Cathode Ray Mission: THE JELLYBEAN ODYSSEY/THE ODYSSEY (1992-1994)

CanTV expert Cameron Archer navigates the often inhospitable landscape of Canadian television for the CATHODE RAY MISSION, our regular blog column that highlights some of Canadian television’s most offbeat offerings.

CBC fielded a unique children’s television series in 1992. It was an ambitious, intelligently-written series — intellectual enough for adults to enjoy, yet action-oriented enough to keep viewer interest. It stood in diametrical opposition from fare like BABAR (CBC, 1989-91), THE RACCOONS (1985-91) and STREET CENTS (1989-2006.)

Also, it focused around a coma victim’s fantasy life.

That reads like the most obvious candidate for cancellation, doesn’t it? Usually, it would be, but THE ODYSSEY (CBC, 1992-94) is not the average CBC children’s series.

The Basic Formula

In the pilot, initially titled THE JELLYBEAN ODYSSEY, main character Jay Ziegler (Illya Woloshyn) offers his father’s telescope as a membership fee to join a club of kids that meets in a tree fort. The tree fort club’s bullying leader, Keith (Tony Sampson), denies Jay membership but takes the telescope anyways. With the aid of disabled friend Donna (Ashleigh Aston Moore d/b/a Ashley Rogers)–whom he snubbed in order to enter the tree-fort club–Jay attempts to retrieve his father’s telescope but instead falls out of the tree,  hits his head, and lapses into a coma.

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Mike MacDonald Needs Your Help

Some sad news this morning–Canadian comedian Mike MacDonald is in need of an immediate liver transplant. MacDonald was diagnosed with Hepatitis C last year and, due to a recent and severe infection, is going through an extremely tough time at the moment.

Though MacDonald is perhaps best known for his work as a standup comic, Canadian sex comedy fans will recognize him from three prominent roles– Captain Magruder in RECRUITS, Mr. Arsenault in LOOSE SCREWS and Laylo Nardeen in ODDBALLS. MacDonaldexcelled at playing vengeful authority figures who get their richly-deserved comeuppance, but it’s his role as the sleazy camp counsellor Nardeen that really stands out amongst his film work, a reprobate who teaches kids pick-up lines, shows them “stag” movies (literally!) and passes out fake IDs to get them into bars–easily one of the film’s most memorable performances.

If you enjoyed MacDonald’s appearance’s in these films or even his stand-up work that was prominently featured at Just for Laughs and other comedy festivals and TV shows, I encourage you to read his story and donate money to help his family out during this time.


Moms Deserve Breakfast in Bed!



You just can’t keep a good horny vampire down. Motion Picture Purgatory artist Rick Trembles has a comix review up for our recent Canadian classic ’70s porn discovery SEXCULA!



Cathode Ray Mission: THREE DEAD TROLLS IN A BAGGIE (1992)

 CanTV expert Cameron Archer navigates the often inhospitable landscape of Canadian television for the CATHODE RAY MISSION, our regular blog column that highlights some of Canadian television’s most offbeat offerings.

So, you’re a sketch comedy troupe. You’re not from Toronto, Vancouver or Newfoundland, yet you’ve found your way onto a national network, CBC Television. You’re even part of CBC Television’s efforts to prove it knows comedy beyond CBC Radio stalwarts like ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FARCE and DOUBLE EXPOSURE, and failed sitcoms like MOSQUITO LAKE. Sound outlandish? It wasn’t such a far-fetched idea near the end of February 1992, when THREE DEAD TROLLS IN A BAGGIE (CBC, 1992) debuted.

The basic formula
THREE DEAD TROLLS IN A BAGGIE  is essentially the Edmonton version of THE KIDS IN THE HALL (CBC, 1988-94). The troupe performs risqué humour in the KitH style. Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie are longstanding Edmonton fringe theatre regulars, so CBC obviously expected THREE DEAD TROLLS to succeed.

Each episode consists of sketches, musical bits, and monochromatic blue transitions, as performed by troupe members here are Neil Grahn, Joe Bird, Wes Borg, and Cathleen Rootsaert. “Mr.” Frank van Keeken is an added attraction…inasmuch as van Keeken was an attraction, in 1992.

The weird bits
This was the era of THE KIDS IN THE HALL, CODCO and COMICS! In that light, there’s nothing weird about this show. THREE DEAD TROLLS IN A BAGGIE has a heavy fringe flavour, and is about in line with what CBC Television aired in 1992.

At the same time, 1992-era CBC looks strange in 2012. Granted, Lorne Michaels outright handed CBC THE KIDS IN THE HALL, and CODCO‘s roots date back to the early 1970s, but CBC actually built around those two shows. I miss that era. I accept that it’s not coming back.

Let’s Watch
“Part two” of the second episode.THREE DEAD TROLLS, by and large, is studio-bound. Compared to THE KIDS IN THE HALL, which benefits from Lorne Michaels’ backing, and elaborately-produced location segments, THREE DEAD TROLLS is a lower-budget affair.


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