To a person of a certain age who grew up with cable, the phrase, “Hey, Alisdair” brings the response, “Yeah, Moose?” Or Lisa, or Alanis, or what have you, but the name isn’t the point. The point is that for those of us with cable in the mid-’80s watched You Can’t Do That on Television. One of the things that works, even though it’s obviously something done for practical reasons, is that all the adults are played by the same people. There were two different women played all the women—while researching this article I learned that Ruth Buzzi was on the first thirteen episodes. But for the entire run of the series, all the men were Les Lye.
Wikipedia’s picture of Lye is not Barth. Or Ross. Blip. Et cetera. It’s Lye as a young and frankly quite attractive man, from his career as a radio host. Because while many of us do indeed think of him as the assorted characters he played on the show, that’s not where his career began. Wikipedia isn’t specific, but the math makes sense that Lye joined the Canadian military during World War II. Following that, he went to college and got a BA, then joined the Academy of Radio Arts apparently created by Lorne Greene. This led to a long radio announcing career.
It’s weird to read that Lye was a popular emcee around Canada in the ’40s, in part because it’s so hard to picture him at that age. Even looking at his picture at that age. I was staring at the picture for ages, trying to figure out who he looked like. The obvious answer was “Les Lye,” of course, but as my seven-year-old pointed out, he looks slightly like Raymond Burr. (Well, Zane said Perry Mason. But you know.) Which he only slightly does, but he looks more like Perry Mason in that picture than he looks like Snake Eyes.
One of the things I’m not sure I realized as a child was that Lye had a long career in television comedy. He goes back to the ’60s at least. He’d done radio comedy before that, and apparently he had a comedy album with Rich Little, which I didn’t know in part because I don’t actually like Rich Little very much. He’s one of those people whose IMDb page feels incomplete—and I know for a fact it is, too, because it doesn’t mention Turkey Television at all. I watched that show and can even remember one of his specific characters on it who didn’t appear on YCDTOTV.
I’ve heard mutterings that the set of YCDTOTV wasn’t a great place for the show’s child stars. I don’t honestly know a lot about that. I haven’t really been able to do that deep a dive into the show’s assorted controversies, and since only one season is streaming on Paramount+ (and almost certainly not the banned “Adoption” episode), I didn’t bother getting a preview of it to watch. But I will always have childhood nostalgia for the show, even if I know specific bits definitely don’t hold up.