The Kids In The Hall (the name is a reference to Jack Benny) formed in 1984 and got their start doing sketch comedy on Monday nights at The Rivoli, a small live music venue on Queen St. West in Toronto. It was here that they were 'discovered' by Lorne Michaels of Saturday Night Live fame in 1988. He got them to produce a pilot episode for a television series. This in turn lead to five seasons of subversive, and at times, surreal comedy that has garnered them a rather substantial cult following first in Canada, and then (after HBO picked up the rights) in the United States as well. The series ran from 1988 until 1994 when they called it quits and basically moved in different directions (save for the occasional reunion tour and the film that they made in 1996, Kids In The Hall - Brain Candy). Last year they got back together for their first new TV effort, an eight episode mini-series entitled Death Comes To Town.
Courtesy of those 'saviors of pop culture' over at A&E, the complete series (that is, complete if you don't count the pilot episode) is now on DVD, reissued in a massive collector's set complete and uncut, for the first time and with a few interesting extra features to boot. On top of that, this massive set includes the recent six episode mini-series, Death Comes To Town. It should be noted, however, that the DVDs containing the original five seasons of the series are identical to those that were released by A&E a few years ago.
Twenty episodes, when it's all said and done, comprise the first season. While it's hardly the definitive choice for a newbie looking to get into their off the wall humor, there is still plenty of great material here. The episode/sketch list for season one is as follows:
Episode 1: Call Girls, The Eradicator, Ballet, Crushing Your Head Part 2, Cause of Cancer, Pear, Kathy and the Blues Guy, Crushing Your Head Part 3.
Episode 2: Thirty Helens 1, Sketch Comedy, Thirty Helens 2, Cabbage Head, Restaurant, Tractor, Sarcastic Guy, Buddy's Better, Thirty Helen's 3, Women.
Episode 3: Gunslinger II, Gorilla, Hey Man, Citizen Kane, Contact Lenses, Hey Man 2, Salty Ham, Hey Man 3.
Episode 4: Déjà vu, Asshole, The Daves I know, Menstruation, House Rules, The Dinner, Sick of the Swiss, Country Doctor.
Episode 5: Indian Drum, Geralds, Crushing Disco 1, Good Grampa, Explore Scott, Are Extraterrestrials Dull?, Elvis, Crushing Disco 2.
Episode 6: Thirty Helens 1, Bored Robbers, Running Faggot, Thirty Helens 2, Flogging, The Trucker, Can I Keep Him?
Episode 7: Hotel La Rut, Plummet, Hotel La Rut 2, First Poem, Fletcher Christian, Hotel La Rut 3, Joy Makers.
Episode 8: Ping Pong, The Vacation, Ping Pong 2, Chain Gang, The Banker Doesn't Like Us, Dinosaurs, Ping Pong 3, Tony Comes to Dinner, The Banker Doesn't Like Us 2.
Episode 9: A Place to Die, Secretaries, A Place to Die 2, Preacher, Weston, A Place to Die 3, Teddy Bears' Picnic.
Episode 10: Hoopla, McGuillicutty and Green, Wake Up!, MacIntyre Name, One Step at a Time, Nobody Likes Us, McGuillicutty and Kurosawa, Three for the Moon.
Episode 11: Night of the Living Dead, Can Never Go Home, Thirty Helens Coleslaw, Under Control, Gunslinger 1, Star-Crossed Lovers, Thirty Helens Hawaii, Barbershop.
Episode 12: Turning Over, Mood Swing, Billy Dreamer 1, Folk Music, Who's Gay in Hollywood?, Billy Dreamer 2, Skoora!
Episode 13: Signs of Loneliness, Networking, Lopez 1, Fat Hitch-Hiker, Lopez 2, No Regrets, The Lamp, Lopez 3, Indian Woman, Lopez 4.
Episode 14: Editors Intro, Editors (Film), Break Up, I Lied, Dull Death, I'm a Cat, My Routine, Schoolroom, Editors Finale.
Episode 15: Death Row, White Guy, Crazy Love, Buddy's Island, Captain Alan, Mechanic, Baby.
Episode 16: The Floater, Is He?, Thirty Helens: Pens, Manny Coon, Thirty Helens: Minds, Bass Player, Compensation, Thirty Helens: Disagree; Power of My Cock.
Episode 17: Boo!, Dracula, The Middle, Crushing Girlfriend, Mass Murderer, B&K, Beautiful Women.
Episode 18: Love Me, Stinky Pink, Premise Beach, Crouton, Olympics, Premise Beach 2, Shitty Soup, She's Gone.
Episode 19: Hey Baby, Island Boys, Can't Kill Rock, Tarantula, Cat's Away, Mutilated, Car Ride, OWWW.
Episode 20: Fat Man, How We Met, Thirty Helens: Photos, Bank People, Double Date, Buddy is Canadian, Buddy Holly, Thirty Helens: Helens, Dr. Seuss Bible.
The later episodes in the season are better than the earlier entries and it is pretty obvious that they're trying to find their stride in a few of these shows. Some of the early skits work beautifully, some fall flat on their faces. The later episodes though are where they really start to pick up. The humor gets weirder and slightly more explicit as the episodes progress and it really works in their favor.
So while it's not a perfect collection of their TV genesis, it's still essential for any Kids In The Hall fan. Many of the characters we'd get to know and love over the next four seasons are introduced for the first time in these episodes, like: Buddy, The Head Crusher, Kathy the secretary, and The Blues Man. Bruce McCulloch would don his mullet wig for the first time in this season, and all of the players find themselves in and out of drag in pretty much every show on this set, something that would become associated with them later on in their history.
