Barbara McNair Show, The

Broadcast Run: 
1969 to 1970
Broadcast Medium: 
Television

Nicholas Johnson was a firebrand member of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (similar to Canada’s CRTC) in the ‘Sixties and ‘Seventies. He was the driving force behind the introduction of the Prime Access Rule in 1969, which prohibited the U.S. networks from accessing local stations’ prime time before 8:00pm. One result of the immediate rush by independent producers to create programming to fill those 7:00 – 8:00pm time slots, was the development of variety shows which could be produced in Canada more cheaply than in the U.S. and could also qualify as Canadian content.

The Barbara McNair Show was one of the first such shows. It had already been produced for a year in the U.S. but was shifted to CFTO-TV in Toronto in the summer of 1969. McNair was black, and achieved some notice as one of the first black women to star in her own television series – as later did Diahann Carroll, whom Barbara had replaced on Broadway some years earlier as the star of Richard Rodgers’ No Strings.

The one-hour musical variety show had a series of U.S. guests, and enough Canadian elements to qualify it as Canadian content. Unfortunately the combined effect was not strong enough to justify a renewal after one Canadian season. The series launched on CTV on Tuesdays at 10:00pm in the fall of 1970, and was gone a year later. It was however a ground-breaker: U.S. producers Burt Rosen and David Winters were to bring several more series and specials to Canada before the appeal of variety shows diminished dramatically later in the 1970s.

Written by Pip Wedge - July, 2002

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