Page Challenge (weekly panelist)
1957-63 Close-Up (host)
1972-73 The Pierre Berton Show (host)
1974 The National Dream (writer/narrator) series
in 8 parts
1979 The Dionne Quintuplets (writer)
1984-87 Heritage Theatre (story editor/host)
1985 Spirit of Batoche
1988 The Secret of My Success (writer/interviewer)
is one of Canada's best known personalities and is arguably Canada's
best-known living writer. He has also been an important television
presence since the earliest days of Canadian television. For more
than 30 years, he was rarely absent from the nation's television
screens and by the 1970s was correctly described as "clearly Canada's
best-known and most respected TV public affairs personality" by
Warner Troyer in The Sound and the Fury: An Anecdotal History
of Canadian Broadcasting. He was also one of most highly paid.
During his career as a columnist and commentator, he has been a
tireless defender of public broadcasting and the importance of Canadian
content. In all of his many public roles, he has been a prodigious
popularizer of the Canadian experience. He may be remembered most
for his many books, mostly popular histories, but he has long had
an arresting television presence.
TV appearance was probably in 1952, as a panellist on Court of
Opinion, soon after he arrived in Toronto from Vancouver, where
he got his start as a student newspaper editor (The Ubyssey)
and daily newspaper writer. Always well informed and opinionated,
he provided a strong journalistic thrust to various CBC public affairs
programs. In 1957, he became the host of the interview show Close-Up
and joined the panel of Front Page Challenge, a long-running
program that featured "mystery guests." The guests were connected
with stories in the news and the task of the panel was to identify
them by asking questions and then to conduct a brief interview with
the guest. After a long run, the program was finally cancelled in
1995. In 1963, on the newly formed private network, CTV, he premiered
the Pierre Berton Show (also known as the Pierre Berton
Hour) another talk show, which ran until 1973.
to popular history led in 1974 to My Canada on a new, private
television service, Global. The program made use of his formidable
talents as a story teller to present Canadian history viewers. The
program had few props and relied on Berton's ability to hold an
audience with the story. Later, in 1986-87, he was host of Heritage
Theatre on CBC television, a series of dramatizations of true
Among his major
television triumphs was the 1974 CBC production, The National
Dream. Based on his books, The National Dream and The
Last Spike, the drama-documentary series consisted of eight
hour-long programs on the opening of the Canadian West and the building
of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Berton wrote the series outline
and served as on-air guide to the documentary and drama segments.
The series premiered at 9:00 P.M., Sunday, 3 March 1974 and had
3.6 million viewers, a very large audience in English Canada, where,
at that time, the average audience was 3.1 million.
Over his career,
Berton made a major contribution to Canadian television. Not surprisingly,
he has been an ardent champion of public broadcasting and the CBC.
Closely involved with Canadian Radio and Television League, he helped
found a successor organization, the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting,
which has been a critical supporter of the CBC and Canadian production.
As a Canadian cultural nationalist, Berton has made a major contribution
to the development of a distinct Canadian approach to television.
—Frederick J. Fletcher and Robert Everett
From Encyclopedia of Television by The Museum of Broadcast Communications (MBC).
Copyright © 1997 by The Museum of Broadcast Communications (MBC).
Reprinted by permission. Visit www.Museum.TV.