Those familiar with the surf guitar sounds of Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet's opening strums that introduce each and every episode of The Kids In The Hall know that while the first season was good, the second season is even better. It was during this succeeding run that the troupe very obviously started to gel in their transition from a live stage act to a television sketch act. The skits got funnier (and far, far stranger), the content got more interesting (and potentially more offensive) and the timing was down. This results in a much stronger grouping of off the wall comedy than we were treated to on the first season, and one which holds up much better under repeat viewings.
Dave Foley, Mark McKinney (before he went onto Saturday Night Live), Bruce McCulloch, Scott Thompson and Kevin McDonald introduced such Kids In The Hall regular characters as Gavin the boy who loves onions, Simon and his man servant Hecubus - masters of evil and servants of eternal darkness, Mr. Heavyfoot, the 'It's A Fact' girl, and more. They also brought back some of the better characters from season one such as The Headcrusher, the Cops, and Cabbage Head (who meets an ugly but reasonably nutritious demise in this set). This season also marked the first (though thankfully not the last) time that Scott Thompson would play Queen Elizabeth II, in one of the funniest of the Buddy skits, Queen To Queen.
Whereas some sketch comedy series' seemed to lose their steam after the first season or two, The Kids In The Hall just got more and more unusual with no regard whatsoever for conventional television taboos. Nudity? Yep. Some mild flesh is exposed from time to time. Foul language? Sure thing. "That's good fucking ham!" How about men tongue kissing each other? Sure, why not. Let's throw in an amazingly random but utterly hilarious sketch where Kevin McDonald's character passes out and gets sodomized by a big dog just for good measure. Sure, much of this material is in really poor taste but that's half the fun - some of the material is still shocking in that you don't expect to see it on a show that aired on Canadian national television given that it's run by the government and all but even that is touched on in the skit entitled "Screw You, Taxpayer!" Even social issues such as gay bashing, alcoholism and child abuse are skewered in such a way that it really should be deeply offensive but is too damned funny to really get anyone too upset.
It's not all crass and nasty though - there are some great parodies here of Doors fans, French slapstick, classic movies, and country music. Bruce even gets semi political in his soliloquy about America going so far as to call it 'a place... for Americans' in one of the funniest musical monologues ever recorded. They are never afraid to make fun of their own origins either, parodying Canadian stereotypes far more often than they do those south of their border.
The skits on this second season are contained in the following order in the appropriate episodes as they were originally broadcast and are presented here uncut with all the naughty words intact.
Spring/Comfortable/Trucker #2/Hard Day/Off Swingin'/The Doctor/ Bobby and The Devil
Cops - O Canada/ Trapper/Cabbage Head - Old Friends/Not Working Out - 1/The Loner/Not Working Out - 2/Simon and Hecubus/Not Working Out - 3/Girls of Summer
Mark's Newscast - Paper Airplanes/Sizzler & Sizzler/Pageant/Tony and Nick Mark's Newscast - Meech Lake/A Little Something/Phone
Nutty Bunnies/Opening/Queer Nation/Cops - Uniform/Excellent Dinner/Cops - Stanze/The Parrot/ Cops - Running Naked/Customer/On the Run
The Jury/Cops- ShootOut/Prisoner/Sizzler And The Bank/Cops 17- 211 In Progress/Chicken Lady/Drugs Are Bad/Cops- Prisoner/Clean Sheets/Justice
Second Novel/Baboon/Hair Loss/Conversation/Buddy - Wood Nymph/Anecdote/Groovy Teacher
Lady is a Tramp/Opening/Meet the Geralds/I'm English/ Bumper 1/Lady is a Tramp Part II/Bumper 2/Painting a Chair/The Lack O Trust Blues/Bumper 3/Lady is a Tramp Part III/End Credits
I Can't Play the Piano/Opening/ Democracy/Tampa Bay/Cops-Goose/Freak/Bumper 1/Cops-Tony Baldwin/Seminar/Bumper 2/Celebrity/Bumper 3/Liposuction/End Credits
Cops - Dream/Crushing Hospital/Cops - Dad/Daddy Drank/The Leash/Cops - Shelley Long/ Knocked Out/The Leash - Shelley Long/The Last Straw/Parenting/Dead Dad
Guess Your Weight/Go For Guilt/Hustlers - Math Teachers/Fag Basher/Friendly Rivals/Show Within A Show/Mr. Hugula/Housework Hustlers/Chocolate
Fact #2/That's America/Prisoner's Jam/Fact #3/Cuttin' It Close 1/Secret of Broadway/Cuttin' It Close 2/Hustlers- Richard Nixon/Mispronouncer/Fact #3A/Dead Fish
Cops - Bubble Bath/How I Sleep/Old Friends/Standing/Vegas/Carpenter/Cops - Daughter/Encounter
Cops - Good Cop, Bad Cop/Brad & The Phone/Fact - Uncle Tony/Book, Bottle, Blonde/Cops - Money/Shoes/ Evil T/Fact - Bigfoot/Heckler/Fact - 45 Years of Love/The Long Note
Report/Gandar 1/M. Piedlourde Court un Marathon/Jazz Music/Gandar 2/Touch Bellini #1/The Affair/M. Piedlourde Essait l'Auto/Queen to Queen
M. Piedlourde Donne Un Coup De Pied Au Ballon/Scott's Not Gay/First Time/Bad News/Poo Guy/M. Piedlourde A Une Rendez-Vous/Victim/Night of the Cow/M. Piedlourde Sur La Lune
One of These Five Men/Cincinnati Kid/Career Ending 1/30 Second Stories - Joe/No Words/30 Second Stories - Dump/Career Ending 2/The Trip/Wild Weekend
Thousand Dollars/Thousand Dollars/Cops - Towing/Decorator 1/Headcrusher - Rival/Shortest/ Bellini Finale/Cops - Graveyard/Governor/Ham of Truth/Decorator 2
Clandestine Meeting 1/The Letter/Plungers/Clandestine Meeting 2/Fact - Aliens Are Super Intelligent/Mr. Pin/Liza's Party/Clandestine Meeting 3
The Cure/Secretaries- Logey/30 Second Stories- Tess/Directions/Excellent Guy- Big Brother/30 Second Stories- Office Party/Taxpayer/30 Second Stories- Fries/Into The Doors
