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Night Heat was a Canadian police drama series, which aired on both CTV in Canada and CBS in the United States. Original episodes were broadcast from 1985 to 1989 in the United States, and until 1990 in Canada.[1] Night Heat was the first Canadian-produced drama series to air on an American network. CBS aired the series as part of CBS Late Night, a late night block of drama programming.[2] Despite its late hour, Night Heat received good ratings for CBS, sometimes even beating NBC's Johnny Carson Show.[3] After it was canceled, reruns continued to air on CBS for another two years, and on Canadian TV well into the early 2000s.[4] Night Heat reruns were available on Showcase, TVtropolis and DejaView.

Night Heat
Night Heat Title Screen.png
Night Heat title screen
Created by Sonny Grosso & Larry Jacobson
Starring Scott Hylands
Jeff Wincott
Allan Royal
Louise Vallance
Eugene Clark
Sean McCann
Susan Hogan
Stephen Mendel
Country of origin Canada
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 96
Running time 45 minutes approx.
Production company(s) Alliance Communications
Grosso-Jacobson Productions
Original network CTV
Original release January 31, 1985 – January 5, 1989

The show starred Allan Royal as journalist Tom Kirkwood, who chronicled the nightly police beat of detectives Kevin O'Brien (Scott Hylands) and Frank Giambone (Jeff Wincott). For Hylands, a 21-year veteran actor, frequently seen playing villains in U.S. TV shows during the 1970s and early 1980s, this was the first time he had been given a leading role, or the role of a "good guy." [5] The Kevin O'Brien character was described as "a somewhat cynical, hardened hero." [5] The cast also included Susan Hogan, Wendy Crewson, Sean McCann, Louise Vallance, Stephen Mendel, Eugene Clark, and Clark Johnson. Featured early in the show's run, Vallance left the show to focus on her role as Whazzat Kangaroo in the American live-action children's series Zoobilee Zoo.


History of Night HeatEdit

The show was conceived by former New York police detective Sonny Grosso, a 25-year veteran with expertise in undercover work.[6] He had an idea for a police show specifically designed for a late night audience, that would feature a realistic look at police work.[7] The show, which featured an all-Canadian cast and crew, was produced in and around Toronto, but the majority of it was shot at the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital, described as a "grim and forbidding setting," that fit in with the gritty look that the show's producer, Robert Lantos wanted.[8] All shooting was done at night, to accurately depict police officers who worked the night shift; sometimes, shooting did not end until 3 AM.[5] Night Heat was also produced using "grainy hand-held 16mm film instead of the Hollywood-standard 35 mm," further making each episode seem more realistic.[9]

Critics in Canada were generally enthusiastic about Night Heat, and they were proud of the series for getting on the air in the United States.[2] The one complaint was that the show hid or downplayed the fact that it was Canadian, in order to appeal to US audiences: "they never say it's Toronto," observed one critic. "It's just the city." [10] As another critic explained, this was intentional: executives at CBS believed if the show were "too Canadian," American audiences would not be able to relate to it. Thus, the script-writers were advised to avoid specific mentions of Canadian culture, such as showing Canadian money or the Canadian flag. Even the language spoken by the actors had to be neutral: "When the demands of drama made specific references unavoidable, U.S. culture predominated. The cops didn't work in divisions but in precincts, and the police hierarchy featured officers, detectives and lieutenants instead of constables, sergeants and inspectors." [9] But Canadian audiences did not seem as concerned as the critics: proof of Night Heat's popularity in Canada was the fact that the show won a Gemini award in 1986 for Best Continuing Drama Series.[11]

The cast of Night Heat. From left to right, Stephen Mendel, Sean McCann, Eugene A. Clark, Louise Vallance, Scott Hylands, Jeff Wincott, and Allan Royal.

After getting solid ratings in the US in its late-night spot, 11:30 pm on Thursdays, during its first two seasons, CBS gave Night Heat an opportunity to be seen in a prime-time slot, as a six-episode summer replacement series in 1987.[6] But the show did not get good enough ratings to be given a regular prime-time slot, and it returned to its late-night time period in the fall.

Meanwhile, CBS had decided that it could get bigger ratings in late-nights with another talk show, and it recruited Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak to host one. Many affiliates expressed more interest in running the Sajak program than in continuing to run Night Heat.[12] In early 1989, CBS announced it had officially canceled Night Heat.[13] Night Heat aired a total of 96 original episodes. Ironically, The Pat Sajak Show did poorly in the ratings, and was canceled after a year; it frequently received lower ratings than Night Heat had gotten.[9]

A popular urban legend surrounds the filming of an episode featuring scenes set in New York City but filmed in Toronto. It is said that garbage was strewn around on the scene, to mimic New York's less clean appearance than Toronto. However, while the cast and crew were on a lunch break, a City of Toronto Sanitation official 'cleaned' the street, believing it to be genuinely dirty. This story has been associated with various films, but is thought most likely to have occurred during the filming of Night Heat, if at all.[14] However, several members of the cast, including the show's creator Sonny Grosso, insisted the story was true. As Grosso explained it to a reporter, the crew tried to imitate the dirty and gritty streets of a typical city by "... burning cars on the streets, spray-painting graffiti on buildings and using prop garbage. On one occasion, "[w]e put garbage down on the street for a shootout and chase scene. Then we had our lunch break and, when we came back to work, Toronto's very efficient sanitation department had come along and cleaned the street up." [15]



  1. ^ "Jump Street Fans Should Book a Night for Richard Grieco." Vancouver Sun, September 1, 1989, p. TV3.
  2. ^ a b Jim Bawden. "Night Heat." Toronto Star, March 24, 1985, p. G1.
  3. ^ Jim Bawden. "Canadian-made TV Has a Big Booster at CBS." Toronto Star, June 16, 1986, p. D1.
  4. ^ Eirik Knutzen. "TV Talkback." Toronto Star, April 20, 2002, p. S8.
  5. ^ a b c Carol Gault. "Night Heat Gives Hylands the Right Slot." Toronto Globe & Mail, April 19, 1986, p. 7.
  6. ^ a b Mike Boone. "Night Heat Cruises on to American Prime-Time TV." Montreal Gazette, May 23, 1987, p. H1.
  7. ^ Bill Prentice. "Night Heat a Landmark Production." Toronto Globe & Mail, January 26, 1985, p. D10.
  8. ^ Diane Smith. "Great Scott." Toronto Star, March 29, 1986, p. S4.
  9. ^ a b c Tony Atherton. "The Canadian Connection." Ottawa Citizen, December 4, 2002, p. E1.
  10. ^ Rick Salutin. "Hollywood North Could be Anytown U.S.A." Toronto Globe & Mail, November 21, 1987, p. 11.
  11. ^ "Anne of Green Gables Caps Successful Year with Nine Geminis." Ottawa Citizen, December 5, 1986, p. F10.
  12. ^ "CBS Gambles on Talk Show with Wheel of Fortune Host." Montreal Gazette, December 30, 1988, p. C7.
  13. ^ Jim Bawden. "Northern Blights." Toronto Star, June 10, 1989, p. S84.
  14. ^ "Toronto's Clean Streets". Retrieved 2014-03-29. 
  15. ^ Jim Bawden. "Clean Sweep: The Fake Garbage has been Cleaned Up on the 'Streets' of Night Heat." Toronto Star, November 26, 1988, p. S8.

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