Barris & Company (Series) (1968-1969)

Aka: Barris & Co.; The Weekender

Barris & Company
For the 1968-1969 season, the CBC tried to fill the slot usually left between the unpredictable end of Hockey Night in Canada and the national news with a talk and variety show starring Alex Barris. Unlike predecessors such as Juliette or In Person, which were produced on videotape, Barris & Company was designed to go to air live. Nevertheless, the CBC ordered a pilot, produced and directed by Stan Jacobson and written by veterans Garry Ferrier, Aubrey Tadman, younger talents Lorne Michaels and Hart Pomerantz, Bill Lynn, Ken Gunton, and Barris himself. For the pilot, Barris's guests were writer and broadcaster Gordon Sinclair and singer and dancer Sandra O'Neill, with an orchestra led by Guido Basso and with Alex Trebek as the show's announcer and Barris's sidekick.

By the time the show premiered it was already the subject of critical scrutiny. Patrick Scott used Barris & Company--the CBC's only new variety show on the schedule--as an example of the network's failure to provide adequate variety programming (Toronto Star TV Week, xx September 1968). Jacobson had left Canada for Hollywood, and was replaced by producer Bob Jarvis and director Pat King (who had worked as a studio director and had little experience as the director of any production, let alone a live broadcast). Michaels and Pomerantz had also migrated to Calfornia, and Lynn had left the show. Guido Basso and the orchestra of Toronto studio musicians remained, and Janet Baird replaced Alex Trebek as Barris's sidekick.

Apart from the expected tensions of having to produce a live (and presumably entertaining) variety broadcast each week, Barris & Company suffered further setbacks. The CBC had committed itself to only thirteen weeks. Broadcasts from the Olympic Games pre- empted the show for two weeks early in its broadcast schedule. Sponsors' commitments required that the show be at least thirty minutes duration. Hockey games that ran long set the commercial requirements of CBC variety in conflict with the demands of CBC news. Such problems, and a less specific discontent with the show caused its cancellation after thirteen weeks. It was to have been replaced by Comedy Cafe, but when that show was deemed not yet ready for national broadcast, the CBC revived Barris & Company until the end of January.

Janet Baird .... Co-host
Alex Barris .... Host
Alex Trebek .... Co-host/announcer (pilot)

Original Broadcaster(s): CBC

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For an in-depth look at CBC programs (1952-82),
Blaine Allan's directory