Lively Party/Butcher Shop/Cops - Sexism/Who's To Blame/Cops - Clouds/Having Tea/Faux Pas/Cops - Partners/Messages/Tube Top Justice/Hazy Movie
The third season of the CBC's finest gift to the world, The Kids In The Hall ran from 1991 through 1992 and produced twenty episodes in total. This time around the writing is more refined, the satire is edgier, and some of the jabs are near brilliant. While the Kids' sense of humor won't appeal to everyone and some of the jokes definitely go over better in Canada than in the United States simply because of minor cultural differences, the humor here is clever, funny, and at times just plain odd.
In the first season, they were all over the place, trying to find their groove and having to adjust a lot of the material that they'd brought to life on stage to the small screen for home viewing. The second season proved to be a vast improvement over the first, with better acting, much better writing, and considerably improved comedic timing. The third season, however, is where it all works. Some recurring characters come back this time out - the Chicken Lady is here, as are the cops and even good old Mr. Heavyfoot - but it's the one off skits that really work. Such classic moments as Bruce McCulloch's brilliant turn as a man obsessed in The Pen or Dave Foley's performance as a man who just can't handle his booze in Girl Drink Drunk stand out as some of the finest bits in the history of a show that is consistently filled with fine bits all around.
Scott Thompson as Queen Elizabeth II addressing Canada in order to convince them to take back the monarchy is absolutely hysterical (though this is one that probably plays better to Canadian audiences), as is the random appearances of that strange red headed 'Fact Girl.' Simon and Hecubus always make for an evil good time, and they show up here a few times as they proved to be a very popular bit, and Bruce McCulloch first appears as Tammy in this season as well.
While not every skit is gold, the fact is that most of them are and there are very few misfires in this selection of episodes. This material serves as a record of when the troupe was completely at the top of their game and it's many of the skits in this set that made so many people fans of the show in the first place. Plenty of instantly quotable lines such as 'I'm just not good at small talk, you prick!' or 'I've got a spike through my head' ought to bring back plenty of fond memories of the show, and that's just barely scratching the surface of the material.
The skits on this third season are contained in the following order in the appropriate episodes as they were originally broadcast and are presented here, again, uncut with all the naughty words intact.
Plane/Body Conscious/Cabbie - Bigot/Chicken Lady Show/Cabbies - Pris/Cops - Abuse/Small C/The Pen/Cops - Movie/Touch Me There
Clothes Make The Man/Can't Sleep 2/Tiggy/I Can Live With That/ Excellent TV/Can't Sleep 3/Girl Drink Drunk
Asleep on the Job/Measure/Nervous Break(fast) Down/Raise 1/Gimmel 100/Raise 2/Tammy
Golf/Earring/Flying Pig 1/Queen's Address/Flying Pig 2/Academy Awards/Cops - Flying Pig/Chop Chop/Flying Pig 3
Presentation/Tanya's Goodbye/Open Letter 1/Tucker/Open Letter 2/ Until Proven Guilty/Underage
Cops - Night 1/Accents/Original Bat/Bingo/Drag Revolution/Cops - Night 2/Teamwork/Cops - Night 3
Mom or Dad/Evol/Same as Bruce/Mocking/Sacking All Admirals/ Waiting Room/Kidnapped
Genius/Gut/Wedding Virgin/Terrier/Wedding Toast/Freedom of Speech/Wedding Objection/Excellent Patio
Old Lady/The Gift/Babysitter/M. Piedlourde Puts His Pants On/Paris/Street Singers/M. Piedlourde - Deteste Le Film/Macaroni
Fact - Stone/After The Film/Replaced 1/Grandpa Geralds/Wages/ Replaced 2/Haggle/Fact - Uncle/Captain Calm/Fact - Strike/Replaced 3
Girls/Mr. Right/He's Hip 1/Extreme/He's Hip 2/Harassment/He's Hip 3/Stay Down
Cops - Opera/Back On The Horse/Ed/Cops - Shift/Buddy's Date/Tea Factory/Cops - Asleep/Pickle
Boxing/Pizzeria/On The Subject of Me - Cow/Bartending School/On The Subject of Me - Caricature/The Sudelmans/On The Subject of Me - Moustache/My Horrible Secret
Poem - 99 Bottles/Funeral Home/Poem - The Fall/The King/Advice/Scar/Poem - The Empress/Emergency Troupe Meeting
Cops - Potato/Serial/Gross 1/Cops - Thinking/Home Alone/Opened Up/Gross 2/Shirlers
Resemble/Treatment/Fact - Ears/Night Train/Garbage Man/Fact - Vanilla Ice/Bauer
Father Figure 1/God/Darcy & Francesca/Father Figure 2/Letters From A Sick Bed/Joint/Father Figure 3/Joint Tag
Old Yeller 1/Skeletons/Ugly Situation/Vicky/Old Yeller 2/Armada/ Horsey
What/Cattle Call/Clock Radio/Excellent Mom Frame/Cattle Call 2/ Long Story/Celebration
On The Subject Of Me - Spleen/Chicken Wedding/Whatever/Regrets/ Check-up/On The Subject of Me - Caesarian/Spy Models
The fourth season of the CBC's The Kids In The Hall ran from 1992 through 1993 and produced twenty episodes in total (with two 'Best Of' episodes piggy backed on top of them with this release). The Kids are once again all in fine form here, but one thing you'll notice in this season as opposed to the earlier ones is the inclusion of some outside players. The five original Kids are still definitely the stars, but this time out we do see some extras brought in for certain skits and bits, as well as the inclusion of Paul Bellini, who shows up clad in his towel for the truly off the wall Spot Paul Bellini Contest (which this reviewer actually tried to enter when the episode first aired, probably not the only one who took it at face value!). The inclusion of the extras doesn't hurt anything in the least, and the wit and wackiness that the series is known for is still razor sharp even four years into the series.
