec. It was French-speaking Canada’s answer to TVOntario, and boasted several frightful kids’ shows such as the infamous Les Oraliens. The station also had a not-so-comforting, semi-scary ident which featured toneless electronic bleeps, and some voiceover guy saying “This is Radio-Québec” in French in commanding, brusque René Lévesque tones; it was serious freakin’ business. While that ident may be one of the more frightening ones, it certainly gains the viewer’s attention; it must have been somewhat memorable if some snarky blogger like myself is discussing it over 40 years after the fact.

Many thanks to the YouTube channel Retrontario/WNED17, which supplied many of these clips. Some classic Canadian TV broadcasts are also available on this YouTube channel.

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