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The top 10 vintage Toronto TV show openings

Posted by Staff / July 6, 2012

Vintage Toronto TV showsVintage Toronto locations in film get a lot of appreciation; in TV, not so much. Could it be that so many TV shows, like films, have used and abused our gritty city settings to front as New York, Chicago, Boston or anywhere else USA? Or is it, more likely, that no broadcasters air these programs anymore and outside of YouTube they have no televisual legacy? Either way, here are openings (a dying art in its self) to a few classic and/or forgotten TV shows which were not afraid to be loud and proud about where they were set.

NIGHT HEAT (CTV, 1985-89)
This sweaty, vigilante cops and robbers business was made on the cheap to sell to CBS for their late night detective slot. It plays like a creepy Toronto after-dark locations greatest hits, with a memorable theme song from Domenic Troiano (The James Gang, The Guess Who).

DEAR AUNT AGNES (TVOntario, 1986-1989)
A more idealized portrait of the city existed in Dear Aunt Agnes, a kind-hearted TVO production aimed at 8-14 year olds living in posh Toronto digs (the house seen in the opening is steps away from Rosedale subway station).

AIRWAVES (CBC, 1986-87)
CBC's right on punt for the new wave crowd, with Molly Ringwald wannabe Ingrid Veninger sexing the city, '80s style.

JUDGE (CBC, 1982-84)
Rumpole of the Bailey in Toronto, starring Tony Van Bridge as the pensive Judge whose only solace is walking his dog around the city.

HANGIN' IN (CBC, 1981-87)
Mostly forgotten CBC sitcom about Toronto youth drop in centre boss, Lally Cadeau, with decidedly un-sitcomish plots involving abortion, suicide, homosexuality, racism and self-harm. Every episode was "A very special episode:" and with its killer intro you can see why people tuned in every week.

Artful, classy, simple: that's why he will always be the King.

Toronto's glossy answer to L.A. Law had a new opening every season (of which there were 7!), but the first remains the best, if only for the final moments of punks running towards the camera framed by an iconic Yonge Street location.

TODAY'S SPECIAL (TVOntario, 1981-87)
With this magical opening sequence, the Lego world show, and their annual Christmas window display of Hasbro, Kenner and Coleco toys, '80s kids could be forgiven for thinking that Simpsons Department store at Queen & Yonge was the epicentre of all cool things in the universe.

WOJECK (CBC, 1966-68)
CBC's tough-as-leather police thriller from a turbulent time found crusading Toronto coroner Dr. Steve Wojeck (John "Delta House!" Vernon) eschewing bullets, bursting blood vessels over deranged criminals, neo-fascists in the Toronto police force, and every button pushing issue in between. The noir jazz stylings and spooky skyline (from when the Royal York Hotel ruled the roost) in the intro seal the deal: Wojeck was not for the faint of heart.

15 seconds that perfectly captures the happy sad/melancholy vibe of Toronto living in 1979 (see also: Rush). Degrassi Junior High may get all the props, but Kids was the original pathfinder and Toronto kids at the time were raised watching battered 16mm prints of these episodes on war horse projectors wheeled into the classroom, cementing life-long emotional attachments to the city.

Shamefully, only one series on this list is available to buy on DVD (Can you guess which?) and it's from Boston's WGBH video label. A quick glance at Zap2it reveals that none of these shows are currently airing, or have been aired, even as late night/early morning Can-con filler, in years. It would seem the majority of these Toronto based series are doomed to a future of obscurity, denying us the pleasure of fist pumping with Wojeck, nodding agreeably with Aunt Agnes, or golf clapping with Judge.

Written and compiled by Ed Conroy

Retrontario plumbs the seedy depths of Toronto flea markets, flooded basements, thrift shops and garage sales, mining old VHS and Betamax tapes that less than often contain incredible moments of history that were accidentally recorded but somehow survived the ravages of time. You can find more amazing discoveries at



Seeing Things? / July 6, 2012 at 02:25 pm
Nice piece, but with one big omission: CBC's "Seeing Things" with Louie del Grande, who plays a reporter at the Toronto Gazette.
Adam / July 6, 2012 at 02:30 pm
No Kids In The Hall?!

Mark A / July 6, 2012 at 02:37 pm
Forever Knight, though really it's just the first 20 seconds or so:
Fred / July 6, 2012 at 02:47 pm
The problem with the Kids in the Hall is that opening doesn't really scream Toronto, whereas all of these do (with, perhaps, the exception of Today's Special).
Cyril Sneer / July 6, 2012 at 03:08 pm
Kids in the Hall isn't particularly obscure either. They still shows reruns of it on Comedy.
David / July 6, 2012 at 03:16 pm
I'd include "Wonderland" although it's more recent than those above. It was sadly cancelled in mid-story.
mike in parkdale / July 6, 2012 at 03:33 pm
somehow I convinced my folks to take me to the downtown Bay so I could go into the toy department - because I saw that location listed in the credits of Today's Special. I walked into that store fully expecting to see things laid out just like in the show, you know, like that was the real department store. I think I was 5 or 6, so it was a bit of a disappointment when my Dad explained the show was probably shot in a studio, and not in a real store. He probably read the credits to me too....
iSkyscraper / July 6, 2012 at 04:22 pm
The only one of the above that I remember is Today's Special -- wow, way to bring back the memories. Great research too on all of these.

