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The results were some of the most incisive and skillful parodies in TV history, from commercials for useless products to self-congratulatory talk shows to pompous "cultural" programming. The talented cast members skewered such icons as Bob Hope and Barbra Streisand and created such memorable characters like Joe Flaherty's sleazy station owner Guy Caballero and Andrea Martin's vulgar station manager Edith Prickley. Unlike SNL, SECOND CITY TELEVISION never pandered to the lowest common denominator; it always respected its audience with intelligent humor that satirized the foibles of both the television industry and the people in it. The syndicated show's success would result in a 90-minute network version.
One of SCTV's main strengths was that it gave its audience credit for having the intelligence to understand what it was trying to say and do, which was something that SNL often lost sight of, especially in its later years. And how could anyone forget such brilliant pieces as "Abbott and Costello in a Turkish Prison"; "Dr. Tongue's 3-D House of Stewardesses"; the side-splitting parody of "Ocean's 11" with the monumentally untalented Vegas schlock comic Bobby Bittman and his even less talented idiot son Skip; the hapless Count Floyd of "Monster Chiller Horror Theater", who--no matter how pathetic the movie ("Tonight's film: 'Bloodsucking Monkeys from West Mifflin, Pennsylvania'!") he was showing--always stubbornly claimed, "Oooh, wasn't that scary, kids?"; "The Sammy Maudlin Show"; "Farm Film Report" ("They blowed up real good!"); the list goes on and on. Most of the sketches are so sharp, witty and clever that they don't date at all, even though they're almost 30 years old. SCTV set a high standard for sketch comedy, and so far no other show has measured up.
Yes, SCTV had it all, and all the actors had caliber. There are so many more characters and impersonations worth naming and remembering: Floyd Robertson, Count Floyd, Earl Camembert, Bob and Doug McKenzie, Dr. Tongue, Woody Tobias,Jr. aka Bruno, Alex Trebel, "Rockin'" Mel Slirrup, Mrs. Falbo, Big Jim McBob and Billy Sol Hurok, Yosh and Stan Shmenge, Harvey K-Tel, Lin Ye Tang, Richard Harris, Bob Hope, Rabbi Karlov, Crazy Hy, Ricardo Montalban, Don Strom, Sid Dithers, Moe Green, Ed Grimley, Jackie Rogers,Jr., Pierre Trudeau, Hugh Betcha, Alistair Cook, Larry Siegel, Merv Griffin, Sammy Maudlin, Lou Jaffe, William B. Williams, Brock Linehan, Harry (The Guy with a snake on his face), Skip Bittman, David Brinkley, Lorna Minelli, Barbra Streisand, Divine, Brian Johns, Mayor Tommy Shanks, William F. Buckley, Mother Theresa, Angus Crock, the 5 Neat Guys, Brooke Shields, Raoul Wilson, Joyce DeHalfWitt, Jack Klugman, Tex and Edna Boil, Liberace, G. Gordon Liddy, Gus Gustofferson, Al Peck... oh! there are SOOOOOO MANY!!! All of them memorable. One of my favourite skits is when Richard Harris (Dave Thomas, of course) guest stars on Mel's Rock Pile and sings a re-mix of MacArthur's Park. Actually, anything with Dave Thomas as Richard Harris is hilarious. There are so many sketches I could name, but I won't, because it would literally take me a full day, if not two.
How can anyone NOT enjoy this show? I mean, if you've seen it at least once, be you Canadian or American, there had at least one sketch that made you chuckle! I am glad that it never became as popular and widely known as SNL... and that it didn't as long. For those who knew and loved SCTV, they know that it was never bad comedy and that it went out with dignity... and humour! This show is a timeless classic and I hope that it's memory will live on with the DVD box sets. I am glad to have stumbled upon this treasure... it's too bad that more people don't appreciated the comedic talent of these fine, fine actors.
