If you were in Toronto during the ‘70s or ‘90s, you may have graciously encountered that Holy Grail of the broadcasting industry: free softcore porn. That softcore porn came courtesy of Citytv’s Baby Blue Movies, a late-night weekend program brought to Toronto thanks to producer Robert Lantos and Citytv’s former owner/co-founder Moses Znaimer. The Baby Blue Movies were a series of occasionally ridiculous, always titillating, softcore pornos that started around 12 am on Friday night – and were the delight of pubescent boys who were used to making do with the fuzzy pornos that were typically available on pay-per-view stations only.

In 1972, Robert Lantos stumbled upon a collection of underground sexy shorts, called the New York Erotic Film Festival. He acquired the Canadian rights for the collection and sold them to Moses Znaimer, who was just starting an experimental, adventurous station called Citytv. Lantos himself explains Baby Blue’s origins: “I sold [Moses] the right to run these shorts on Citytv. He ran them on a Friday night, Baby Blue, and promptly got busted by the Toronto Morality Squad. That case went to court, and was then dismissed, but that whole event kind of gave a tremendous lift in the profile and exposure of Citytv.”

Citytv used to be a really cool TV station whose main focus was provocative, great movies. In a 2012 interview with the National Post, Moses Znaimer reflects on the legacy of his station and Baby Blue: “We opened up with four or five slogans to describe the station and sexy television was one of them. ‘Sexy television begins on Sept. 28,’ ” recalls Znaimer. “I didn’t want to run City like a conventional station. I wanted to run it like a station for mature urban adults and the quickest way to send that message was The Baby Blue Movies, which everybody knows.”

Baby Blue’s impact is long-lasting. Speaking to a number of 30- and 40-something men on the subject uncovers a reverence for the series, which occupied their weekend nights and created background noise for many dorm rooms. On a deeper level though, these movies provided a coming-of-age moment. Toronto Film Scene’s own editor Will Brownridge offers his personal experience with the series, and how it impacted a generation of Toronto TV watchers:

“What I remember most about the Baby Blue movies on Citytv was the fact that they were actually on TV! That was a time before the internet allowed you to have everything at your fingertips, so for young teens like myself and my friends, realizing that there was some nudity on TV was exciting. It was like breaking the law, at least in our suburban middle-class minds. These were films we shouldn’t be watching, but since they happened to be right there on public television, there wasn’t much that could be done to stop us.”

Citytv offered some of the best movie programming on television, although it was definitely the Baby Blue films that brought them attention in the first place.

Citytv offered some of the best movie programming on television, although it was definitely the Baby Blue films that brought them attention in the first place.

The internet has changed our access to porn – nowadays, nothing is spared. Even a Google search for “clown” or “gynecologist” can be a tricky journey into perverted waters. The Baby Blue Movies, in comparison, were a gentler introduction to the world of sex. Brownridge explains further:

“It was also safe experimentation. Now, kids could very easily be exposed to extreme forms of pornography. Back then, this was the best you were going to get unless you started raiding the old stack of ’70s Playboy magazines that at least one friend’s dad had hiding in his room. It may sound strange to say that any sort of nudity was wholesome, but in comparison to the things you can so easily find on the internet, it was. For me, it’s always been a piece of a time that was more relaxed and free, even though it’s not compared to what we have now. There was an innocence to it all, even beyond the Baby Blue movies. We had a space that felt like it was letting us into an adult world, without allowing us to fall directly into the extremes that world can reach.”

So why did The Baby Blue Movies stop? Well, information on the specifics is hard to find, but the sometimes-reliable Reddit tells me that the decision was largely money related. According to Redditor TomioHoshino, “From what I can recall, the original series ended in the late ‘70s due to the fact that Moses and company were running out of money and had sold a few shares of Citytv to CHUM Limited to pay off debts…In 1999 or so, the series was brought back as Baby Blue 2, which would play until early Saturday, August 30th, 2008, when it gave the station one last wink and a smile before being cancelled by Rogers in time for the Fall 2008 lineup.”

So the end of the free softcore porno finally came – and it was arguably a relic, thanks to the internet. But, from 1972 until the early 2000s, Citytv gave men and women alike a reason to stay home on a Friday night.