The All-Night Show
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The All-Night Show was a television series starring Chas Lawther and produced by Jeff Silverman which ran from September 19, 1980 to August 29, 1981 on CFMT-TV in Toronto. The show was created and written by Errol Bruce, Chas Lawther, Michael Lennick and Jeff Silverman.
During its run, The All Night Show ran Mondays through Saturdays, running from the end of other programming (typically 2 am, but 1 am on Saturdays) until 6 am.
The premise was that Lawther's character, Chuck the Security Guard, had, with the help of his friends, taken over the facilities of CFMT (which at that time was branding itself as "MTV", prior to the introduction of the American music channel MTV.) Ostensibly without the knowledge of the station owners, Chuck and company found "a bunch of cool old tapes in the basement" of CFMT, and started broadcasting their favourite shows over the air while fooling around with the equipment. In the series continuity, rather than fire Chuck, the station decided to let him continue by giving Chuck his own overnight show.
The All-Night Show generally showed reruns of classic series such as The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, The Prisoner, Car 54, Where Are You?, The Beverly Hillbillies, Dave Allen at Large, Sgt. Bilko, and many others. The show filled the space in between each episode with current and decades-old music videos (including old Scopitones), old movie shorts, clips sent in from viewers, viewer call-in segments, and comedic banter with Chuck and the crew.
Chas Lawther played Chuck, a friendly, slightly awkward late-night security guard. Chuck addressed the audience directly, and introduced the night's programming from a TV studio control panel -- actually placing the video tapes in the playback machine to be played on air. Chuck's show opening, a loud, upbeat "Hey, you!", became a catchphrase for both the character and the show. Occasionally, Chuck would venture beyond his base in the CFMT TV control room and explore the empty station at night while doing his rounds; memorably, he once broke into real-life station president Dan Iannuzzi's office and made himself at home in Iannuzzi's absence.
The other ever-present regular on the show was Chuck's often-heard but never-seen friend Ryerson Dupont (Errol Bruce), the Scottish-accented camera operator. As an in-joke, Ryerson was named after Toronto's Ryerson University (then called Ryerson Polytechnical Institute), known for its Radio and Television Arts program. Heard far less frequently as an off-camera voice was audio technician P.B. Leonard, played by Michael Lennick. (Behind the scenes, Bruce and Lennick really did operate the camera and run the audio system, and were also the show's co-directors.)
A recurring feature had the lips of Maurice LaMarche inserted into a photograph of a famous person, and having LaMarche imitate that person to deliver a show promo or announcement. When LaMarche left the show, a young up-and-coming comic named Jim Carrey was recruited to take his place as a voice actor. Both Carrey and LaMarche were at this point just beginning their careers.
Seen on-camera from time to time was Suzette Couture as Fran the Night Nurse, a cheerful friend who would drop by to visit Chuck after her late shift had ended. Another recurring character was Paul Goldberg as Paul del Stud, a fifties-styled 'greaser' who would incongruously read out household cleaning tips as show bumpers leading into or out of commercials.
The show would have musical guests, usually on Thursday nights, both as interview guests and as performers. Notable musicians who appeared on The All Night Show included James Cotton, Richie Havens, David Wilcox, Domenic Troiano, Mary Margaret O'Hara and King Biscuit Boy. Other guests would occasionally be interviewed; however, a supposed interview with Twilight Zone writer/director Montgomery Pittman (via telephone) was a hoax, as Pittman died in 1962. "Pittman", it was later revealed, was played by Wayne Robson.
The show only lasted one year, ending when CFMT cut its budget for the time slot. In the final moments of the final episode, as the credits rolled, Ryerson was finally seen on camera.
Ten Thousand Shiftless Nights, a documentary about The All Night Show (which also served as a de facto reunion special) was aired on CFMT in 2007. The special was hosted by Lawther, and featured clips and reminiscences from Lawther, Bruce, Silverman, Lennick and others associated with the show.
- "Channel 47's Chuck turning in his keys," Jim Bawden, Toronto Star, August 6, 1981, p. E1.