For many, SCTV is the gold standard of sketch comedy. It effortlessly matched the anarchy attributed to those madcap members of the British Monty Python troupe while staying completely true to their own improv-based character/lampoon roots. It also took a slightly skewed view of the social and entertainment world and magnified it into sublime comic karma. Unlike its brash brother in anarchy, Saturday Night Live (both drew from the same talent pools over the years), which tended to ladle on its irony with a thirty foot trowel, SCTV basked in a sunnier, more sly sense of the spoof. They would rather observe and scrutinize a situation/ individual, picking out the particulars that made them mockable, rather than routinely turn them into a silly stand-up bit or obvious piece of pantomime. Unlike its fellow fun festivals, SCTV wasn't out to skewer its targets. It wanted to gently digest them, analyze them carefully, and then spit out the parts that would provide the maximum amusement.
Over the years, the series has taken on kind of a mythological cult status. The cast itself contains enough legends of comedic acting to rewrite a few entries in the history book of humor. Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, Martin Short, Andrea Martin, Joe Flaherty, Harold Ramis and the irreplaceable John Candy, combined with a stellar group of individuals behind the scenes, and blessed with total creative control over their product, SCTV was every sketch performers dream job. It was a place where their craft could be nurtured, not neutered by forces outside the process. Yet sadly, after a brief stint on Nick and Nite and an even more abbreviated stay on Comedy Central (back when it was called The Comedy Channel), the seminal shows themselves have fallen into obscurity, given over to rumor and speculation, faulty memory and a sense of entertainment emptiness.
Now thanks to Shout! Factory, SCTV is back on the air (to paraphrase the show's opening). Having already released two box sets of episodes from the series NBC period, the final "cycle" of Season 4, Network 90 is now available for DVD consumption. And oddly enough, this remarkable presentation has barely aged. Sure, the cast is a lot younger, and the technology is quaint at best, but this is still one of the best, most amazingly clever comedy showcases ever to grace the small screens. A lot of current TV can find its roots in the SCTV ideal, but there is no denying the impact of the original. SCTV Volume 3 (Season 4 Cycle 3) is some of the best classic boob tube buffoonery there is, or ever was.
SCTV is a show within a show, a wonderfully wicked satire centering around a small town TV station owed by the slightly cracked Guy Caballero. Along with Edith Prickley his programming director and various staff members, including Gus the guard and office gal Friday, the flummoxing foreign Perini Scleroso, it's up to Guy and his stable of actors, directors and producers to put on quality (?) programming every single day. Some of his in-house talent doing this duty includes newscasters Floyd Robertson (who also hosts "Monster Chiller Horror Theater" as the vampiric Count Floyd), Earl Camembert (who has his own "One on the Town" interview show), and self-proclaimed genius, filmmaker and raconteur Johnny LaRue (a titan of arrogant skill who fashions his lifestyle after Hugh Hefner. He even has his own version of Hef's Bunnies...he calls his gals the Gerbils).
Additionally, Bob McKenzie and his brother Doug offer a Canadian take on things with their show "Great White North", and Gerry Todd, a videophile with an extensive knowledge of the new VHS and Videodisc formats, showcases the technological advances on his after hours show. Resident 3-D moviemakers Dr. Tongue and his hunchbacked sidekick "Bruno" (actually, actor Woody Tobias, Jr.) are always around cooking up another multi-dimensional fright flick to showcase their formidable acting skills. And sportsman Gil Fischer has a chance to hobnob with celebrities as well as catch his limit on "The Fishin' Musician". But the true staple of the SCTV Entertainment Empire is "The Sammy Maudlin Show", a late night chat fest featuring versatile performer and all-around ass kisser; Mr. Showbiz himself, Sammy Maudlin. Regulars include his co-host, William B. Williams, crass comedian Bobby Bittman and space case singer/actress Lola Heatherton.
