Tuesday, April 23, 2024

CBC's Man Alive

Leo Rampen (whose art portfolio in Emanations Zen was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize) was the executive producer of the CBC program Man Alive from 1967 to 1979.

Here is the introduction to the first episode, which aired in 1967:

From Blaine Allan's CBC Television Series, 1952-1982:

Man Alive

Here is CBC television's weekly inquiry into issues of faith, commitment, and contemporary life took its title from St. Irenaeus, the second century Bishop of Lyons, who wrote, "The glory of God is man fully alive." The fact that the phrase, "Man alive" appears more popularly as an expletive suggests the down-to-earth pertinence of the program's approach. In fact, a Maclean's review called Man Alive "An irreverent new approach to religion" (December l967). Catchy headlines can misrepresent the show, however. Man Alive grew out of the wake of Vatican II and the movement toward ecumenism in the 1960s. Although it has maintained a vigilant and critical attitude toward the church, it has generally reflected its sense of self-criticism and reform and its growing social commitment. As the program went to air, the CBC's assistant supervisor of religious programming, Rev. Brian Freeland cautioned, "We are not a public relations department for the churches of Canada," and executive producer Leo Rampen added, "Nor are we seeking the benediction of the churches."

Since its premiere in 1967, Man Alive has built a reputation for adventurous public affairs programming. The show and its host since the beginning, Roy Bonisteel, have shared images of credibility and integrity. The program's producers have been rewarded with a consistent and loyal audience and the show's consequent longevity.


Man Alive resulted in part from the expansion of the CBC's Religious Broadcasts department. Personnel for previous programs, such as Heritage (q.v.) had come from the network's regional production centres. In 1967 Rampen, formerly producer of Take Thirty, headed a team that included veteran producers who had worked on such public affairs shows as The Other Eye and This Hour Has Seven Days. Originally in a magazine format, Man Alive reflected the public affairs training of its producers, and covered such subjects as current bills in Parliament that dealt with questions of divorce, capital punishment, and abortion; the recent Synod of Bishops in Rome; Billy Graham's rally at the CNE Stadium in Toronto; and the cult of exorcism. The program employed both filmed documentaries and studio discussions in its inquiries. In the 1970s, the producers decreased the studio-bound programs and tended more toward documentary investigations and filmed interviews.


The program started in a Sunday afternoon time slot, where it was followed by Hymn Sing, itself a popular and long-running series. After two seasons, Man Alive moved into prime time on a weeknight, where it became less strictly associated with religious programming. In fact, it was North America's only prime time offering devoted to issues of religion. It remained in that time slot, with little variation, until 1979, when it moved to Tuesdays. Repeat broadcasts, sometimes under the title, The Best Of Man Alive, have turned up on Sunday afternoons during summer seasons and in the regular season.


Producers of Man Alive have included David Ruskin (l967-68), John Ryan (l967-68), Garth Goddard (l968), Terry Thompson (l968-69), Sam Levene (l969-7l), Louise Lore (l970-l979), John McGreevy (l970-75), Sig Gerber (l973-77), Tim Bentley (l974-78), Rosalind Farber (l974-75), Wayne Thompson (l978-date), Catherine Smalley (l978-date). Executive producers have been Leo Rampen (l967-77, 1978-79), Sig Gerber (l977), and Louise Lore (l979-date).


See also Roy Bonisteel, In Search of Man Alive, Toronto: Collins, 1980.


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