YTV’s most PG moments
PJ ‘Fresh’ Phil Guerrero was the electronic babysitter for Canadian children in ’90s
If you were a Canadian kid watching TV in the 1990s, there’s a very good chance your childhood was heavily influenced by the madcap antics of Phil Guerrero, a.k.a. PJ “Fresh” Phil.
He was the host of YTV’s daily afterschool block of programming called “The Zone,” which broadcast an eclectic mix of new and old: Adam West as Batman brushed up against Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers and black-and-white episodes of Dennis the Menace.
PJ Phil was the country’s electronic babysitter from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., broadcasting live from the then barren wasteland of Liberty Village.
Guerrero now hosts The Velvet Ropeline, a web series for SessionsX.com (fatefully also based out of the now thriving Liberty Village), and recently took some time to share memories of the more controversial times during his reign as the coolest older “TV brother” Canadian kids ever had. Picking a name “When I started, it was a thing for the ‘program jockeys.’ PJ Jan had a name (‘Jazzy’), there was Gord the PJ ‘Man,’ and PJ ‘Rockin’ Chan. They all got to choose their names. I suggested for me, they turn it into an on-air contest for kids to pick one. I liked PJ ‘Kickin’ Phil the best, but that was voted down because it was too violent. This was like 1990, so the ’80s weren’t too far back in the rearview mirror and Toronto was still a very religious town. That’s when I realized, OK, this is a bit of a responsibility. There were only, like, 25 channels and I was representing the first kids’ network.” Power Rangers “In 1994, YTV pulled the plug (on Power Rangers) after so many complaints . . . I was told to not make a big deal about the show on ‘The Zone,’ which was hard because it was the most popular show we had at the time, but they still took it off. That would never happen now in a million years.” Pogs “Pogs was this harmless, Hawaiian kid’s game which was accused of turning kids into crazy gamblers because you would win what you shoot. You know, the kids in the schoolyards are gambling at recess. And some people suggested that once kids were into gambling, alcohol and sex addiction would follow. You know, some 12-year-old kid is into Pogs and next thing he’s gonna be out cruising for prostitutes? It was ridiculous.” Beast Wars “Our VP of programming at YTV, Dale Taylor, had to come up with a new name for this cartoon Transformers: Beast Wars, so it was turned into Beasties, because Beasties are cute. Can’t be using the word “Wars,” right? So all the problems would go away if we called it Beasties. I don’t know why no one pointed out that Star Wars didn’t turn a generation of kids into warmongers. And that was in 1977!” Subversive humour “Me and Snit (Phil’s berserk made-of-gum robot sidekick) used to make comments about some of the drug references in things like the old ’60s animated Spider-Man.
“It’s kinda funny actually, but I made jokes on air back then that the kids watching at the time would only understand now. It’s like the punchline comes 25 years later.” Colourful language “YTV hosted a live event called ‘Festival of Friends’ at Wonderland, with lots of big name kids’ entertainment guests. And we had to sing this song, so me and the other PJs were rehearsing it in our trailer, but I was goofing around, making the words dirty, you know.
“Then there is a knock at the door and a voice says, ‘Hello, it’s Shari Lewis next door and Lamb Chop can hear you!’ It was during my N.W.A phase in 1991 when I wore a Raiders hat.” YTV achievement awards “It was kind of like YTV’s Oscars, all hands on deck and all the crews working together. Every year, all these kids across Canada getting recognized on TV for their hard work. And we broke a lot of stars out of that thing — Jim Carrey, the Barenaked Ladies, DJ A-Trak, Tegan and Sara, Estella Warren . . . It was beautiful. It should come back. Who does stuff like that anymore?”