Outside of these interior elements, the version of SCTV offered in this DVD from Shout! Factory represents the fourth incarnation of the series since its start as a syndicated show in 1976. Based in Canada and sold around the world by Global Entertainment, the original SCTV lasted two seasons. Then it was abruptly cancelled. An interested businessman in Edmonton decided to give the show another chance, and a third season was produced.
It wasn't until 1981, with NBC looking to replace the cast of SNL, that SCTV was brought to an American network. It lasted for two seasons, before again being cancelled. HBO, looking for a cornerstone program to anchor fledgling upstart channel Cinemax, picked up the final version of the show, but after 18 45-minute programs on the pay station, SCTV finally went off the air. The fourth season (the first for NBC) was presented in three "cycles". This five disc DVD set represents "Cycle 3" (Cycle 1 and 2 have been previously released) and consists of nine 90 minute shows, minus the usual commercials and station identification breaks.
For those looking for a specific breakdown, segment by segment, of what's on each episode as well as what had to be REMOVED or EDITED from the shows for financial or legal reasons - can be found at: SCTV Episode Guide. In order to fully appreciate what is contained in this set, however, it is best to focus on each episode individually, to see both the high points, and the occasional missteps, of this classic TV comedy:
Episode 1/97 - The Great White North Palace
Main Storyline: Those Canadian hosers Bob and Doug get their own prime time special featuring Morgan Fairchild and Joyce DeWitt. Things do not go well.
Featured Segments: Al Peck's Used Cars ("where every vehicle has a story") Libby Wolfson: "You!" - on Fitness
Musical Guest: Tony Bennett (singing "I Wish I Were In Love Again" and "The Best is Yet To Come")
IN what has to be one of the most genius moves by the series ever, those lovable hose heads Bob and Doug are given their own primetime special, featuring everything humorously horrible about such stagy small screen spectaculars. From the tacky production value to the pitch perfect rip-off of that SNL mainstay, the "Wild and Crazy Guys" sketch (which Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd made famous), the entire "Great White North Palace" storyline never misses a beat. It is consistently sensational from beginning to end. Since it takes up almost 80% of the show's format, there is not much filler here, just a few moments of studio head Guy Caballero discussing reruns and a couple of additional skits. The Libby Wolfson fitness segment is very funny, as Andrea Martin proves once again that she can play the self-absorbed yenta type to perfection. And Eugene Levy gets to shine as Al Peck, who has a dizzying tall tale to pass along with every used car he sells. Even Tony Bennett is good in a 'having to read the cue cards' kind of way. This, along with several installments from Cycle 1 and 2 is one of the best Network 90 outings ever. Score: *****
Episode 2/98 The Preteen World Marathon for Preteen World
Main Storyline: The youthful sprites from the hit SCTV kids show try to raise money to make up for a big budget deficit.
Featured Segments: "Maudlin's Eleven" (a send up of Ocean's Eleven)/ "The Adventures of Shake and Bake" (Shakespeare and Bacon team up for some roughhousing, and writing)/ ad for film Prickley Heat
Musical Guest: The Recess Monkeys (singing "My Girl" Chilliwack song)
Going two for two in the greatness department, the entire cast take on grade school personas and deliver a devastatingly accurate portrait of adolescent angst for the "Pre-Teen World" telethon wrap around. This material is so astute, so faultless in its insight, that you just wish it would go on forever. You recognize people you went to school with, kids in the neighborhood, and maybe even a few of your own rebellious rug rats in these amazing performances. The other portion of the program is taken up with two other stellar long form sketches the Ocean's 11 spoof using talk show host Sammy Maudlin and his croonies (including, oddly enough, Johnny Puleo and the Harmonica Gang) and the Shakespeare Bacon buffoonery of "The Adventures of Shake and Bake". Both skits are marvelous in their detail and design, and each one uses both obvious and insular laughs to sell itself to the audience. Even the Recess Monkeys, a very capable cover band made up of Moranis, Levy and Candy, choose the obscure Chilliwack song "My Girl" as terrific telethon material. Score: *****
Episode 3/99 The People's Golden Global Choice Awards
Main Storyline: Along with partner the National Midnight Star, SCTV offers its own, incredibly rigged, awards program.
