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The genius of not just delivering above average sketch comedy, but creating a false network and city, with repeating characters is what sets this show apart, especially from the over hyped and often comedic-ally challenged SNL. I can't believe how much enjoyment I still get out of watching these old shows and marvel at its enduring ability to make me laugh uncontrollably, a feat equaled only by Monty Python. For instance, there's a woman's prison sketch that's done as a parody of the anti-marijuana films of the 1950s. About halfway thru it, John Candy rushes in dressed as a matron, I swear I laughed for half an hour. The old original raw shows featuring and driven by Ramis were all writing and acting, almost like Harvard Lampoon. After Ramis's departure, the show evolved into a bigger more mainstream version of itself, culminating in a 90-minute late night Friday extravaganza that for a while even had major musical guests. They had done so much material, that the 90-minute shows could throw in one of the old movie parodies of the Ramis era, such as Lust for Paint. These newer shows were more about Dave Thomas's comedy, and eventually Rick Moranis, before it finally fizzled out with Martin Short, who would later go on to polish his act for a terrific stint on SNL. Just a tremendous achievement by some really funny talented people. I love how Eugene Levy and Cath OHara have carved out a place in film. Id like to see more of Thomas and Flaherty. Interesting, Ramis, Candy, Flaherty, and Thomas all appear in Ramis's 'Stripes'. Here's some free advice, do NOT watch these after having thrown out your back. You will substantially delay the recovery process. Thats a tip from LaRue, to you.
Like SATURDAY NIGHT, SECOND CITY TV was a sketch comedy show with a
repertory cast. But there, the resemblance ended. Instead of a bunch of
disconnected sketches with musical interludes, SECOND CITY TV was a
show about the programs and behind-the-scenes shenanigans of a cheesy,
low-budget TV station. Therefore, unlike SNL, which took potshots at
anything from current events to whatever celebrity was guesting, SECOND
TV concentrated on the television industry.
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.
As a previous poster has said, SNL and SCTV were both comedy sketch
shows, but that's where the resemblance ends. SNL far too often
descended into juvenile, and sometimes even infantile, humor and its
casts were way too uneven. It had the brilliant and manic John Belushi,
but it also had the mediocre Garrett Morris, who really didn't do much
of anything. It had the gifted Gilda Radner, who could do damn near
anything, but it also had Laraine Newman, who didn't do all that much,
either, and many of the cast members in its later shows really had no
business being there. SNL's cast did various running characters, but,
with few exceptions, each person's character wasn't really
distinguishable from the actor himself. SCTV had no such problems. John
Candy's Johnny LaRue, Josh Shmenge and Gil Fisher ("The Fishin'
Musician") were about as different from each other and Candy himself as
you could possibly get, as were Rick Moranis' Doug McKenzie and Rabbi
Yitzhak Karlov, Andrea Martin's Edith Prickley and Mrs. Falbo, etc.
Another big difference between the two shows was the writing. Virtually
every episode of SCTV was as sharp, incisive and devastatingly funny as
anything that ever came out of television; SNL on the other hand could
go for weeks without having a decent show, and in fact went for several
YEARS in the '80s without having any even HALFWAY decent shows. SCTV
integrated all of its guest stars into the actual storyline of the
episode itself, with often surprising results (musicians Dr. John, Tony
Bennett and Fee Waybill of the Tubes, for example, turned out to be
quite good). SNL put its guest hosts into some of the sketches--with
many of them obviously reading their lines off of cue cards--and most
didn't acquit themselves particularly well.
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.
There are not a lot of things about this world I can state with full
assurance, but I can say with full confidence that SCTV is, bar none,
the funniest show of all time. Younger viewers--those born after, say,
1970--may have a hard time with the allusions to and parodies of pop
culture circa 1980, and my guess is this would cause those viewers to
meet my claim with skepticism. But think about it: every show by and
large depends on its time, including SNL and Monty Python.
Nevertheless, there is plenty here for anyone with half a brain and a
good sense of humor to enjoy. Some of the sketches involve topical
matters, but the sheer chuztpah and intelligence of them makes such
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.
SCTV is now on the air! and I LOVE IT!! I'm only 18 yrs old, so
naturally, I was born after the show ended, but I've been watching
reruns for quite a while now, and I have to say that I know the show
pretty well. There's so much to say about it. Like most of the other
posters stated, SCTV surpassed SNL in every aspect. I'm not much of a
fan of SNL just because I find it's humour too simple, too forced. I
like the wit. For example, this may seem to be stupid, but when you
think about it, it's very ingenious: The Days of Our Lives becomes The
Heys of Our Lives and everyone says "hey" all the time!! I mean, it's
corny, yes, but it works! Oh, I love of the actors so much! They're so
awesome at what they do! John Candy's sleazy Johnny LaRue, Joe
Flaherty's equally sleazy and money-hungry Guy Caballero, Eugene Levy's
funnyman Bobby "How are ya?!" Bittman, Andrea Martin's loud-mouthed,
cackling Edith Prickley, Rick Moranis's super (as in the supers on his
show) crazy Gerry Todd, Catherine O'Hara's spoiled, man-crazed
performer, Lola "I want to bear your children! HA!haha!" Heatherton and
Dave Thomas's opinionated Bill Needle.
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.
I always waited anxiously for the weekend when my parents would go out
friends & I would stay up late & watch tv. We were lucky to have very good
cable (despite the fewer # of channels available then today), getting the
indie stations from NJ, NYC & Philly on top of the cable channels. My
parents probably would have been horrified to discover what I was watching
(Monty Python, The Kenny Everett Video Show, Benny Hill, SNL and
the 1st few years of the USA Network's Late night programming before it
devolved into Gilbert Godfrey & cheezy movies).
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.
All of the user comments are great but they leave out some of the best
contributions from SCTV - The McKenzie Brothers and the Redneck Movie
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.
Probably the best TV version of the many SCTV formats, even without Martin Short's Ed Grimley or Jackie Rogers Jr. A sharply focused parody of (mostly) television AND smalltown mid-western culture, both American and Canadian at the same time! A true world unto itself, filled with enough in-jokes and running gags to make your head spin.
It's a shame so few people have seen this show, which ranks among the most brilliantly hilarious and astonishinly inventive of all television comedy series. It's important to note that the Cast List here is very misleading, noting only one character per actor. In reality, SCTV operated much like MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS, THE KIDS IN THE HALL, and Saturday NIGHT LIVE, programs which it is most definitely AT LEAST on a par with. All these versatile and talented performers played literally DOZENS of character roles -- often pulling off multiple roles WITHIN THE SAME SCENES! The writing and acting talent level on this show was of the highest caliber at all times and they did it all on one of the lowest budgets in modern TV history.
I was born after SCTV ended, but I always remember seeing re-runs that I thought were extremely hilarious. One of the best things about SCTV is if you look at the cast, they are all classic actors who's names we all know. Even better was that all these great talents and names got together in a mid sized city (my city, Edmonton) to create this amazing show. They didn't need the glitz of New York or a new guest host every week (who on SNL now probly hosted like 3 weeks ago, and 3 weeks before that) to make something that was truely great. I will always remember how all these famous people once lived and worked in my city.
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