The most unusual episode in the set is Chalet 2000 in which Scott Thompson plays his two most famous roles, that of Buddy Cole and Queen Elizabeth II. In the skit, which lasts the entire episode, the Queen gets tired of photographers following her around and so she heads to Northern Canada to relax with her friend and confidant, Buddy, for a while. While she's there she has a torrid affair with Buddy's adopted son, a beaver played by Bruce McCulloch, and avoids a tabloid photographer named Lanky Dean (McKinney) who is still on the chase in hopes of capturing her in some rather unorthodox situations. This is a stellar episode full of all sorts of great little jokes but there's one big problem with it - if you're not Canadian, this might not seem very funny. Having grown up in Canada, this one hit home and it really worked on a personal level but if you don't know of Canada's relationship with the Queen or of the Cour De Bois from the country's past, a lot of this might go over your head.
The rest of the material, however, is very friendly to international audiences and while sure there are references to certain oddities of Canadian culture throughout the show, none of them are impenetrable or difficult to figure out for those who didn't spend their formative years in the Great White North.
Regular viewers will be delighted to see a few familiar characters return to the screen in this season. Mark McKinney's Chicken Lady shows up at her ancestral home and takes an impromptu tour while Kevin McDonald's Bearded Lady waits for her in the car outside. Bruce McCulloch once again resumes his role of Gavin, the curious and strange little boy with a penchant for making up ridiculous stories, this time telling some door to door evangelists of a kid he knew at school who died after his blood was replaced with apple juice. The cops shows up in many of the episodes, as do the hookers played by Dave Foley and Scott Thompson in full on drag.
Another highlight and a fan favorite from this season is McCulloch as pop star Tammy, performing in her new video, I Don't Spread For No Roses, a completely raunchy song about how she won't sell out accompanied by an even raunchier video wherein McCulloch, in drag and in character, receives oral from a man and avoids various ejaculatory fluids. This is dirty and subversive humor at its finest and while maybe it isn't as poignant as it was when it was first made, what with Madonna having changed her image about seventy times since, it's still worthy of a serious belly laugh.
Francesca Fiore and Bruno Ponce Jones, Thompson and Foley respectively, also show up here when Francesca is taken to court for beating up her husband, played by a wormy McDonald. A skit where Scott Thompson playing a sales manager heads to a manly retreat to get in touch with his inner animal is also hysterical, particularly when he 'becomes the wolf.'
Overall it's a great selection of episodes featuring a lot of the classic characters we know and love from the show as well as a host of new 'one shot' bits and clever monologues as well. The Kids In The Hall got away with a lot more as the series got more popular and this fourth season is a notch or two dirtier than what came before it but the end result is still the same - it's funny stuff!
