Following hot on the heels of SCTV Volume 1 is the second set o' Second City goodness, courtesy of Shout Factory! Get ready to thrill to the hi-jinks of those loveable Canadians in the form of nine ninety minute episodes from the NBC series that was on the air in the early 1980s.
CCCP - Essentially, the Russian's have hijacked the SCTV satellite and are broadcasting across their airwaves their own unique brand of Russian programming, with a heavy communist slant. In between various skits we see the SCTV crew scrambling to figure out what's going on and how to fix it. Eventually, cooler heads prevail and Dr. Tongue and Bruno are sent into outer space to solve the problem once and for all. Musical guest Al Jarreau appears but doesn't really add much to the episode.
I'm Taking My Own Head The target this time out is the women's movement of the era. This episode lampoons the feminist ideology in a way that is funny without being cruel. The episode parodies everything from game shows to live theater to Canadian tax shelter movies. Wendy O Williams and the Plasmatics are the musical guest this time out, looking like rejects from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Zontar Zontar is out to overtake the SCTV station and sends out his space cabbages to do his evil bidding. This episode should have been a great one but sadly only rises above mediocre on a few occasions (despite a clever Star Trek parody. Still, even mediocre SCTV is better than no SCTV and the episode is worth seeing once – it's just probably not one you'll find yourself going back to on a regular basis.
Walter Cronkite's Brain The fourth episode on the disc is pretty much a completely random and scatterbrained show. That being said, it's also a very good one. There are quite a few pop culture parodies that work really well (Superman comes to mind immediately) and the seemingly random throwing around of ideas suits the cast's talents nicely, giving them a chance to really go all out in this show.
Doorway To Hell This is one of the stranger episodes that the series ran. Basically, the cast and crew run out of ideas and one of the cast member's tells Guy to 'Go to Hell.' That's essentially what happens for the rest of the show. Paul Fedor is the musical guest on this episode.
The Godfather The title kind of gives away the fact that the running theme of this episode is to parody the movie of the same name – and that's exactly what happens. The cast does a great job of it too, bringing in all sorts of oddball characters and essentially placing them in situations from the film. Other highlights in this one include the 3-D House Of Beef which is as goofy as it sounds.
SCTV Christmas Party Quite possibly the best episode of the series, what starts as a cast Christmas party soon gives way to all manner of messed up Christmas programming parodies. A certain cast member ends up drunk and on the street, and of course hi-jinks ensue.
Teacher's Pet The Boomtown Rats are the musical guests on this episode, who give two live performances and appear in a skit as well. A great Ben Hur parody is included as are a few good impressions from the cast members. It's an uneven episode, but it has enough good to outweigh the bad.
The Midnight Video Special Johnny LaRue throws an all girl pajama party that runs throughout this episode before it turns into a bunch of random sketches seemingly thrown together fairly quickly. There are some high points here but a few too many lows as well in what is definitely the most inconsistent episode in the set. Luckily, there's a Count Floyd piece here to make it worth checking out despite its short comings.
Overall, this is some quality material. Yeah, there are a few times where the bits fall flat but thankfully there aren't really all that many of them in the grand scheme of this five disc set. There's a lot of material to go through here and it doesn't feel like a chore at all – it's quite a bit of fun. Seeing such regulars as Johnny LaRue, Count Floyd, Dr. Tongue and Bruno and of course those lovable beer swilling MacKenzie Brothers always brings a smile to my face and with this much material, there's a whole lot of smiling to be done.
The episodes were all shot and broadcast in fullframe 1.33.1, and that's exactly how we get them here (as it should be). The image quality, though far from perfect, isn't bad for a television show originally recorded over two decades ago. There is very little in the way of print damage – the image is quite clean throughout, though there are some times where the picture is a little flat looking. For the most part, color reproduction look decent and the black levels are pretty strong, but there is some inconsistency here and there are a few spots where you'll notice some delineation in quality there. Luckily, that's the worst of it. There aren't any compression problems and edge enhancement, while present, is minimal pretty much at a all times.
The English Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack gets the job done well enough. There are a few moments where some of the dialogue is a wee bit on the harsh side and pretty much the entire set sounds a little bit flat, but anyone who has seen any of these episodes before knows to expect a little bit of that and on that level, this set is okay in the audio department. It could have been polished up a little bit more and there could have been a little punch added to it, but none of that was done. Thankfully, the quality as it stands is at least acceptable, even if it isn't great. Optional English closed captioning is also available.
CCCP 1 as a commentary from Dave Thomas, Dick Blasucci and John McAndrew, while I'm Taking My Own Head and SCTV Christmas Party both have commentaries from Andrea Martin and Catharine O'Hara. The CCCP 1 track is pretty informative and the three go into quite a bit of background detail about this specific episode, problems encountered on the set while they were making it all happen, and where they came up with some of the ideas for the skits that they created. The problem is that the track is dry. The information is good, but the delivery is lacking in enthusiasm and there are more than a couple of spots where there's absolutely no activity on the track at all, which makes this commentary a little difficult to get through if you have a short attention span. On the other two tracks, Martin and O'Hara provide an opposite type of track – it's lighter on technical and factual information but they seem to be having a lot more fun with the material and that tends to be a little infectious. Most of their time on both tracks is spent reminiscing about the work they did together and how the feel about it now, looking back on it two decades after the fact.
The Juul Haalmeyer Dancers segment is a nine minute where, in a nutshell, Haalmeyer (who was the costume designer for the show) looks back on some of his work by watching a few clips and giving his thoughts on how it all worked out. The SCTV Writers is a twenty-six minute segment that brings together the six key writers from the series and lets them look back on things from a modern day perspective. In between clips from the series we hear them relate their experiences developing skits from the ground up and trying to get the producers to let them run with certain ideas. Eugene Levy and Joe Flaherty are interviewed in SCTV Remembers 2, a segment in which the two performers are given the chance to share their experiences from the set placed against a ton of clips from the show. A forty-minute piece called The Norman Seeff Photo Sessions is a lengthy behind the scenes montage from the photo shoot that the cast did, set up with interview clips from the hair stylist and make up artists who worked with them.
While the back of the keepcase on the screener set that was reviewed promised a twenty-four page booklet inside, there was nothing to be found. I'll assume that release copies will have the booklet and that it was simply left out of the advance copies that were sent out. There's also an extensive photo gallery of over sixty images as well as an Easter Egg present on one of the DVDs. The supplements are spread out over all five discs in the set.
SCTV 2 – Second City Television Network is a great set for fans of the eccentric sketch comedy show. Much of the material has aged quite well (though not all of it) and Shout Factory has compiled a wealth of extra features (some of which are more interesting than others but all of which are worth checking out at least once). The audio and video quality is decent enough, and the material is quite solid. This set is easily recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.