In Retrospective… Body Break
By: Chris Muise
Greetings, loyal Polargrizzians! ….Polargrizzites? Eh, it’s still the first week of the site. We’ll suss out the nomenclature later. For now, hello! And welcome to Polargrizz, a site dedicated to recapping and revisiting Canadian media. I hope you’re enjoying your visit so far, and that it jives.
When it came time to decide what I would write my first post about, I decided I had to pick something that would most efficiently reveal my primary interest in actually musing about Canadian media. I do watch modern Canadian television, and will discuss it in the future, but honestly, my passion lies in the past. As a Canadian child usually living mostly in Canada, Canadian television was a big part of my life, and helped shape who I am today. In fact, I’d venture a guess that most people my age can say the same. The fact that I can drop a Canadian Heritage quote in everyday conversation and get a response is evidence of as much.
If, then, my first post is to be on something nostalgic and idiosyncratic, I shall write about a topic that I find extremely endearing, for reasons I am not entirely sure of. I am going to write about Body Break.
If you are unfamiliar with Body Break, then it’s a good thing you’re reading this retrospective! Body Break was, in the context I’m going to specifically refer to for now, a series of television commercials wherein hosts Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod promote healthy lifestyles and offer tips and health-conscious recipes to the viewer, often dripping in saccharine good will. On the surface, it seems innocuous enough. It’s hard to explain why it’s stuck with me for so long, to you as much as to myself. Upon reflection, I have two theories on the matter. The first is pretty straightforward:
If you were bombarded with that song every ten minutes of your television-watching life when your brain was still forming synapses, it’d stick with you as well. However, I think its impact goes beyond the catchy jingle and the quirky delivery. No, I think Body Break was subconsciously compelling because, and I’m just going to come out and say it here; Body Break is the Great Canadian Soap Opera.
You see, Johnson and McLeod played…I hesitate to say “a couple,” because to the best of my recollection I don’t think a single episode (Episode? …Yes, if I’m going to declare these ads a soap opera, then I shall call them episodes) actually comes out and says as much. But they were often filmed shoulder-to-shoulder, in upper-middle class island-style kitchens, wearing matching polo shirts and teaching you how to make heart-smart cassaroles. I think it’s implied.
Again, that’s pretty mundane. But there’s always been something just under the surface that’s been seeping through the cracks of the show’s conceit. Something that, once revealed, put the ENTIRE series into perspective.
Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod were, in fact, lovers.
I am not making that up. The two hosts of what can only be described as paid, 30-second TV spots reminding you to move and not eat fried butter, had a secret love affair behind the scenes, culminating in a secret marriage in the late 90s. This does not jive. It BAFFLES. First, and I can’t stress this enough, WHO CARES? I have heard that they were married to other people when their romance began, but I can’t confirm it. Would Canadians across the country be shocked if these people who invade our homes every so often to tell us why whole grain is important playing husband and wife were ACTUALLY husband and wife?
But the best part is, I think they have been trying to tell us for years, THROUGH THEIR VIDEOS. Submitted for your consideration, I present their video on airplane exercises:
Did you catch that? That unsubtle, longing look McLeod gives Johnson when he makes it onto the plane?
This aired in 1992, long before their relationship was disclosed. In fact, this should be around the time their relationship began. That whole “Hal is going to miss the plane” subplot was entirely superfluous. Sure, they tack on a stress element to legitimize it, but we all know Hal and Joanne need no excuse to exercise. They’re always living a healthy lifestyle. ALWAYS. UNRELENTINGLY. They’ve even alienated their best and closest friends due to their unforgiving zeal.
So if that scene wasn’t there to set up the need to exercise, what is it there for? The proof is in the fat-free pudding, friends! And by proof, of COURSE I mean conjecture, because I admittedly did very little research for this article.
It’s there to tell us that they are in love.
That’s my interpretation, anyway. It’s possible whichever one of the stars wrote the scene, or pitched it or acted in the moment, whatever it may be, subconsciously put that scene in there as they were still fantasizing about each other at the time. Maybe it’s just a coincidence. But all I know for sure is it is NO coincidence!
Heck, it may have just been a way to hook us. In a world where there are ads and shows yelling at us and telling us what to do or what to buy, you’ve got to stand out to have your message heard. And you need to stand out pretty well to get people to pay attention to your healthy living ads. Maybe someone exploited their love as a moneymaking scheme, the same way lousy sitcoms play the “will they or won’t they” card forever and ever because they know the viewer will be sitting in their couch, glued to the screen, screaming, “WILL THEY? WON’T THEY? I NEED TO KNOW!” Because nothing sells quite like love. Maybe that’s what gave them their edge.
Something had to, because THEY’RE STILL DOING THIS. Body Break has existed almost as long as I’ve been alive. They’re still at it. Sure, it’s mostly in the form of motivational speaking, Body Break products, and their website (including videos). But I’ve even seen them on TV as recently as last year. I remember the first time I saw a new Body Break ad, it all came flooding back. I had more feelings over the return of exercise gurus’ commercials than I had any right to. And I think I now know why.
I’ll give them this, though. They haven’t aged a day. Sure, there’s some grey hair, and McLeod has long since parted ways with the pouffy 80’s perms, but they’re both in great shape. Maybe there’s something to this whole “healthy living” thing after all. And here I am, eating Bugles and writing about my crazy theories when I could be out there, jogging or something! Where does the time fly?
It’s also nice to see, after all the years of hiding their romance, all the controversy, that today they can shoot a video about Wii Sports with that girl who is very clearly their daughter.
It’s like a kind of closure, I guess. Like the end of a long-running soap opera, where indeed, THEY WILL.
Just do me a favour, Hal. Bring back the moustache. We all miss it.
It would Jive.