The episodes contained in the fourth season of the show are spread out in the set as follows:
Cameraman Memorial/Night I Connected With My Dog/Hookers Undercover/Repair/Hair Styles/Rude Awakening/Hookers - Tourist/Would You Do an Alien?/Work Pig
Showdown - Phonecall/Age/Showdown - Good Looking/Darrill Dream/Showdown - Creature/Virtual Sex/Deer By the Water/The Escape Artist
Fiore!/Hookers - Holdin' Out/Fantasy/Plastic Surgeon/Hookers - Ventalin/Can You Dig It?/The Big House/The Pains/John Wayne
The Pardoning/No Contest/Showdown - Fish/Hookers - Phone Sex/Evil Patients/Showdown - Bruce And Dave/ Cheating/The Sandwich People/Mr. Wrong/Mrs. Ondaatje
Newscasters/The Fun Never Stops/Perks/Neckbone/So Says You/Sex Girl Patrol
Deer By The Water/Radio/Cathy/Apartment Games 1/Knife Sharpener/Food/Apartment Games 2/Forceful Friends/Maria/Apartment Games 3
The Beatles/Chicken Lady Homecoming/He's Hip/Hiring 1/Patient-Doctor/Things To Do/ He's Hip/Hiring 2/He's Hip/Hiring 3/Judy, Fran & Gaugin
Hookers - Rich Guy/Gavin - Religion/Try It Now!/Just Terrific/Hookers - Puppet/Coincidence/Listening In/Hookers - New Coke/Thanksgiving
Chalet 2000 (Acts One, Two and Three)
Receptionist/Walk A Mile In My Shoes/Cops - Rookie Trick Question/A Soulfulness They Never Had/Cops - Rookie Coffee/Answering Machine/Celebrity/Cops - Rookie Puke/Divorce Court
Alan Bouvier/Career Crisis/Nice Day For Work/Hookers - Plastic Surgery/Armada - Understudy/Hookers - Commitment/Lost And Found/Clothesline/Hookers - Too Easy/Comfortable High
Luck/Fine Line/Tuck It In/Losing My Religion/Serpico/The Hangover/Wild Man
Cops - Fridge/Third Time Lucky/Cops - Spring/Exposed/Hookers - Documentaries/Nudity/Cops - Europe/Business World/Katnapped
Cannibal/Children/Bellini Contest/Wrong Number/Tammy - Roses/Borrowed Art
New Guy/Dad And Son Phone Call/Cops - Puck/Clear The Air/Seat 12B/Cops - Hair/Rollerblades/Love And Sausages
Guilt/The Kathies - Monday Meeting/The Voices/Steps - Hot/Becoming A Man/Steps - Drag/The Collector/Steps - Issues
Pops/Poker Face/Cheers/Cops - Worms/The Nap/Cops - Hungover/Contest/Just One Bite
Hookers - Transvestite/Excellent Composer/Hookers - Movie Star/Quarter Life Crisis/Cemetery/Drunk As A Crow/Advantage
People - Bike Courier/Ricarda/Chargin' Ya/Atrium/People - Winnipeg Chick/Art Studio/People - Hopeless Romantic/Surrogate
Cabbie/Seminar - Gezbo/Diploma/Cabbie Two/On Board/Scary Sandwich/Extreme Argument
The fifth and final season of the The Kids In The Hall ran from 1993 through 1994 and produced twenty-one episodes in total (with one 'Best Of' episodes piggy backed on top of them in this set). Once again, you'll notice in this season as opposed to the earlier ones, the inclusion of some outside players, including the reappearance of Paul Bellini, who shows up clad in his towel once again, notably in the final episode where he's given the chance to speak. It's a shame that they decided to end the show when they did as most fans feel that they probably still had a lot of good material in them, but at the same time, it's better to burn out than fade away and in that regard maybe it's for the best that they didn't really allow themselves the chance to go downhill as a lot of sketch comedy shows have done.
As with any series of any sketch comedy show, some bits work better than others but with the troupe having found their groove by the second season, here we find them at the top of their game going out on a high note. Sure, some skits fall a little flat but more often than note the fifth season proves to be the most consistently funny of the bunch. Highlights here include recurring characters like the two cops or the two hookers. They both get plenty of screen time here, and Gavin shows up to interact with a few different cops while his father is being arrested to scalping tickets to a Leafs game. Feelyat - which is performed in Dutch (or at least faux-Dutch) finds Daryll competing on a game show where he has to try and ascertain what the object is inside the box that he cannot see simply be feeling it through giant rubber gloves. It's tough to explain why this bit is funny when it's not really done in English, but there's no doubt that it is.
The show continued to play around with different stereotypes, particularly those found within the gay community. The recurring Steps skits take pot shots at the different kinds of gay men one could easily find hanging out on Church Street in Toronto, with Scott Thompson (the only gay member of the group) playing Butch to perfection. Their bickering and the way that the writing and dialogue plays up to these stereotypes sort of subverts them, and it's always funny. Of course, Buddy shows up here as well, giving a fantastic monologue about the time he spent in Montreal, explaining in detail why he loves the city and the people there so much. Speaking of Scott Thompson, one of his finest moments is included in this set, and that's the Danny Husk - Husk Musk skit in which his decision to stop using his Speed Stick inspires the company he works for to harness his scent, making it a worldwide phenomena.
Kevin McDonald tackles a man's unhealthy obsession with his facial hair in The Beard, while Bruce McCulloch and Mark McKinney carry on a torrid love affair as Kathy and the dry cleaner respectively in The Dry Cleaner. The girls in the office can't believe their ears! Religion is dealt a swift blow in the God Is Dead sketch while the Kids take a pot shot at stereotypical American tourists in Loud American Shopper, both of which are stand out moments. A creepy Village Of The Damned knock off finds Dave Foley leading a gang of cleanliness crazed Small Town People on a crusade to lick their town clean while Mark McKinney's attempts to start a fight in the ongoing Cruisin' For A Bruisin' bits are always good for a laugh. Overall it's a great selection of episodes featuring a lot of the classic characters we know and love from the show as well as a host of new 'one shot' bits and clever monologues as well.
