J.D. Lafrance
SCTV: Volume 4 DVD Review

SCTV: Volume 4

February 2, 2006

Starring: John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Harold Ramis, Robin Williams, Fred Willard, ,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

Canada has always been a source of comedic talent. Such notable stars include Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Dan Aykroyd and the Kids in the Hall. In the ‘70s and early ‘80s, a comedic group called Second City out of Chicago proved to be so popular and successful that another one started up in Toronto. Eventually, the Canadian contingent produced a TV show called SCTV, about a beleaguered, small-time TV station run by Guy Caballero (Flaherty). The show cuts between samples of the programs it airs, commercials (spot-on parodies like Krishna Sings Manilow or An Evening with John Houseman where he reads from the local town’s phone book) and off-screen drama (a strike by the station’s janitors).

Like other good skit shows, SCTV created some brilliant parodies. For example, The Sammy Maudlin Show skewered the sycophantic attitude of Sammy Davis Jr.’s show with characters like the gaudy Bobby Bittman (Levy), an unfunny comedian who is the epitome of Vegas excess with his abundance of gold chains and rings, and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson with William B. (Candy), an obvious jab Ed McMahon with his habit of phony laughing at every joke that Sammy tells.

SCTV never lost sight of its Canadian roots with its gentle satire of CBC’s public service announcements known as Hinterland’s Who’s Who, an early ‘60s staple of television that attempted educate the public on their wildlife. They also spoofed one of the country’s popular sports with a TV spot entitled, Monday Night Curling. SCTV also gave popular American culture a distinctive Canadian spin with such spot-on parodies as Magnum PEI with John Candy as the popular investigator chasing a criminal across a Maritime potato patch.

For people who only know Eugene Levy from Hollywood films like the American Pie series, SCTV showcases his versatile comedic talents as he created several memorable characters like Bittman and Sid Dithers. This season marked the debut of Martin Short who had been on the stage show of Second City and had a stint on American TV with two short-lived shows before coming onto SCTV when Dave Thomas, Rick Moranis and Catherine O’Hara left. He made his mark with such notable creations like Ed Grimley and Jackie Rodgers, Jr. and spot-on impersonations of Jerry Lewis and Dustin Hoffman.

There are also wonderfully absurd segments like the Farm Film Celebrity Blow-Up hosted by two rednecks that bring on a pretentious or self-absorbed celebrity (like Brooke Shields) only to have them blow up “real good!”

Looking at these episodes now one can see what a fantastic snapshot they are of their times. Anyone who grew up in Canada during the early ‘80s will recognize many of the cultural references. Although, some, like their spoof the venerable national news show, The Journal, may be lost on some American viewers.

Special Features:

This set features a nice collection of extras that do a good job of enhancing the episodes.

On disc one there is an audio commentary on the “Sammy Maudlin 23rd Anniversary/CBC” episode by Joe Flaherty and Martin Short. They offer a spirited track laughing at and fondly reminiscing about making this episode. Flaherty says that they wanted Bobby Bittman to spiral like Lenny Bruce in his last days but Eugene Levy didn’t go for it. Short feels that they were sometimes a little gun-shy about doing Canadian parodies in case nobody in the United States would get it.

“Hinterland Who’s Who” is an actual vintage public service announcement about the woodchuck that was parodied on SCTV. This is a really nice touch.

“Goin’ Down the Road” was one of the quintessential Canadian movies that SCTV parodied during this season. There are clips from the actual film juxtaposed with ones from the show that demonstrate how accurate SCTV’s take was on the movie.

The second DVD features “SCTV at Play,” vintage Super 8mm footage of the cast playing softball. Everyone looks like they are having a lot of fun as Rick Moranis commentates on the action.

Disc three includes a 30 minute retrospective featurette entitled, “SCTV Remembers – Part 4.” Martin Short is interviewed and talks about how he got onto Second City in Toronto and later SCTV. He also discusses the creation of key characters like Ed Grimley and how the character started on stage where Short worked on his voice and look. The comedian perfected Grimley on Second City before putting him on SCTV.

There is also an audio commentary on “Christmas” by Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short. They end up watching the episode more than commentating on it but when they do comment on what we seeing the two comedians are quite amusing and entertaining, marveling at how young they were back then.

The fourth disc features “Sammy Maudlin at Second City.” Joe Flaherty reprised this character for Second City in October 2004 and talks about doing this character again.

Disc five includes “The Producers, Part 2,” that features a brief interview with Len Stuart who talks about how Second City started up in Toronto, then how SCTV was created on Canadian TV and the move to NBC.

Finally, the last disc features a vintage clip from “The Red Fisher Show” that was lampooned on SCTV as the “Fishin’ Musician.” Red Fisher was an independent Canadian TV show that started in 1968 and ran for 21 years! Red would go out to some wilderness spot and camp and fish.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


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