MAN ALIVE

Canadian Religious/Information Program

A critically-acclaimed, non-denominational program which the show's executive producer, Louise Lore, describes as "a religious program for a post-Christian age," Man Alive is one of Canada's longest-running information programs. Begun in 1967 amidst a renewed sense of theological activism inspired by the reforms of Vatican II, Man Alive takes its name and inspiration from a St. Iranaeous quote: "the glory of God is man fully alive." From a format which concentrated on theological issues, the show's focus has broadened considerably in its 30 seasons.

It has profiled and interviewed many of the world's most important religious figures from Mother Theresa to the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. An 8 October 1986 interview with the Aga Khan was this religious leader's first formal North American interview. He had declined previous requests from such well-known shows as CBS's 60 Minutes in favour of Man Alive because of the show's reputation for balance and the relaxed, soft-spoken interviewing style of the show's host, Roy Bonisteel. Many of these interviews were marked by their candidness and honesty as in the case of Archbishop Tutu who related how Jackie Robinson and Lena Horne were his boyhood heroes.

Bonisteel, the show's host from for 22 seasons and so identified with it that many mistake him for a minister, was a journalist by training. He had been producing radio shows for the United Church of Canada in the mid-1960s when he was approached to be the host of the new television program. By the time he left he had become the longest running host of any information program in Canada. He was succeeded by Peter Downie, former co-host of CBC's Midday current affairs program in the fall of 1989. Man Alive observed its 25th anniversary with a one-hour special in February of 1992 which celebrated not only its longevity but also the diversity of its programming.

Throughout its history, the show has consistently provided programming that appeals to a broad audience and this has been one of the keys to its success. It has delved into a variety of topics, from UFOs to the threat of nuclear war, from father-son relationships to life in a maximum security hospital for the criminally insane. Nor has it avoided controversial and unpopular subjects such as the Vatican bank scandal, sexual abuse in the church, or aid to El Salvador. Some of the show's most critically acclaimed episodes have been those that have chronicled very personal human dramas such as the story of David McFarlane who met the challenges presented by his Down's Syndrome to star in a television drama, or the story of the Rubineks, Holocaust survivors, and their moving return to Poland after 40 years. In spite of the changing nature of television audiences and serious budgetary constraints, Man Alive continues the tradition of providing an informative and well-balanced examination of relevant social issues and contemporary ethical questions.

-Manon Lamontagne


Man Alive
Photo courtesy of the National Archives of Canada

HOSTS

Roy Bonisteel (1967-1989)
Peter Downie (1989-Present)

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS Leo Rampen (1967-1985) Louise Lore (1985-Present)

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

CBC
October 1967-March 1968                   Sundays 5:00-5:30 November 1968-March 1978              Mondays 9:30-10:00 October 1979-March 1980              Tuesdays 10:30-11:00 October 1980-March 1983               Sundays 10:30-11:00 October 1983-March 1984               Sundays 10:00-10:30 October 1984-March 1987           Wednesdays 9:30-10:00 October 1987-                                 Tuesdays 9:30-10:00

FURTHER READING

Bonisteel, Roy. Man Alive: the Human Journey. Toronto, Canada: Collins, 1983.

_______________. In Search of Man Alive. Toronto, Canada: Totem Books, 1980.

 

See also Canadian Programming in English