Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Created by Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent as a potential TV vehicle for himself, A Gift to Last first aired as a one-off CBC special in 1976. Narrated by Melvyn Douglas, the program chronicled the lives and times of the Sturgess family, who lived in Tamarack, Ontario, at the turn of the century. On January 22, 1978, the weekly, one-hour series proper was launched. Covering the period between 1899 to 1905, A Gift to Last was told from the viewpoint of young Clement Sturgess (Mark Polley), whose widowed mother Clara (Janet Amos) did her best to raise Clement and his sister Jane (Kate Parr) in a fatherless household (Clement's father Harrison, a key character in the 1976 special, was killed off in the first episode). Aiding Clara was her mother-in-law Lizzy (Ruth Springfield) and her late husband's two brothers: James (Gerard Parkes), a mild-mannered businessman, and Edgar (Gordon Pinsent), a bombastic, globe-trotting sergeant in the Royal Canadian Regiment. Clement idolized his Uncle Edgar, even though the boastful career soldier had a habit of getting involved in shady and sometimes downright dishonest financial transactions, and despite the fact that virtually all of Edgar's grandiose dreams were doomed to spectacular failure. As the series progressed, Clara Sturgess was squired by grocer John Trevalyen (John Evans), whom she eventually married and with whom she had a child; James Sturgess entered politics, and was elected town mayor; and Edgar ended up wedding the Sturgess family maid, Sheila, in an award-winning episode. By the time the 21st and final hour-long episode rolled around, Clara had passed away and Edgar had settled down with the local militia. Sometimes described as the Canadian counterpart to The Waltons (though it was much, much more than that), A Gift to Last was syndicated internationally with great financial success; still, a "rediscovery" of the series in the United States is long overdue.