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In 1983, when the core group of actors (of which three main cast members were also writing the scripts) and veteran director Kyrönseppä set out to produce Velipuolikuu, they unknowingly pioneered Finnish television entertainment with a new kind of episodic sketch program featuring often irrational, ludicrous and off-the-wall comedy. Or did they do it unknowingly? Even 20 years later they are not willing to publicly admit as much.
They surely influenced the Finnish television comedy landscape for decades to come. If their verbal comedy was influenced by anything, the closest thing might be -- albeit subconsciously -- Monty Python. They pushed the envelope even further by combining slapstick and variety entertainment complete with original song and dance performances to the verbal fireworks. The rules and conventions of formatted comedy skits were thrown out of the window. The pacing of a single sketch could sometimes resemble a slow buildup of a feature length film and would last an entire 30-minute episode, but was delivered to the viewers in just 30 second segments which progressed the story. In other sketches the pacing is blink-and-you-will-miss type of
hectic bombardment forcing the viewers the stay on the edge of their seats for an entire episode. Sketches are interwoven, often running parallel to each other, introducing recurring characters and often having no decided meaning or punchline. They just... were there. And were extremely funny... just by being there.
However delirious the humor in the sketches is, it is scripted in detail with virtually no improvisation allowed. The actors, especially Heiskanen, Petelius and Hukkanen are great performers in their own right, with excellent timing and sense of delivery, but by sticking to the scripts they make each show a coherent, intelligent entity. Some of the sketches were more topical 20 years ago, but most of the writing touches diverse subjects such as family values, relationships, work ethics, sports, the Finnish tradition and way of life. All of the above are really universal and will be preserved for generations to come, so chances are they will still make people laugh another 20 years down the line. Some of the sketches are just full of outrageous stream of consciousness and make little sense, but are executed with surgical precision and form. And that truly is rare in todays 'cheap laughs, easy thrills' society.
As a 1983 novelty item, Velipuolikuu was also the first Finnish tv show where the blooper take could end up being the final take, so sometimes you may catch the actor completely losing it but valiantly proceeding to the end of the sketch. Instead of hiding this and doing another take, this was then turned around to be an advantage. When the actors were not able to restrain themselves, they decidedly made their outburst part of the sketch invoking just another laugh in the viewer.
Deliberate foolishness usually stands the test of time well. But the attention to detail, all the way down to the set pieces, costumes and makeup, is astonishing and even 20 years later when everything looks horribly out of date, you can appreciate the effort invested in the production values.
If you were not able to catch this masterpiece in its entirety 20 years ago (or weren't even born back then!) and managed to miss the recent reruns in Finnish television, there are no excuses left for you to not buy the 2-DVD set containing all 15 episodes.
An eternal classic.
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