Featured Segments: "The Merv Griffin Show: The Special Edition" (Stephen Spielberg directs and adds 8 minutes of additional footage)/ "The Fishin' Musician" with Gil Fisher (Hunting for...antiques?)
Musical Guest: Third World (singing "Try Ja Love")
In a case where the ancillary material is far better than the main storyline, the "People's Golden Global Choice Awards" is a premise that almost consistently fails to live up to its premise. Though the SCTV/tabloid sponsored show is a majestically fixed affair, the reasons behind such a scam, and the satire to be derived from it, are never fully explored. Besides, in today's day and age where there are a myriad of bogus award shows floating around, the message no longer has much meaning. Thankfully, the filler material is absolutely fabulous. The 2001/Close Encounters combination of "The Merv Griffin Show: The Special Edition" shows conclusively why the third rate host and his show were so perfect for lampooning. From the Andy Griffith take from Cycle 1 to the 60s promo from Cycle 2, the large assed antics of the former singer are always magnificent. And for some reason, meeting Gil Fisher's wife Whitey and watching reggae band Third World hunt for antiques is incredibly funny stuff. Score: ****1/2
Episode 4/100 3D Stake from the Heart
Main Storyline: Francis Ford Coppola pitches a big budget 3-D extravaganza for Dr. Tongue and Bruno: Count Floyd takes us behind the scenes.
Featured Segments: "The Days of the Week" Episode 1 (SCTV's soap opera)/ "Dr X" (the man with the X-ray eyes)/ Tex and Edna Boil split up!
Musical Guest: None
This episode marks the introduction of one of SCTV's most "controversial" sketches, the soap opera spoof "The Days of the Week". For a long time, fans have been divided over whether this is a brilliant, ballsy parody, or just a tired take on an already overdone idea. Frankly, with the passage of time, "Days" has only grown better, taking on a near flawless feel of a continuing daytime drama while still importing some of SCTV's insanity to keep us off our guard. While Mojo, the moronic maid, may be the most troubling aspect for those looking for subtle satire, the evocation of a sudser is just marvelous consistently funny and fresh. Too bad the same can't be said for the other main storyline. "3D Stake Through the Heart", featuring the always fabulous Dr. Tongue and Woody Tobias Jr. a.k.a. Bruno. It loses a lot of its relevance, being so far removed from the target of its takedown (Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope killing production One from the Heart). Still, with horror host Count Floyd along for the fun, there is still a lot of hilarity here. And Dave Thomas again proves his utility player chops by turning the potentially poor "Dr. X" idea into a wonderfully crazed romp. Score: ****
Episode 5/101 Pet Peeves of the Stars/ The Happy Wanderers
Main Storyline: While celebrities air their own personal grievances, SCTV introduces us to the totally boss sound of Leutonian polka kings Yosh and Stan Schmenge.
Featured Segments: "The Days of the Week" Episode 2/ "The Fishin' Musician" (Gil takes Carl Perkins and his band on the longest car ride in recorded history)
Musical Guest: Carl Perkins (singing "Matchbox")
While there are other great moments in this episode, the clear standout is the introduction of those Leutonian music mavens, Yosh and Stan Schmenge. Travel agents by day, polka heroes by night, this impeccable presentation of regional ethnic authenticity is proof of SCTV's continued character brilliance. In the brief span of a few sketches, we feel we have been introduced to a whole new world, and a couple of amazing citizens who reside there. From the constant complimenting of cabbage rolls and coffee, to the presence of ex-Wanderer Linsk Minyk (Moranis in a bravura turn), this marks the beginning of characters that would live on long after SCTV disappeared from the airwaves (Candy and Levy would bring back the pair for The Last Polka, a 1985 HBO Special). Score: ****1/2
Episode 6/102 Chariots of Eggs
Main Storyline: Funnyman Bobby Bittman appears on "The Sammy Maudlin Show" to plug his latest project, a period piece he directed about foot racing called "Chariots of Eggs".