For contemporary opening sequences, I don't think anything can beat the special intro that Conan did for his shows when he came to the city for a week with Late Night in 2004. Fantastic ode to the city:
Phil replying to a comment from mike in parkdale / July 6, 2012 at 04:24 pm
At least you went though the same Simpson doors and escalator :P
dee / July 6, 2012 at 05:35 pm
Oh my goodness, what a flashback!! I didn't even have to play the video to start hearing the lyrics to "Dear Aunt Agnes" in my head - can't believe I still remember this, I was so little when it aired!
Don / July 6, 2012 at 06:01 pm
Hey...great start. More needed. Like for instance: The Collaborators (CBC 1973;) Drop the Beat (CBC 2000).
Winst / July 6, 2012 at 07:02 pm
tvo has an archive site where you can watch Today's Special and other classics:'s%20Special
Adam Sobolak / July 6, 2012 at 08:26 pm
This thread is incomplete without the immortal shot-in-Toronto Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show intro from 1974
Nina Keogh / July 6, 2012 at 09:17 pm
Today's Special was 95% shot in the studio. We also did a number of location shoots inside , and outside the SImpson's Store late at night after customers had gone home - and sometimes until 5 and 6 in the morning. What fun it was and what a wonder, loyal and huge following we still have . Check out the today's special website on facebook that I moderate.
Nina Keogh aka Muffy Mouse
Lazy Susan / July 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm

I would include this one for sure! I mean come on, how many of you came of age watching the movies that followed this CLASSIC Toronto opening:;feature=related
Grant / July 6, 2012 at 10:55 pm
Nobody seems to remember E.N.G. that ran from 1989–1994, the show about the fictional Toronto news station. So little info about it on the web, couldn't find the show opening on YouTube.
Aaron / July 6, 2012 at 11:12 pm
So many shows, so few viewers.

Kids in the Hall had some great shots, but that was back in the days when we aspired to something more than just another American city.
Kathleen / July 6, 2012 at 11:33 pm
This is great! And it was neat seeing the Kids of Degrassi show opening. I live in the former old De Grassi grocery store which blew my mind when I found out.
Mark A. / July 7, 2012 at 11:19 am
Geez, that Aunt Agnes intro is like some kind of acid flashback. I never watched the show, but it must have aired immediately after something I did watch regularly.
Rmund / July 8, 2012 at 04:20 pm
Seeing Things, with Louis Del Grande?

Not many scenes of the city in the opening credits, but still a kinda fun song.

RS replying to a comment from Mark A / July 9, 2012 at 09:51 am
The Forever Knight intro may only have 20 seconds of the Toronto skyline, but each episode was full of shots of the city. :D
maggiefox / July 12, 2012 at 10:00 am
david replying to a comment from maggiefox / September 15, 2013 at 10:40 pm
Here's the opener for Trouble with Tracy which was dubbed one of the worst Canadian tv shows ever and was shot in Toronto at the studios of CFTO-TV, the show was set in New York City. The "Trouble with Tracy is often considered to have been produced solely to meet the demands of the Canadian content regulations. Cultural critics, including Geoff Pevere, have suggested, however, that as unsuccessful as the result was, the show deserves some credit as one of the first truly ambitious attempts to create a scripted television series within the financial constraints that have often plagued Canadian television production." (Wiki)
maggiefox | Social Media Group / September 16, 2013 at 10:13 am
@David - this is magnificent, and I don't care if it's one of the worst shows ever - just think, without stuff like this, SCTV would have had nothing to make fun of!
joe / February 6, 2014 at 12:15 am
Ha! I knew I recognized the "College Street Youth Services" building in the Hangin'In video... that house is at 192 Carlton (almost College) serving a similar purpose - for Mid-Toronto Community Services.
David young / February 6, 2014 at 07:06 am
What about tug boat Annie. Or when the avengers shot here. Police surgeon was filmed on the lakeshore in the early 70s. The david steinberg show was a great show too
Gee / February 6, 2014 at 08:27 am
If I'm not mistaken, the Street Legal theme sounds like David Wilcox.
Rhea Copeland / February 6, 2014 at 08:42 am
loved Street Legal - that building was owned at one time by friends of my late husband's parents if I remember the story correctly
Jim / February 6, 2014 at 01:51 pm
Where is the opening to Trouble with Tracy?
Leslie Rappaport / February 6, 2014 at 05:50 pm
Check It Out! with Don Adams
B / October 15, 2014 at 11:46 pm
Ryan / October 16, 2014 at 01:36 am
You missed Uncle Bobby with the weird electronic snap, crackle, bubble pop noises
PAUL AHERNE / October 16, 2014 at 04:57 pm
Yes The Collaborators CBC 1973 and 1974. Toronto intros with Metro Police Yellow cars. Also Sidestreet CBC 1975 and Police surgeon CTV 1972 and later, the latter Americanized for US audiences like Nightheat was.
My / October 17, 2014 at 01:37 pm
What about Liberty St?
Arch Stanton replying to a comment from Leslie Rappaport / October 18, 2014 at 12:50 am
Check It Out! was actually set in Brampton.
Harry / December 24, 2014 at 08:59 pm
Oh, for those fabulous memories. I badly wish I could go back.
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