The episodes contained in the fifth season of the show are spread out across the set as follows:
Idiot Boy - Assistant/Cops - Interrogation 1/Feelyat/Cops - Interrogation 2/Catching Up - Martyr/Cops - Interrogation 4/The Beard
Cops - Interrogation 5/Please Please Please/Special Sauce/Chance Meeting/Cops - Interrogation 7/Document/Grizzly/Cops - Interrogation -Finale
Hookers - Drum Up Business/How To/Just One Guy/Hookers - Rap Music/Por-Eef/Jug Head/The Hit
God Is Dead/New Boots/Hookers - Porno/Rocky Hookers - Price List/Montreal 2/Dessert
Lesbian & Gay Pride/Waiter With Stumps For Hands/Squealin'/Gavin - Leaking/Protest/Good To Cry 2/Drag Queens And Leather People/Sounds
Cruisin' For A Bruisin' 1/Teen Reporters/Mad With Power/Sick About Crime/Business Opportunity/ Cruisin' For A Bruisin' 2/New Poets, New Philosophers/ Cruisin' For A Bruisin' 3/Each Day We Work
Slow Mo/Relocation/Hookers - Heart/Lookin' For Love/Take A Letter/Hookers - Date/Duck Blind/Hookers - Skanky/Big In France
Call Me 1/Hobby Horse/Old People/Got Ya/Call Me 2/Step Class/Call Me 3/Needed Elsewhere
Steps - Parents/Loud American Shopping/Loves Ya/The DTs/Great Ideas/At The Movies
Small Town People/Last Call/Lovers 3/The Bank/Elk/The Truck/Lovers 4/My Training
Test Tube Baby/Dry Cleaners/Hookers - Kid/Dignity/Let Sleeping Dogs Lie/Hookers - Mom/Problem With Relationships
Good Connection/Extreme Roommate/Armada - Check 1/Shoe Shine/The Monkeys/Under Dog/Armada - Camera Man/Danny Husk - Husk Musk
Poor Richard/Bartending Wedding/Hookers - Hopeful/Darn Near Puked/Hookers - Boyfriend/Activist - Die/Armada - Mute/Dance
Cops - Looting/It's Nothing/The Bikini Inspector/Cops - Guns Fired/Yes Minister/Written In Haste/High-Tech Car Alarm
Uncouth/Play Back/Penny/Brucio/All's Fair In Love/Fran - Identity
Secret Pleasure/Errands/Gazebop/What If?/Experiment
Creative Possibilities/Butch's Phone Sex Party/Weekend With Daddy/Living Proof/Big Bucks
Cops - Why/Personal/Exercises/Steps - Cause Of Aids/By Stan/Bellini Day
Francesca - Syntax/Sperm Bank 1/Unannounced/Sperm Bank 2/Impulsive/Sperm Bank 3/Operation/Sperm Bank 4
Armada - Check 2/Crowd Control/Encyclopedia/Junk Mail/Armada - Nice Face/Liquidation/Sam And Janet/Stair Climber
Episode 21 - The Series Finale:
Bellini - Opening/Armada - But Does Armada Make It?/Tribute To Berman/Empty Bar/Things We Couldn't Show/A.J. And Death/Bellini Speaks
DEATH COMES TO TOWN:
So after leaving the ongoing five season CBC series, making a movie that was enjoyed by fans but a bit of a commercial flop (Brain Candy, not included in this set) and then releasing two live specials (Same Guys, New Dresses and Tour Of Duty) before going off to various solo projects, The Kids In The Hall finally formally got back together for this 2010 eight part mini-series. While many had their hopes high for a return to greatness, the end result was something different than what most long time fans probably expected - this was a continuing story, not sketch comedy. That's not to make it sound bad, because it's not, but it's definitely different than the sort of comedy that had made the group famous back in the early nineties.
The story is set in the small town of Shuckton, Ontario where the town fails in their bid to get the 2028 Olympics to be hosted in the area. With the town understandably upset after getting their hopes up for no real reason, things get complicated when the mayor, Larry Bowman (Bruce McCulloch), is found dead, a victim of cold blooded murder. The local police set about investigating but there are those in the town who don't feel the cops are up for the job and who do a bit of digging around on their own. If that weren't bad enough, Death himself (played by a crotchety Mark McKinney on a motorbike in black bikini briefs) has quite literally come to town. In fact, he's staying at a dumpy little hotel just around the corner from where all of Shuckton's drama is playing out. It all goes from bad to worse when an ambitious weather girl (Scott Thompson) turns up dead next, causing morbidly obese former junior hockey star named Ricky (McCullouch) and a not-so-bright pizza delivery lad named Marnie (Kevin McDonald) to try to sort out who killed who, all while the new mayor, Marilyn (Dave Foley) - Larry's hard drinking widow, takes control of the town and a criminal named Crim (Scott Thompson) runs around getting up to no good.
Death Comes To Town is amusing enough, but it's not prime KITH material. It has plenty of laugh out loud moments and quirky, funny characters, just as you'd expect, but the traditional narrative format doesn't really lend itself to the Kids' writing style. While they're taking on series' like Twin Peaks and The League Of Gentlemen with this series, fine places to take inspiration from, it never quit gels as perfectly as some of the sketch comedy material did or even as Brain Candy (their first attempt at a traditional narrative) did.
The show isn't terrible by any stretch, in fact stretches of it are frequently hilarious, but it never reaches the maniacal heights of the earlier material. The characters aren't as memorable (a couple of exceptions being Thompson's Crim and the son of Larry and Marliyn - a weird kid named Rampop!) and the jokes not as off the wall. While the earlier material felt original and unique, here the comedy feels a little tame and a bit forced, never flowing as it once did and instead stretching things a little longer and a little thinner than maybe they needed to be. It all builds to an excellent finish where we're reminded how great they were in their earlier days, but it takes a bit of time to get there - but the performances are still fun, and there's enough here that'll make you laugh that it's certainly worth checking out.