Featured Segments: "The NASA Production of Elliot's Murder in the Cathedral"/ "The Days of the Week" Episode 3/ "Mrs. Falbo's Tiny Town" (the kids show visits a prison)/ "Revenge" (a game show that allows you some personal retribution.
Musical Guest: Hall and Oates (singing "You Did It In a Minute")
Proving that no show was better at utilizing its guest stars, SCTV gives the then red hot Hall and Oates a chance to flex their thespian muscles, as they play the leads in the Chariots of Fire/ Personal Best parody. As usual, the Maudlin show is a perfect vehicle for such a superb send-up, and pay close attention: you'll hear a pre-planned palpable audience GASP when the word 'lesbian' is uttered (oh how times have changed). The rest of this episode features some fine filler, including another marvelous visit from Mrs. Falbo and Mr. Messenger. Candy and Martin are just fantastic as the quirky kid vid hosts, and the trip to prison provides many memorable lines ("It's just you and me now Mrs. Fablo!"). While the NASA production of Elliot's Murder in the Cathedral is conceptual humor at its most overbearing, the Bob and Doug bit about pop-top beer bottles proves why theirs was a classic combination that never became tired. Score: ****1/2
Episode 7/103 Battle of the PBS Network Stars
Main Storyline: It's a team helmed by William F. Buckley vs. a squad led by Carl Sagan in this athletic showdown between brains and...more brains.
Featured Segments: "The Days of the Week" Episode 4/ "I Was a Teenage Communist" (spoof of the Red Scare/B-Movie Horror films of the 50s)/ "Big Dude TV Dinners Commercial" (featuring Mean Joe Greene and Rocky Blier)/ "Mean Joe Green Theater presents The Big Dude and the Kid."
Musical Guest: Dave Edmunds (singing "From Small Things Mama, Big Things One Day Come")
Martin Short becomes an official member of the SCTV family with this episode and shines in his first few forays into sketch superstardom. His take on Fred Rogers (fighting Candy's Julie Childs) is dead on, and his teenage dupe for Commie complicity is equally excellent. Another highlight here is the entire Mean Joe Greene/Rocky Blier business of trading on that tired Coke commercial for additional dramatic dollars. The ex-Steelers are smart and funny in lampooning their good guy/ bad guy personas, and the entire set up, from the advertisement for Big Dude Dinners to the movie that it inspires, is flawlessly realized and executed (even down to the freeze frame ending). SCTV was always a show about the details, and they get them all right here. Score: ****1/2
Episode 8/104 Rome, Italian Style
Main Storyline: Angelo, an overheated Mediterranean who can find the existence of God in a butt, has a strange, surreal fantasy.
Featured Segments: "Martin Scorsese's Jerry Lewis Live on the Champs Elysees"/ "The Days of the Week" Episode 5/ "The Fishin' Musician" (Gil and Jimmy Buffet go balloon fishing)/ Identical "X" Promos
Musical Guest: Jimmy Buffet (singing "Slow Boat to China")
There is a 50/50 proposition to the "Rome, Italian Style" episode of Network 90 that suggests that the longer format was starting to get under the cast's skin. Half the material here is outstanding the Jerry Lewis lunacy, the Patty Duke inspired "Identical" ads. But for every amazing moment, there is something that just doesn't sit right. "The Fishin' Musician" is an especially poor outing, giving Jimmy Buffet a chance to embarrass himself in both the musical and acting arenas. The "Nightline Melonville" segment with Tip O'Neil and Margaret Thatcher de-evolves into a name-checking bore of British bands, also never quite living up to the feisty fireworks promised. But thanks to Bob and Doug's discussion of dog "business", the incredibly craven International House of Panties, and the title take on 8 ½ (and every other Italian film ever made, frankly), this is still a sensational showcase. Score: ****
Episode 9/105 Street Beef with Bill Murray
Main Storyline: Desperate for programming, Guy Caballero gives Johnny LaRue another chance. He will bring back "Street Beef", and pray for the best.