SCTV was always got top bill, the others were usually a mixed bag as far as quality was concerned (at least to a pre-teenager). As time went on, I was disappointed that SCTV faded in SNL's shadow, since SCTV was far superior. I was also disappointed to see the men of the show (John Candy, Martin Short...) go on to bigger careers in film, but the women, who had much stronger characters, only popped up on an occassional tv show.
My all-time favorite skit had to have been Catherine O'hara playing Brooke Shields on The Farm Report doing her rendition of Devo's "Whip It"....I haven't ever laughed so hard at a single tv joke since (Jim & Tammy Bakker weren't intentionally funny, so they don't count). Of course there was also the skit w/ the 2 women doing a women's tv chat show while seated on pillows arranged on a sound stage, and of course 3D Horror Theater...I hope the complete series makes it to DVD.
The acting alone is without comedic peer for a TV show in English. Over the past twenty-five years I have never been able to decide who my favorite SCTV actor is. I love the two (main) women: both Martin and O'Hara are game for anything, and they are loaded with comic nuance. But the same goes for all the rest of the cast. Sometimes I conclude that Eugene Levy edges out the others, but as soon as I say that I think of John Candy as William B. or Curly (etc.) or Rick Moranis as Jerry Todd or Skip Bitman, and I renege on my statement. But thinking about Skip leads me to think of Levy as Bobby Bitman, and the process starts all over. (And this is to say nothing of the very great, very funny work by Dave Thomas and Joe Flaherty.) The movie and TV work of the cast, post-SCTV, has been merely OK overall, but don't let it deceive you: all of this great casts' best work occurred on SCTV. After the show ended, Candy fared the best, but he sadly deprived us of his great presence way too early, god rest his soul. Others have done OK in Christopher Guest films. But, again, these usually only make me yearn for SCTV. Martin Short is probably my least favorite of the regulars, yet he has his moments (Boy from Deliverance, some Ed Grimley bits, etc.).
The writing, too, is consistently excellent. (All the cast wrote bits, but some more than others.) Watching the DVDs--and thank god for those!--I see that there are stretches of "padding," but even this is usually pretty funny. (Even Monty Python has some not-so-great shows.) Some of the guest bits are a little lame, and sometimes I wish they had not bothered with guests, unless they make sense to the story (Zontar was funny). Much has been made of the laugh track; I never liked it either. Still, one can punch holes in about anything, and they do not, in the end, add up to much. And this is why I can proclaim that, for me, SCTV is the very zenith of TV comedy. I urge anyone who is uninitiated to jump in with both feet. Any of the four NBC seasons would be a good starting point. (If you want a single DVD, try the Christmas show.) I hope that someone will now release the Cinemax shows.
From the beginning of the opening credits where it was announced that "SCTV is on the air" followed by t.v. sets being thrown out of windows to crash on the sidewalks below, the laughs ensued.
I understand that Canadian Television had an extra two minutes more than U.S. television, so they asked Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis to come up with an extra two minutes of material that would air on Canadian Television. Their contribution? The Mackenzie Brothers, eh? It was all ad-lib. The Great White North sketch was eventually added to the American version.
Each week would be a different topic - "This week, our topic is how to stuff a mouse in a beer bottle, eh?" "Take off, eh?" "No, you take off, you hoser." "How do you like my new toque (rhymes with kook), eh?" "It's a beauty way to go, eh?" These guys were absolutely hilarious! They had the entire country doing Canadian-speak," eh?
The other guys I loved were the Red-neck movie reviewers. Dressed like Elmer Fudd on a wabbit-hunt, Joe Flaherty and John Candy rated movies based on whether they "blowed 'em up real good," or not. You guessed it - if the movie "blowed 'em up real good" (followed by lots of guffaws and yuks), it was a good movie. If there were no car crashes or explosions, well, it was a bad movie.
This was an extremely clever show and launched the careers of some powerful comic geniuses (Eugene Levy, Martin Short, Catherine O'Hara included among those already mentioned). It's definitely worth the late-night t.v. watch on T.V. Land.