Produced at CKCO starting in 1971
Each week a group of children climbed the ladder to the Treehouse to be greeted by Danny and his puppet friends JoJo and Frank. The show was built around Danny Coughlan’s ability as a singer and his skills in drawing. The content was based on Ted Rooney’s five textbooks which deal with reading, mathematics, spelling, grammar and sensory-motor body balance exercises. The script contained many elements of cautionary wisdom and exhortations for conventional manners. Visitors included regulars such as Lisa, the mailgirl who arrived with letters to Danny. She then stayed on to demonstrate, with the children’s participation, some useful physical exercises.
Later in the series, on-location segments were added, e.g., Danny’s interviews with Wayne Gretzky, a feature on the Blue Jays, and how to become a good baseball player. The drawing segments later included the use of computers.
by Ted Rooney
This is the 30th Anniversary of the production of the Treehouse TV show. We are told it was the longest running Canadian-produced children’s program using an all-Canadian cast. It was in production for 17 years and then on reruns for three years.
I was the creator-producer of the show which featured Danny Coughlan and he wrote all the songs. Our two original puppets were “Leroy and Ralph” and the puppeteers were Ken Copeman and Terry Thomas.
Treehouse started on CKCO-TV in 1972 and was gradually “recycled” on CTV network stations from the Maritimes to Alberta. Around 1980 it was selected to be featured on the CanPro satellite out of Edmonton. At its peak in popularity, Treehouse received a thousand letters a month from Canada and the border states of the U.S.A.
Treehouse started two years after Sesame Street while Friendly Giant (American) and Mr. Dressup were also in production at CBC-TV. Treehouse was a mix of education and music with segments on drawing, travel, exercises and a sing-along with Danny and his guitar. The format was aimed at ages 5 to 12 years and its ratings were steady until TV cartoons began to attract children. This immediately affected all live shows.
I took copies of Treehouse and showed them to the three American networks in New York and also flew to New Zealand and Australia to present to their networks. All liked it, but found it was “too Canadian”. With the sudden death of Danny Coughlan, Treehouse ceased production.
In the last five years, our production had become so efficient that we could put 26 shows “in the can” in two weekends during the summer. This too may be a record.
Treehouse was unique in that it invited seven different children to participate in each program. During the drawing segment they followed Danny’s instructions, then they did exercises with the female leader and sang along with Danny accompanied by his guitar. The viewers did the same at home.
Treehouse often had special guests who told the viewers how they became sports stars, musicians, pilots, etc. Wayne Gretzky was on the show three times and said he recalled watching Treehouse as a kid.
The Treehouse show was conceived in Stratford, Ontario and was registered under the Stratford Children’s Production Company. The original programs opened with a film clip of Danny leading a group of Treehousers over the island bridge on the Avon in Stratford.
Viewers were invited to mail in their drawings and the winners received one of three music albums by Danny or one of the four education books (Number Book – Math) that I had published.
RTO member Ted Rooney is a retired educator who was a teacher, principal and superintendent. He was in the first Ryerson University TV program course.