Featured Segments: "The Days of the Week" Cliffhanger/ "Norman Mailer for Tyde Commercial"/ "Carl's Cuts" Free Delivery (Deliverance Send-Up)/ "Finian's Rainbow Meats"
Musical Guest: None
The final episode of the Season 4, Cycle 3 boxset is another bifurcated bonanza, as most of the material here is either first rate, or just fair. On the plus side, you can't ask for a better soap opera cliffhanger than the one presented by "The Days of the Week". It encompasses everything that's overdone, and outrageous, about such 'to be continued' conceits. The Deliverance spoof with the bizarre Scutz brothers (men who resemble pigs?) is also fantastic, a perfect marriage of material and mannerism. Add in the classic "Rainbow Meats" commercial, the occasional fun flourishes of guest star Bill Murray (who acquits himself well here) and another great LaRue breakdown, and everything should be just peachy, right? Well, not really. A strange segment, the "Talking Projector Adventure Series", is too esoteric to resonate properly. It requires so much insider knowledge of the continuing serials from the 30s and 40s, along with a desire to see them dissected, that it can't pay off in any particularly pleasing way. Also, the show seems to fizzle at the end (Finian's fine shillelagh shenanigans aside), offering up a couple of lame commercials, and an extended bit with Murray and Flaherty that really goes nowhere. Score: ****
SCTV was, and still is, the best example of pure satire ever created for the small screen. Where other shows offer us a snide kind of self-centeredness, hoping that the audience leaps onto their wavelength to capture the comedy subtext, SCTV goes for the obvious or obscure with equal aplomb and makes sure that the skewering is exact. The key to any good send-up or spoof is context: the knowing knowledge of the pop culture, political and personal climate surrounding you and more importantly the ability to mine it for mirth. Not everyone has the skill to see the irony from the incidental. Years of working in front of a live audience, attempting to make manic improv work, honed the skills of the SCTV cast to the point where they were encyclopedias of human nature.
They understood everything: the intricacies and irritations of married life, the cult of personality and the lure of celebrity, the essence of power and the potential to misuse it, and the inherent hilarity in the basic elements of daily life. Mix this all together with the hundreds of movie, theater, television and musical elements the group could rely on and the possible permutations were endless. Indeed, SCTV was a true multi-level spoof, a take-off on TV stations populated with lampoons of local programs. The cast then added to the parody by creating classic characters, recognizable icons of the famous and the instantly familiar archetype.
SCTV is also the only member of the triumvirate of classic sketch comedy (SNL and Monty Python adding the other sides to the triangle of jollity) that NEVER filmed before a studio audience. While Saturday Night had its previously recorded elements, and the boys from Britain occasionally ventured beyond the barricades of the BBC to produce a few location larks, SCTV was allowed the freedom to flesh out their themes. Like The Beatles (another excellent entertainment analogy to this show) the audience-less studio became SCTV's experimental domain, a place and plane of existence that allowed the cast's imaginations and invention to run wild. This allowed the show the luxury to actually film 'man on the street' interviews on the street or to utilize the epic scope of the outdoors to expand their humor horizons ("The Fishin' Musician" is a great example of this ideal). So unlike its brethren in belly laughs, SCTV had a whole other lampoonable element at its disposal. Time could be taken to craft a look or a feel and real elements like actual studio settings could be employed to exaggerate the ersatz TV channel concept.
But there was a downside to this lack of a live element, something that really isn't mentioned much when the show is praised as a groundbreaking triumph. SCTV has a laugh track, that 70s staple of comedy Cliff's Notes. Whenever a joke was seen as dying or a situation needed an extra "zing", the track was employed and a false sense of enjoyment was created. As recently as the mid-80s, TV humor was supposedly helped/hampered by the addition of canned or previously recorded laughter. The use of this phony device doesn't really distract from SCTV; as a matter of fact, there are those who look at it as a further commentary on the crackpot product being produced by the talentless staff of Melonville's local broadcasters. But when the counterfeit chuckles come crawling across an obvious moment of humor, it can be awkward.
