My best friend and confidant Bill Reiter has asked me to write a short bio on the Canadian children’s television program Zig Zag. First of all, in my opinion, it wasn’t a kid’s show. It may have been children’s programming in the beginning when it was co-hosted by radio and television personality Terry David Mulligan and his bubbly photogenic co-host Susanne McLellan, but it eventually turned into something a little more adultly foolish. When Susanne left the show to pursue a quite successful career in the burgeoning Hollywood North film scene, she was replaced by the equally enthusiastic Marilyn Smith. Both these early alumni’s post-Zig Zag show business pursuits have led to long-lived careers. I recently saw the still beautiful Ms. Smith on a Vancouver talk show during a nation-wide book tour promoting her latest tome. I’ve consistently enjoyed her television commercials. Terry Mulligan has re-invented himself over and over again, and now has a wealth of radio and television production credits, both in-front-of and behind the lens (microphone). I recently enjoyed him on CTV’s Robson Arms.
Soon afterwards, Rick and Ross formulated the idea of a show within the main show. The Biff and Bart Show became a three to five minute segment introduced by two hand held puppets named Little Biff and Little Bart. “I’m Biff”. “I’m Bart”. “We think we’re pretty smart” sang Biff (Reiter) and Bart (Ducommun) while they worked their respective mini-me puppets, hands stuffed up. Invariably, as the overweight “puppeteers” crouched unprofessionally behind their show’s desk, they’d be “seen” by the camera prompting their manic appearance. Reiter has said that watching Rick work opened his mind’s door to the possibility of an easier way to write comedy. Before that, Reiter found more often than not, it was difficult for him to bridge the gap between comedic idea and written comedy fulfillment.
In the years following, other successful and talented comedic actors joined Bill until the program ended its run in the late 1980s. “Ended” may be a misnomer. The show continued in re-runs well into the 1990’s. Worldwide syndication during that period also made it a sales winner for the BCTV mother ship.
Zig Zag has been called an adult comedy show in the guise of a kid’s TV series. Ross Sullivan was responsible for this. With the help of dedicated crews and performers led by Terry David Mulligan and Bill Reiter, he made it a show that featured, as regulars, some of The Great White North’s very gifted comic performers such as Valri Bromfield, Norm Grohmann, Nicola Cavendish and Ryan Stiles . All became an integral part of this adult kid’s show.
Zig Zag bio by Frederich Hende, former host of CBC radio’s Nightfall – March, 2007