The eight episodes that make up the entirety of Death Comes To Town are spread out as follows:
Death Checks In/Who Mailed Our Mayor?/The Stages of Grief/Big City Smack Down
The Butterfly is to Blame/Cause of Death/Serious Shockey News/Dead Man Walking
All of the material in the five regular seasons was shot and composed for a fullframe presentation, and that's exactly what we get. At some points the picture is a tad soft but for the most part it's pretty solid with decent color reproduction and nothing in the way of compression or authoring problems save for some minor edge enhancement that's slightly noticeable in a couple of the sketches. The eight episodes of Death Comes To Town are newer and obviously in considerably better shape. They show both nicer color reproduction and detail, the 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfers looking quite crisp and colorful.
The five seasons of the show are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, and it works out just fine with the majority of the dialogue coming through without any issues. Clarity isn't an issue - everything is very audible and there isn't any distortion or hiss - this is a very clean sounding mix. During the commentary tracks, it seems that some of the voices come out of different speakers at different times, which is a little unusual, but other than that there's really very little for me to gripe about in regards to the audio presentation on this release. Death Comes To Town also gets an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, but it's got a bit more activity to it and there's more channel separation and a bit more presence and weight to the audio than the earlier regular episodes.
SEASON ONE: A forty five minute long documentary on The Kids In The Hall entitled An Oral History is the biggest extra on the set. All five of the Kids are interviewed and give their thoughts on the genesis of the troupe, working with Lorne Michaels, the differences between living in New York and Toronto, and of course, on working with each other. Michaels is also featured in this piece and talks about how he discovered the group when he caught a performance at The Rivoli in Toronto where they were a mainstay before getting their break in television. It's a pretty interesting look back on what they accomplished and how they did it and fans will likely find this worth their time.
Two compilation episodes are included on the fourth disc, both with optional commentary from all five members. The first is Season One Favorites which doesn't offer much in the way of material that isn't on the first three discs of the set, but the commentary makes it worth watching even if we've already seen the jokes. The second is a compilation of Favorites From The Pilot which is nice to see, but I think we'd all really have much rather had the entire pilot episode included as since the original single season releases came out it has hit DVD on its own. Regardless, the commentaries, as unstructured and loose as they are, are a lot of fun. All five members talk over each other quite a bit but it's only because they've got a lot to say and while these are hardly groundbreaking of history making tracks, they're good for a laugh or two.
A cool half hour of footage from their early days at The Rivoli on Queen St. West in Toronto is included and while the footage is fuzzy as a bear and in pretty rough shape, I'd never seen this material before so I was pretty happy to come across it. Some of the material will be familiar to aficionados of the show, but some of it is not. It's interesting to compare their stage presence to their television show.
Finally, an article on Tke Kids In The Hall from Rolling Stone magazine is included and makes for an interesting read. This article was written just before they got their show on the air and it is considered a key step in how they got their show going. Biographies for each member are included, and each disc has scene selection and a 'play all' option.
SEASON TWO: Select episodes on the set feature running group commentary by The Kids In The Hall. If you enjoyed what you heard on Season One you'll enjoy these tracks too as they're not only informative but they're also filled with the group's odd sense of humor throughout. At times a few of the guys talk over each other which makes for some confusion but this doesn't happen often enough to really ruin anything too pivotal.
An Oral History: Season 2: 15 minutes with the Kids is a nice little documentary following up on the one that was produced for the first season. Paul Bellini, and Lorne Michaels join the five main players for interviews and anecdotes about how they worked together during this time and how they feel about the results now, looking back on some of the material. This is a nice companion piece to the commentaries and is definitely worth a look, if only for the omnipotent presence of Paul Bellini.
Broadway/A&E has also dug up another half an hour's worth of never-before-seen-on-TV performances from the troupe's live shows that they did on a regular basis at Toronto's Rivoli Theater on Queen St. West. You can see the genesis for some of the ideas that worked their way into the various skits in this early material and the more of this that is made available on the following sets the better if you ask me.
Some of the smaller extra features include an interesting Kids In The Hall Performance Poster Gallery which is a nice collection of promotional art from their early days in Toronto, as well as biographies for each of the members and a fun Easter Egg on the fourth disc.
Finally, A&E has also included the two 'Best Of' compilation episodes that use material from this season, and they're laid out as follows:
Season Two Best Of: Episode #1
Fact - Uncle Tony/ Headcrusher - Rival/ Swingin'/ Daddy Drank/ The Affair/ Fact #3/ The Doctor/ A Little Something/ Fact - 45 Years of Love/ First Time/ Girls of Summer
Season Two Best Of: Episode #2
Cops - Prisoner/ Comfortable/ Trapper/ Painting A Chair/ Cops - Shootout/ Chicken Lady/ Simon and Hecubus/ Cops - Dad/ Hazy Movie
SEASON THREE: First up on disc four are two Season 3 Best-of Compilation episodes. Skits included in these two episodes are:
Girls/Mr. Right/Cabbie - Bigot/Body Conscious/Fact - Stone/Cabbies - Pris/Extreme/The Pen/Fact - Strike/Cops - Abuse/Chicken Lady Show/Cops - Old Lady/The King/Queen's Address/Cops - Asleep/Stay Down
Seeing as all these skits appear in the original episodes as presented on the first three discs in the set, why bother, right? Wrong! If you check around on the menu screens, you'll find that both of the two compilation episodes come with optional commentary from the five Kids, both of which are definitely worthwhile for fans of the show. The humor that they show in the skits carries over nicely to these tracks, and they skewer one another and their producers throughout but also manage to detail some of the history of the show and explain some of the backgrounds of the characters and where some of the strange ideas came from. Both tracks are interesting and funny, and thankfully never boring - like all good commentary tracks should be.
