For Canadians of a certain generation, CBC television programming is forever lodged somewhere in our memories. I use “our” here because I count myself among that generation, too. Which explains why Late Night in the Studio, from the music and art collective shy kids, resonates for me as it does. The series—which consists of five short films—is surreal, yet it captures the strange quality of CBC’s actual vintage broadcasts. I found myself tripping out, even as I remembered very real things I had once seen.
As hosted by Nobu Adilman (pitch-perfect in his part), the series is presented as mini-episodes embedded in a larger whole. Once the VHS tape warp effect settles down, Adilman introduces the context of each and then we’re whisked away to twisted versions of real-life shows. These include (but are definitely not limited to): a Kung Fu- and Young Indiana Jones-inspired adventure show starring David Suzuki, a cartoon holiday special complete with Burl Ives stand-in, and a The Young and the Restless-style soap set in Regina. The overall vibe here is just as weird as those descriptors imply, but it’s clear Late Night in the Studio is made with love, expressing how the CBC’s programming became such a touchstone for a generation of Canadian artists. In this, the series is also not above poking fun at the venerable institution itself; it’s the kind of thing Canadian media could stand a bit more of—especially if we’re to be honest with ourselves as a country.
One of the trailer taglines for the series is the inverted “fiction is stranger than truth,” which fits the overall real-and-fake ethos here. Everything in Late Night in the Studio has been purposefully deteriorated and designed to look like it’s been beamed in from a different dimension. The warm nostalgia we most often associate with the CBC distorts into something else. You may even begin to question your own memories. Was this really what Canadian TV was like? Just try to remember as best you can.