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Years before "The Larry Sanders Show" came this Canadian-made sitcom taking place behind the scenes of the fictional "David Steinberg Show," starring real-life comic David Steinberg. Like the later Garry Shandling series, the show alternates between backstage antics and big-name guest stars on stage. The series is best remembered for co-starring many later comic powerhouses such as John Candy, Martin Short and Dave Thomas, years before they did "SCTV." Written by
Pop Some Popcorn and Enjoy....Wait, no need, Corn Already on the Screen
Yes, this show was created over a decade before "The Larry Sanders Show," "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" and other "backstage at a comedy show" type formats. But that doesn't mean this show invented the format, and there's little reason to lionize this program as some kind of innovation.
The same format was done earlier by "The Muppet Show," and various other films, television shows and stage plays going back decades. The whole idea of "breaking the fourth wall" which this show skirts doing occasionally, also was done decades earlier by much more talented performers, including Jack Benny, George Burns and Jackie Gleason.
Steinberg mixes his stand up sets in with a few variety show style sketches (boy do they seem canned), usually interrupted with some of the corniest sit-com style antics you've ever seen. Frankly, in spite of Steinberg's "with it" topical references to pot brownies and free love, the comedy here is about as edgy, threatening and cutting edge as a Nerf ball. Maybe that's just a matter of time going by, but, hey, one decade's cutting edge is another decade's corn.
It actually reminded me of the sitcom/variety show mooted by the retro doo wop group "Sha Na Na" which was also produced around this time period (1976 according to copyright date on the show...apparently Steinberg did a brief summer replacement version in 1972, then the full 24 episode season in 1976-77).
The one and only reason I am giving this show a 5 is the chance to see most of the SCTV cast doing their thing, even before SCTV started (or it might have been around the first season of their syndicated half hour show). Martin Short, John Candy, Dave Thomas and Joe Flaherty are all on board. If you're a Monty Python fan, it's a similar effect to watching At Last The 1948 Show or Do Not Adjust Your Set. Lots of fun to see those guys working their craft before the triumphs they would later go on to. Okay, fine maybe "triumphs" is a ridiculously overblown word to use, but, what can I say, I'm a comedy nerd.
The only other use of this material is as a 1970's pop culture time capsule, what with all the wacky 70's celebrity guest appearances, including Scatman Crothers, Mason Reese, Tommy Smothers, Norm Crosby, and cast member Bill "Ya Doesn't Has Ta Call Me Johnson" Saluga, who pounded the same bit into the ground on Redd Foxx's short lived variety show at, again, about the same time (and in addition to later appearing in a series of beer commercials with...Norm Crosby...small world.)
If that doesn't get your 1970's pop culture jones buzzing, I don't know what will.
So, for SCTV junkies, it's a solid recommendation. For Seventies fanatics, you might get off on this.
For all others, I would not go out of your way seeking it out.
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