Aside from that, there's also 30 More Minutes of Never-Before-Seen-On-TV Performances from the Rivoli Theater. These were shot in the fall of 1988 and the early winter of 1989 just as the Kids were starting to gain a following and just as the first season was about to launch on the CBC. Some of this content is slightly raunchier than what you might be used to from the TV show, as they don't have to worry about censorship issues and can really cut lose. While the quality lacks - they're shot on a handheld camcorder from the looks of things - the content delivers and just like the live performances on the first two sets that preceded this one, the live material is a lot of fun.
Rounding out the extra features is a still gallery in slide show format, biographies for the cast members (these biographies are the only extras to appear on a disc other than the fourth one, and are on Disc One), and a handful of trailers.
SEASON FOUR: First up on disc four are two Season Four Best-Of Compilation episodes. Skits included in these two episodes are:
Best Of 1: Fiore!/Things To Do/the Collector/The Night I Connected With My Dog/The Escape Artist/Steps - Issues
Best Of 2: Cannibal/Try It Now!/Hookers - Puppet/Lost And Found/Career Crisis/Hookers - Transvestites/Answering Machine/Chicken Lady Homecoming
Seeing as all these skits appear in the original episodes as presented on the first three discs in the set, why bother, right? Wrong! But you knew that if you have the first three set. If you check around on the menu screens, you'll find that once again both of the two compilation episodes come with optional commentary from the five Kids In The Hall, both of which are definitely worthwhile for fans of the show. The humor that they show in the skits carries over nicely to these tracks, and they skewer one another and their producers throughout but also manage to detail some of the history of the show and explain some of the backgrounds of the characters and where some of the strange ideas came from. Both tracks are interesting and funny, and thankfully never boring - like all good commentary tracks should be. They also spend a lot of time flat out lying about things, making up stories that are obviously fake but still a whole lot of fun. This makes the 'Best Of' episodes less of a rip-off and much more of an actual bonus feature.
Aside from that, there's another selection of never before released clips from the early KITH live performances done at the Rivoli Theater in Toronto before they found fame on the CBC. These were shot in the fall of 1988 and the early winter of 1989 just as the Kids were starting to gain a following and just as the first season was about to launch on the CBC. Some of this content is slightly raunchier than what you might be used to from the TV show, as they don't have to worry about censorship issues and can really cut lose. While the quality lacks in terms of how the presentation looks - this material looks like it was all shot on a handheld camcorder from - the content delivers and just like the live performances on the first three sets that preceded this one, the live material is a lot of fun. There are a few bits where the humor does fall short but even when that happens this is still interesting material in that it's pretty cool to see how the troupe morphed from a stage act to a TV act and some of the changes that they incorporated into their act to make that happen.
Rounding out the extra features is a still gallery in slide show format, and biographies for the cast members (these biographies are the only extras to appear on a disc other than the fourth one, and are on Disc One).
SEASON FIVE: First up on disc four is one Season Five Best-Of Compilation episode. Skits included in this episode are:
Best Of: God Is Dead/Hobby Horse/Penny/Play Back/Please Please Please/How To
Seeing as all these skits appear in the original episodes as presented on the first three discs in the set, why bother, right? Wrong! But you knew that if you have the first four sets. If you check around on the menu screens, you'll find that once again, as it was for the last four sets, the compilation episode comes with an optional commentary from the five Kids In The Hall, which is definitely worthwhile for fans of the show. The humor that they show in the skits carries over nicely to this tracks, and they skewer one another and their producers throughout but also manage to detail some of the history of the show and explain some of the backgrounds of the characters and where some of the strange ideas came from. The track is interesting and funny, and thankfully never boring - like all good commentary tracks should be. This makes the 'Best Of' episodes less of a rip-off and much more of an actual bonus feature.
Rounding out the extra features is a still gallery in slide show format, and biographies for the cast members (these biographies are the only extras to appear on a disc other than the fourth one, and are on Disc One) and some trailers for other A&E releases available on DVD.
DEATH COMES TO TOWN: The best of the extras are the commentary tracks available for the first, fourth and eighty episodes of the mini-series courtesy of Dave Foley and Bruce McCulloch and while it would have been nice to get the rest of the Kids involved, that didn't happen. Thankfully the Foley-McCulloch tracks are good and definitely worth listening to. These guys have been friends for ages and it comes across in their discussion which covers a lot of ground and topics such as why they chose to 'get the band back together' and where a lot of the ideas for the concept came from.
Aside from that, there are eighteen deleted scenes included here, totaling roughly half an hour in combined running time. Some of these are amusing, some of them not so much but if you enjoyed the series you'll want to spend the time to go through them. A quick blooper reel, animated menus and episode selection round out the supplements.
If you've already got the five seasons released on their own, the fact that so much of that content is recycled in this set means you don't need to bother with it, you can get Death Comes To Town on its own and save some money resting contently with the fact that you're not missing any new extras or remastered material. With that said, if you don't have those single seasons releases and are a fan of The Kids In The Hall, this is a great way to get pretty much everything (Brain Candy and the two live DVDs not withstanding) in one fell swoop. For that reason alone, this set comes highly 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.