CBC Television Series 1952 to 1982

The Tenth Decade

Wed 9:00-10:00 p.m., 27 Oct-22 Dec 1971

Sun/Mon 10:00-11:00 p.m., 27 Aug-11 Sep 1972 (R)

Sun/Mon 10:00-11:00 p.m., 13 Nov-23 Nov 1972 (R)

Sun 10:00-11:00 p.m., 13 Jun-29 Aug 1976

A series of eight, one hour film documentaries made under the supervision of executive producer Cameron Graham, The Tenth Decade charted the political decade up to the Centennial year, and the Parliamentary conflict between John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson as leaders of the two major parties. Graham had previously produced individual documentaries on Diefenbaker's decline in power (Hail And Farewell, l967), and on the accession to power of Pierre Trudeau in the Liberal Party and as Prime Minister (The Style Is The Man Himself, l968). The Tenth Decade was his first extended production of this type, it was heralded as a major effort in the development of television as a tool for writing Canadian political history.

Diefenbaker's and Pearson's respective regimes, and the conflicts they mounted were the first in Canada to be played out completely in the era of television, and Graham and director Munroe Scott had a wealth of documentary and newsfilm and kinescopes to sift through for their material. They skilfully intercut archival footage from both political camps and recent interviews with the two adversaries. The style of the film itself, both the archival footage long faded from the memories of television viewers and aspects of its reworking, led a Maclean's reviewer to conclude, in an all too typical example of self-contempt, that the show "... contains extraordinary revelations about what kind of country Canada really has been--gauche, provincial, pretentious, absurd, and incredibly colonial banana republic. ... This banality is reflected, intentionally or unintentionally, in the style of The Tenth Decade--the pretentious, clichd titles for each program, the Gotterdammerung shots of Parliament Hill backed by Victory At Sea music, the camera's peculiar fascination with a lighted portrait of Dief which reappears mysteriously like the Ghost in Hamlet." (Maclean's [December l97l])

Nevertheless, the series offered a valuable, if loosely defined, perspective on the period from l957 to l967 from the the vantage of the two protagonists. The first segment, Prologue To Power, introduced both Diefenbaker and Pearson and traced their backgrounds, ending with the June l957 election that brought Diefenbaker's Conservatives to power and ended the twenty-two years of Liberal domination in the House of Commons. The second episode, From Victory To Triumph, took the Tories from the narrow margin of their first minority government to the landslide of March l958, and outlined the Pearson's succession to the leadership of the Liberal Party after the resignation of Louis St. Laurent. Part three, The Power And The Glory, traced the four years of that government and the return of the Conservatives to a minority status in the Commons in l962. The portentously titled fourth part, Treason And Transition outlined the ten months of that fragile minority, marked by Diefenbaker's anti- nuclear arms stance and the issue of the Bomarc missile, and the l963 election that returned the Liberals to the government and made Pearson the Prime Minister. As the title of the fifth program suggested, Search For A Mandate concerned the Liberals' efforts to build their political fortunes from a minority, but the period from one election to the next in l965, also to a minority, were marked by budget conflicts, the war in Vietnam, and domestic scandal. The second Liberal government, documented in part six, No Joy In Heaven, was plagued with scandals like the Munsinger affair, and had to try to face the growing unrest in Qubec. Celebration And Success, the title of the seventh chapter, referred principally to the hoopla over the Centennial in l967, and not necessarily to the deposition of John Diefenbaker as head of the Progressive Conservative Party that same year. Finally, as described in the last program, The End Of An Era, Pearson resigned, too, to be succeeded by Pierre Trudeau, and a new political regime began with the l968 defeat of the Conservatives under Robert Stanfield and the formation of a majority Liberal government.

Writers for The Tenth Decade included Ed Reid, Christopher Young, and Brian Nolan, and the commentary was spoken by actor Jon Granik. The music was composed by Larry Crosley.

The series was rerun the summer after it was first broadcast, but the series had to be interrupted because of the federal election, in which Diefenbaker was a candidate for his traditional Saskatchewan seat.

The research and shooting for The Tenth Decade led directly to two subsequent series produced by Graham: One Canadian and First Person Singular, his television biographies of Diefenbaker and Pearson, respectively.

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