Since Cycle 3 contained more original material than previous incarnations of the Network 90 shows (much of Cycle 1 and 2 contained old syndication skits added in to pad out running times), the result is a far fresher, less dated feel to the humor. Sometime, the relevance can get lost on a post-millennial audience (who really remembers One from the Heart?), but for the most part, the cast has tossed aside the conceptual for the character driven. Indeed, just looking over the list of skits presented here, almost all are based in the expertly crafted and perfectly detailed personas drawn by the writers and the actors. Even the odder, one-off moments "Charlie's Kitchen", "Carl's Cuts", "Tex and Edna Boil's Prairie Warehouse and Curio Emporium" are built on stellar, if rather insular, personalities. Gone are a lot of obscure political and pop culture references, as well as the more silly, sophomoric stuff (Max Lax Coffee Laxative). In its place is the classic SCTV ideal; smart, intelligent wit played out inside a wonderfully elusive universe all its own. Though some may reject its more subtle approach to comedy, and prefer the 'seat of their pants' danger of Saturday Night Live, there is no denying the talent present in every episode of Network 90. Even 20+ years later, they are a miraculous mιlange of astute amusement.
Shout! Factory unleashes this third heaping helping of classic SCTV in an exceptional five disc offering. Visually, fans couldn't ask for more. SCTV is not some carefully preserved product, like SNL or other brand new broadcast entities. And it was not the most expensive comedy series ever made. So production and budgetary limitations should be prevalent throughout the set. But in reality, SCTV looks and sounds great. The 1.33:1 transfer is crisp, full of detail and deep contrasts. The colors are vibrant without flaring or bleeding, and even some of the weaker elements (a lot of the filmed material pales in grainy comparison to the video image) look wonderful.
Aurally, SCTV has some minor issues. All the divergent aspects struggling to be heard on the soundtrack can occasionally overwhelm the Dolby Digital Mono. Especially when a musical number is employed, you can have voice, music, effects and laugh track all going at once and there is a near-tinny quality to the mix. Still, for a show this old, the sonic qualities are quite excellent (Heck, even the laugh track works!).
In what is rapidly becoming a hallmark of Shout! Factory's work in DVD, SCTV Volume 3 houses an interesting assortment of added content. Each of the five discs contains a bonus or two as part of the presentation, individually and in combination providing insight and information into how SCTV was shaped and sold. Disc 1 contains a commentary by Joe Flaherty and writers Paul Flaherty (Joe's brother) and Dick Blasucci. It is rather basic and, sadly, kind of boring, as they spend far too much time watching (and laughing) at the show, and not enough time in discussion or details about the production. Flaherty does tell us that O'Hara was responsible for the Pre-Teen World material, and the writers point out all the direct lifts from Ocean's 11. But overall, there is a lot of silence and very little data delivered.
Anyone truly interested in the nuts and bolts of SCTV's making will find the additional segment on Disc 1 "SCTV: The Producers" to be a fine added feature. Featuring Patrick Whitley and Andrew Alexander, this 30 minute discussion is very thorough. Almost as good as a commentary, and providing as much backstage drama and intrigue as Dave Thomas's fascinating book on the show (SCTV: Behind the Scenes), these men walk us through every phase of the series, from inception to syndication, NBC to the cast upheavals. Perhaps the best bits deal with the constant moving between Toronto and Edmonton, and how it affected everyone individually and as part of the creative process, as well as the rumors that SCTV was poised to take over SNL's timeslot (apparently, there was a lot of infighting at the network between which show to champion SCTV or SNL). It is an excellent show overview.
