Originally created 06/03/04

Nine hours of timeless SCTV comedy immortalized on DVD

The forgotten younger sibling to the higher profile Saturday Night Live, SCTV never quite caught the country's attention the way its Saturday counterpart did.

But for many, the landmark Canadian-produced series, which ran for about eight seasons, represents the pinnacle of television comedy.

Particularly beloved are the 90-minute episodes that began airing on NBC during the show's fourth season. They were uncommon, in that they were sketch comedy, based around the idea of a fictional television station and each with an encompassing plot line holding the proceedings together.

Nine of those episodes have now been compiled on DVD.

Featured are fan favorites The tiki noir Polynesiantown, the Great White North featuring the brothers McKenzie, and a talented cast that included comedy greats John Candy, Rick Moranis, Harold Ramis and Eugene Levy.

Much of the appeal of these assembled episodes stems from the ability to dip in. Each 90-minute broadcast is divided into five easily digestible segments, making the more than 13 hours of comedy a less daunting.

What's astonishing about the bits, impersonations and sketches is that although nearly 25 years old, they have aged extraordinarily well. Particularly timeless are the recurring stock characters, John Candy's scheming Johnny LaRue, Eugene Levy's hopelessly out of touch comic Bobby Bittman and Andrea Martin's caustic station manager Edith Prickley.

Also interesting is the time capsule element of SCTV, particularly in terms on the show's regular musical guests. The collection features performances by the Tubes, Roy Orbison and Dr. John.

As might be expected with a comedy collection born and bred during the Carter administration, some cultural references have not fared as well. Dave Thomas's Bob Hope impersonation, which seems to show up in nearly every episode, seems a little threadbare, as do the Dick Cavett and Fantasy Island send-ups. But the magic of SCTV was, and is, that topicality was never the troupe's primary concern. The episodes hold because the essence of SCTV is the sweet satire that can come only from exploding and exploiting human foibles, something the cast did better than anyone.

EXTRAS: Each episode features a separate documentary. The first is made up of cast recollections, the second is a history of the Second City comedy troupe and its transition from stage to television. The third is a tribute to the late Mr. Candy, who got his start as a Second City cast member. The fourth disc features a nuts-and-bolts look at the remarkable stagecraft of the small-budget show and the last is a 1999 reunion, with host Conan O'Brien. Two episodes also feature an audio commentary track with cast members Mr. Levy and Joe Flaherty.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.


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