While covering the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month, this writer often found himself walking alone at night in Canada’s largest city. This brought back memories of Night Walk (and its successors, Night Ride and Night Moves), a program he’d first discovered years ago during a period of obsession with TV ephemera.
Night Walk was the hypnotic, psychogeographic sign-off broadcast of Toronto’s Global UHF channel, aired nightly at 3:30 a.m. from 1986 to 1993. It consisted of nighttime views of Toronto shot in a mock first-person accompanied by a jazz soundtrack. Michael Spivak, a Global executive and amateur jazz musician, came up with the idea and wrote the music. According to a news story from the time, its most loyal viewers were insomniacs and prisoners.
The Night programs were the work of director Bill Elliott and Steadicam operator Bill Crone and were shot on a video camera with a Saticon tube that produced a distinctly ghostly image. YouTube appears to have all of them. (We recommend the Retrontario channel, a must for anyone who’s fascinated by the aesthetics of vintage TV.) And besides offering a glimpse into a kind of TV that no one really has a use for anymore—as well as Canadian city life in the mid-1980s—the programs are fairly mesmerizing.