By Dexter Brown
If dogs are man’s best friend, then The Littlest Hobo is Canada’s best friend. This week Rewind looks back at Canada’s favourite dog, The Littlest Hobo.
The Littlest Hobo (CTV 1979-1985) is a rarity of sorts. Not only is it one of the few half-hour dramas out there, it’s also sill airing on network television despite ending production over 25 years ago. It’s clearly the odd one out of the bunch when it shows up in a seemingly random bonanza of Cancon programming on both CTV and CTV Two.
In a typical episode of The Littlest Hobo, some obnoxious blowhard or con artist bullies, cheats or mistreats some ordinary Joe in some way. An astoundingly intelligent dog, “The Littlest Hobo,” stumbles across the two conflicting parties and helps them resolve whatever problems may arise. This is usually in an indirect way by stealing people’s things (such as teddy bears, keys, hats, glasses and wallets). Doing so helps him get their attention or gets them to follow him somewhere where attention is needed. Usually by the end of the episode, the villain doesn’t look quite as bad as he did at the start and The Littlest Hobo wanders off supposedly to help other people in need.
The possibilities for the show seemed endless. The Littlest Hobo had no real reoccurring characters except the dog. He could be plopped into any random situation, encounter some sort of trouble or dispute (marred with some terrible acting of course) and by the end of the episode in most cases, he’d head off somewhere else.
Looking at the show now, one could wonder if this show was ever taken seriously. Compared with the high-octane dramas on TV it feels tame, remarkably cheesy and simply unbelievable. You really had to suspend your sense of reality and maintain a childlike sense of wonder to believe a mere German Shepherd could follow a complex situation, read and warn others of impending doom or trouble. This is all made even worse by some dreadful acting and some low production value.
Despite all that The Littlest Hobo still has a place in many Canadians hearts and some might find it surprising that this simple show about a dog is now as synonymous with Canada as maple syrup and hockey. Even more surprising is that The Littlest Hobo isn’t even a Canadian creation. The show was a remake of an American series based on an American film which were also both titled The Littlest Hobo. So with all that, is that enough of a reason to warrant regular showings on network television in 2012? That’s debatable.
Today, seeing animals on TV week after week isn’t such a rare phenomenon as it may have been when The Littlest Hobo originally aired. These days animals are taking centre stage with channels like Animal Planet, National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild. Network television is also taking part with the likes of the delightful Chestnut the horse on CBS’ 2 Broke Girls and gear up for a host of animals this fall on NBC’s Animal Practice.
This summer also brought a lot of man’s best friend with Dogs in the City on CBS which plays out like a bizzaro world Littlest Hobo. Instead of an ownerless dog helping random people through difficult situations in a half-hour drama, Dogs in the City brings us a dog guru (Justin Silver) who helps dogs that are in crisis (anxiety with certain people or eating through walls) in a modern day hour-long reality show format. The guru supposedly abandons the dog and their owner when his work is done not unlike the end of The Littlest Hobo. As The Littlest Hobo falls in the shadows of the more popular Lassie, the recent series Dogs in the City could be argued to fall in the wildly successful Dog Whisperer on National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild which has been on the air for years.
Catch The Littlest Hobo weekdays on most CTV Two stations and weekends on most CTV stations. (Check your local listings for the exact airtimes in your area.)