Disc 2 offers a weird 7 minute feature called "That's Life", a TV interview special focusing on John Candy. Presented by a very odd Canadian talking head who seems to pay absolutely no attention to Candy's responses, this extra is interesting if only for the glimpse it provides into the actor's private life. We see his home, some of his family, and though he appears very uncomfortable on camera, Candy comes across as genial and honest. Too bad the commentator appears lost in another dimension. Disc 3 offers another Candy-based bonus. This time, it's an extensive slide show gallery of the performer, both in and out of character. The selection of shots is terrific and the images do a good job of recalling a talent of truly monumental proportions.
Disc 4 provides the second commentary, this time featuring writers Blasucci and Mike Short. A lot more animated and amiable than the Flaherty gab-less fest, they discuss at length the actors and how they created their characters, the differences between the original half hour shows and the Network 90 material, and the benefits of the "slow burn" in comedy. They tell us of how Dave Thomas felt the show needed to hire a "joke" writer, since the humor was so character based that the actor felt it needed punching up (it never worked out). From how the Flahertys spearheaded the "Rome, Italian Style" script, to how John Candy's Gil Fisher was based on an actual Canadian sportsman, this alternative narrative is amazingly dense, unlike the previous outing.
Also on this disc is a wonderful edition of "SCTV Remembers". These featurettes, allowing the performers to reminisce about the show, is especially good this time out. It features old friends Catherine O'Hara and Martin Short, and delves into issues both personal (O'Hara had a HUGE crush on Short when she was a teenager) and professional (Short discusses being the "new kid on the block"). Using clips to illustrate their points, this jovial and gracious presentation gives us amazing access to the day in and day out operation of the series, and even hints at the reason why, after Cycle 3, a few of the cast members decided to leave the show. O'Hara is one of the true unsung heroines of SCTV, and any chance we get to hear her discuss the show and her characters is fascinating.
But the best additional feature, by far, is the near 70 minute tribute from the Museum of Television and Radio on Disc 5. It brings together as many of the remaining cast and crew from SCTV possible for a lively, and laugh-filled, Q&A. In one room, we get Martin Short, Catherine O'Hara, Dave Thomas, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Robin Duke, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, and producers Andrew Alexander, Del Close and Bernie Sahlins. Starting off with some basic facts, and then quickly dissolving into a series of funnier and funnier anecdotes and behind the scenes stories, it is a really wonderful feature.
Candy is there is spirit, since many of the stories revolve around him, and it's interesting to hear Moranis speak about the series as he was a notorious no show for the Cycle 1 and 2 materials (granted, this was filmed in 1997). While Flaherty loves to dish the dirt on everyone, it is the women who provide the most telling moments during the entire presentation. Claiming that this sit down is exactly what it was like in the writers room during the series heyday, we finally get a chance to understand the SCTV dynamic and its always awkward gender lines.
SCTV is the great missing link, the cool cosmic connector between Monty Python's Flying Circus and Saturday Night Live. Indeed, SCTV can be seen as the only rightful heir to Python's perverse, perfected televisual anarchy. SNL is too scattershot (even self-proclaimed as such) to warrant a true comparison to the bad boys of Britain. Its boundary pushing and barrier breaking elements are far more important than the amount of consistent hilarity it provides week in and week out. No, SCTV is the North American version of England's experimental exercise in entertainment. It's not hard to see why. Both shows relied on a novel, new approach to TV comedy. Both built recurring and reliable characters, creations of instantly recognizable craziness relished by the audience. Together, both shows broke new ground and absconded with old ideas. And they also shared a special intelligence, a Mensa-like knowledge of the media and the medium.
But where SCTV breaks away is in the tricky areas of improvisation and satire. This practice ended up creating what is, arguably, one of the most influential and exceptional sketch comedy shows of all time. SCTV is a true gem, a lost connection between the baggy pants of the past and the future of ironic funny. SCTV Network/90 Volume 3 is, hopefully, the next phase in the inevitable full picture that makes up one of comedy's shining moments.