|The Littlest Hobo|
The First Season DVD cover
|Country of origin||Canada|
|No. of seasons||2 (1960s version)|
6 (1979 version)
|No. of episodes||61 (1960s version)|
114 (1979 version)
|Running time||30 minutes (including commercials)|
(Original 1963-1965 series)
|First shown in||September 24, 1963 - November 16, 1965 (first series)|
|Original release||October 11, 1979 -|
March 7, 1985 (second series)
The Littlest Hobo is a Canadian television series (French title: Le Vagabond) based upon a 1958 American film of the same name directed by Charles R. Rondeau. The series first aired from 1963 to 1965 in syndication, and was revived for a popular second run on CTV, spanning six seasons, from October 11, 1979 to March 7, 1985. The concept of the show was that of "an ownerless dog".
All three productions revolved around an extremely intelligent stray German Shepherd, the titular Hobo, who wanders from town to town, helping people in need. Although the concept (of a dog saving the day) was perhaps similar to that of Lassie and/or Rin Tin Tin, the Littlest Hobo's destiny was to befriend those who apparently needed help, portrayed by well known actors in celebrity guest appearance roles. Despite the attempts of the many people whom he helped to adopt him, he appeared to prefer to be on his own, and would head off by himself at the end of each episode.
Referred to as "Gulliver" in a single episode, the dog is often referred to by the name Hobo or by the names given by temporary human companions. His origins, motivation, and ultimate destination are never explained on screen.
Following the 1958 film, the 1960s original TV series was aired in syndication around the world, including the UK on the ITV between 1964-1967. Although the series was originally broadcast in black and white, it was in fact produced in colour. The VCI Entertainment DVD release of the series featured the colour versions of the episodes, except for the opening and closing credits which have only survived in black and white. Sixty-one episodes were broadcast over two seasons.
Storer Programs Incorporated, a unit of the now-defunct Storer Broadcasting distributed the series to U.S. television stations during its 1960s run.
The German shepherd dogs featured in both 1960s and 1980s series were owned and trained by Charles (Chuck) P. Eisenmann. The primary star was named London, but several of London's relatives, including Toro, Litlon, and Thorn, also played scenes as the Hobo. Eisenmann used his own training methods to work with his dogs which involved educating them to think and understand very specific directions, to recognize colors, and to understand English, German, and French. He promoted his education method by touring with his dogs to offer live demonstrations, appearing on TV and radio shows and by writing books. Eisenmann recounts many stories from the filming of the series in his 1968 dog training book Stop! Sit! and Think. Other books he wrote include The Better Dog: The Educated Dog which contains updated training material and A Dog's Day in Court which offers a dog's point of view towards training methods.
The dogs are German Shepherds with "reverse mask" markings. After purchasing London, Eisenmann began to breed his own dogs, mostly studding out his males, even though he owned some females that he bred to as well. He bred particularly for the reverse mask, that is commonly seen on all of his dogs, and is unpopular with breeders of the German Shepherd dog as it is not in the breed standard.
In 1979 CTV revived the series. The New Littlest Hobo (as it was sometimes called), which ran for six seasons, was shot on videotape rather than film. It has since been syndicated in many countries including the U.S. and UK. In the course of its run, a mixture of well-known Canadian and Hollywood guest stars appeared such as Al Waxman, Carol Lynley, John Ireland, Megan Follows, Rex Hagon, Alan Hale Jr., Jack Gilford, August Schellenberg, DeForest Kelley, Ray Walston, Morey Amsterdam, Jeff Wincott, Michael Ironside, Patrick Macnee, Abe Vigoda, Saul Rubinek, John Vernon, Keenan Wynn, Chris Makepeace, Karen Kain, Vic Morrow, Andrew Prine, Lynda Day George, Sammy Snyders, Henry Gibson, John Carradine, and Leslie Nielsen. Mike Myers appears as Tommy in episode 10 "Boy on Wheels".
Charles (Chuck) P. Eisenmann appeared as a dog trainer named Chuck in the first-season episode "Stand In" and as dog kennel operator named Mr. Charles in part one of the episode "Voyageurs" from the sixth season.
In a nod to the original series, the dog that appeared in this series was credited also as "London".
The series aired on CTV on Thursday nights at 7:30p.m. Reruns continued on CTV, CTV Two, and other national networks up until 2012, when CTV replaced it with a block of music videos from Juicebox. In the UK the series premièred on the BBC on April 8, 1982, but only the first three seasons were shown and repeated until 1989. From April 1991 ITV picked up the series and each of the local companies played out the full series until late 1994.
Plots ranged from the simple "dog-helps-person" stories to secret agent-type adventures.
In season 5's two-part episode "The Genesis Tapes" a scientist and a reporter theorized that Hobo was a type of superior canine. The reporter theorized that there was one dog and the scientist theorized that there were up to one hundred such dogs. The two-part episode had the scientist and reporter trying to capture Hobo to study him, with the reporter wanting a story and the scientist wanting to claim to be the first to discover the meta-canine as he put it. Hobo succeeds in destroying VHS tapes of himself that the scientist and reporter had intended to use to prove that he was an evolved canine. Both episodes feature flashback footage from the first five seasons of the series, with the first episode being the only episode of the revival series to include footage from the original 1960s series. The episode does not confirm that Hobo was indeed a superior canine either by evolution or design; it was simply the theory of the scientist and reporter.
Trainer Chuck Eisenmann used several dogs to play the role of "London" as he had selected dogs entirely based on their appearance. He determined which dogs to use for the scenes by making use of their abilities such as if one dog did not mind carrying objects or if one were small enough to safely jump through a car window and maneuver through the seats. In Eisenmann's book, A Dog's Day in Court, one of the dogs used in the 1970s series was London's grandson, who was also known as London.
A 2005 episode of the CTV sitcom Corner Gas, entitled "The Littlest Yarbo", pays tribute to the series by having a character (Hank Yarbo) convinced that a stray dog visiting the town is Hobo. The episode ends with a reprise of Terry Bush's "Maybe Tomorrow" theme song.
The show's theme, "Maybe Tomorrow", was sung by Terry Bush. In 2005, Bush commercially released the song on his debut album, entitled Maybe Tomorrow. The song was later used in a 2011 Dulux paint advertisement. Additionally, in 2017, the song was in a Canada 150-themed Co-Op stores advertisement.
VCI Entertainment has released 12 episodes from the original series to DVD. The release features the colour versions of the first 3 episodes, except for the opening and closing sequences which have only survived in monochrome. The last 9 episodes were released in black and white.
Mediumrare Entertainment have only released the first two seasons of The Littlest Hobo on DVD. The Season One DVD, featured the theme tune "Maybe Tomorrow" on DVD in Region 2 & 4 on April 26, 2010.
|DVD Name||Episodes||Release dates|
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|Season One||24||N/A||April 26, 2010||Sept, 2010|
|Season Two||18||N/A||September 6, 2010||N/A|