I enjoyed Dave Foley's The Kids in the Hall: Same Guys, New Dresses, but every time a performance clip from the tour chronicled in the documentary flashed on-screen, I found myself wishing the DVD had included a show in its entirety. Though it took close to a year, that problem has been addressed with Tour of Duty, a performance recorded at the Queen Elizabeth Theater in Vancouver for a February pay-per-view special. A mix of new material and classic sketches from their television series, Tour of Duty features the following:
- Intro / The Call: Takes a peek at what the Kids were up to when they got "the call" about the tour, a "Blind Date" parody being the highlight.
- Dr. Seuss Bible: A more whimsical look at the life of Christ.
- Blues Guy: Mississippi Gary prattles on about the blues and delivers a musical message from the Almighty.
- Romeo: The elderly Helen Wilson is seduced by teenaged Rusty.
- Pit of Ultimate Darkness: Multiple Personalities: The eeevil Sir Simon Milligan dives into the diseased mind of his brimstone baby, Manservant Hecubus.
- Patrioticom: Gord and Jeff, who've previously shilled Money Momentum and Jesus 2000, promote their new patriotic products, the Automatic Flag Waver and the Amer-ab-ciser.
- Dessert Island: The obligatory Buddy Cole monologue, this time about his transvestastic trysts in the Middle East.
- Headcrusher: Mr. Tyzik uses his awe-inspiring headcrushing to terrify the audience and win the heart of his beloved Lorelai.
- Danny Husk: Tales of heroics and marital discord at the North American Alliance of Vice Principals Against Teen Violence.
- Chicken Lady: The blind date from Hell.
- Kathie/Cathy: Is He?: A pair of secretaries try to determine if 'the new guy' is gay.
- Gavin & Darrill: Easily the funniest sketch on the DVD, Darrill the Guidance Counselor is pitted against the imaginative, slightly deranged Gavin.
- Citizen Kane: Dave saw this great movie last night that definitely wasn't Citizen Kane.
- Running Faggot: A great folk hero lends a helping hand to those in need.
Snippets of footage from the Same Guys, New Dresses DVD aside, I had never seen the Kids in the Hall perform live, and the transition took some getting used to. For one, the stage set-up is bare. Three screens in the background serve as the backdrop for the sketches, and physical props, furniture, and the like for the Kids to interact with are kept as minimal as possible. This approach had a substantial impact on the first sketch of the evening, "The Dr. Seuss Bible". I've long considered that hysterically blasphemous sketch to be one of my favorite Kids in the Hall moments ever, but much of that was due to the costumes and imaginative, perfectly constructed sets. The bare-bones approach on-stage coupled with the frequent pauses for laughter and applause didn't exactly get things off to a roaring start for me. By the time the second sketch rolled around, I'd fully adjusted. The material is still somewhat of a mixed bag. The new "Patrioticom" bit covers some of the same ground as David Cross' "Patriot Pack" rant on his CD "Shut Up, You Fucking Baby", but not nearly as effectively. "Vice Principal" is a sketch in search of a joke, and I've never been a particularly huge fan of Mississippi Gary. For the most part, though, the Kids kept me laughing throughout, even in the sketches I'd already seen more times than I'd care to count. I don't think those unfamiliar with the Kids in the Hall's brand of humor would get much of a kick out of this DVD, but established fans of the series will find this disc almost impossible to pass up. Tour of Duty hits DVD with a healthy smattering of supplemental material, a widescreen presentation, and a pair of multi-channel soundtracks.
Video: Like Same Guys, New Dresses before it, Tour of Duty is letterboxed to an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. Though the lack of anamorphic enhancement comes as somewhat of a disappointment, the presentation is otherwise about as close to perfect as can be realistically expected, given the source material. The text on the keep case mentions that the performance was shot with eleven cameras, and as is often the case with this approach, each camera has its own 'look', differing in terms of color, sharpness, and the like. The quality of the image is largely dependent on the camera being used at any given time, ranging anywhere from 'good' to 'excellent'. The differences are noticeable, but not so jarring as to distract. Since Tour of Duty was shot on video, the usual flaws associated with film -- speckling, excessive grain, nicks and tears, etc. -- are all obviously absent. All in all, more or less what I went in expecting.
Audio: Tour of Duty sports three separate audio tracks -- Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kbps), Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kbps), and DTS 5.0 (768Kbps). DTS may sound like overkill for a sketch comedy performance, but the disc really does sound great as a result of the multiple channels at its disposal. The presence of laughter and applause from all directions is immersive, and the bulk of the action is predictably featured up front. The Kids remain discernable throughout (a substantial improvement over the concert footage in Same Guys, New Dresses), and though dialogue sometimes suffers from mild distortion, I wouldn't fault the mix for that. The music between and infrequently featured in the sketches offer a healthy amount of bass, though if I'm reading my receiver correctly, the DTS track doesn't offer a discrete .1 channel of its own.
Supplements: Tour of Duty features a pretty nice assortment of extras that run around 38 minutes in total. First up is a Q&A (6:47), where the Kids respond to questions like "Do you think of sketches in the bathroom or while walking around?" and "Who's the fastest runner?". There are a pair of deleted scenes, most notably the Nina from Joymakers sketch from the series' first season (9:11). The second, "Never Trust" (2:57), pairs Bruce McCulloch and guitarist Craig Northey, playing a tune off of Bruce's "Drunk Baby Project". Craig also performs two songs of his own, "Take a Hit Off This" (4:03) and "Old Mistakes" (1:41).
Tour of Duty makes use of extended branching for the "Behind the Screens" feature. At certain points throughout the performance, a bullseye icon will pop up on-screen, and selecting it displays related backstage footage. These seven snippets run 13 minutes, 16 seconds in total. The footage can be accessed directly by viewing titles 2 through 8 on the disc, but they work better in the context of the show rather than being seen individually. The first two are the longest at 4:59 and 3:29 respectively, and the remainder hover around a minute in length.
All of the supplemental footage on this disc is letterboxed to 1.78:1 and features Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. The musical performances are encoded at the slightly higher bitrate of 224kps. Tour of Duty sports a no-frills set of static 4x3 menus, and each sketch has been given its own chapter stop. The insert includes some photos from the performance.
Conclusion: Not for neophytes, but solid material and an excellent release on DVD make Tour of Duty indispensable for even the most casual fans of the Kids in the Hall. Recommended.