If you want to fall down a rabbit hole of nostalgia-flavoured kitschy click-bait, nothing beats Retro Ontario. Their website is full of classic TV clips, station sign-offs, PSAs, and retro-commercial gold. I’ve spent more time than I should digging through their archives and have surfaced with these five gems – proving I probably should’ve spent more time outdoors as a kid. Check it out, then see what boob-tube memories you can find.
AFRICAN LION SAFARI, 1979
Despite it being less than an hour’s drive from my house, I never made it to African Lion Safari. But I remember it being on my childhood bucket-list of vacation destinations – right up there with Disney World and Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Every time this ad would come on I would drag my mother from whatever she was doing and make her watch. Looking at this ad, it seems you weren’t even allowed in the park without a wood-paneled station wagon.
BODY BREAK WITH HAL JOHNSON AND JOANNE MCCLOUD, 1988
Keep fit and have fun. Those words are basically burned into my psyche thanks to Hal Johnson and Joanne McCloud. These 90 second PSAs taught a generation of Ontarians simple ways to enjoy the great outdoors, treat minor injuries, and dress for success. This spot in particular features some excellent stunt work and POV camera angels.
I AM ASTAR PSA, 1980s
Anyone who grew up during the 1980s knows this PSA for War Amps. It’s 30 seconds of some of the best sci-fi visuals ever put on screen. When it first came on, I remember being riveted and wanting to know where to buy tickets to see this amazing fantasy adventure. Then the non-sequitur tag “I can put my arm back on. You CAN’T.” Blunt, but effective. An entire generation is still awaiting the full-length feature film version.
SECRET LOVE SOFT ROCK LP, 1987
As a kid growing up in the 80s and 90s, a lot of my education in classic pop music came from these types of hit-song compilation commercials. That basically means there are a lot of hit songs that I only know six words to. There was also Cool Rock, and Guitar Rock, and Awesome 80s, but Secret Love is the sexiest slow-jam mix ever created.
LABATT MAXIUM ICE MICHAEL IRONSIDE, 1993
Everything about this commercial is MAXIMUM. The waves crashing against the wind-swept cliffs – MAXIMUM. The fake lightning – MAXIMUM. Michael Ironside’s skullet – extremely MAXIMUM. Labatt Maximum Ice was more or less an alcoholic energy drink created for bros before there were bros. And before the appreciation for craft beers gained mainstream acceptance, this was how beer was marketed – like a heavy metal music video. Props for the Ministry song in the background though.