|SCTV: Best of the Early Years (1978)
Starring: John Candy, Robin Duke, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Catherine O’Hara, Harold Ramis, Dave Thomas, Tony Rosato
Here’s a question for you: if “SCTV” had stayed on the air as long as “Saturday Night Live” has, would we still be speaking of it in such fawning terms today? It’s a rhetorical question, but here’s my answer, anyway: yeah, I think we probably would. Pound for pound, “SCTV” episodes tend to hold up better than “SNL.” Maybe it’s just because the framing device of a fake TV station was pure genius, one which gave “SCTV” the opportunity to skewer anything and everything that had ever come across the airwaves.
Shout! Factory has already released four multi-disc volumes of the show, but this is the first time these half-hour episodes from 1978 – 1980 have emerged in a collection. Here’s your chance to see the first appearances of Guy Caballero, Edith Prickley, the McKenzie Brothers, Johnny Larue, Sammy Maudlin, and Count Floyd. Ooooooo, scary! Kids, if your only experience with Eugene Levy is from god-awful films like “The Man” or “Cheaper By the Dozen 2” (let’s not even bring the straight-to-video “American Pie” sequels into this), you’ll want to grab this set immediately; you already know the guy can pull a laugh out of even the worst cinematic dreck, but “SCTV” shows Levy at his best. Rest assured, characters like Bobby Bittman, Brian Johns, and Sid Dithers will live on long beyond “Bringing Down the House.”
Yes, that’s right, “SCTV” had just as many recurring sketches as “SNL” had and continues to have…but “SCTV” could always fall back on the excuse that, hey, it’s a TV network; these aren’t so much recurring sketches as regular series on the network. (Works for me.) As such, the regular rotation involved “The Great White North,” starring Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas as Bob and Doug McKenzie, “Monster Chiller Horror Theater,” hosted by Count Floyd (Joe Flaherty), and “The Sammy Maudlin Show,” with Flaherty as Maudlin, along with kids’ shows like “Komrade Kangaroo” or game shows like “Make Me Barf.” And, of course, every struggling network needs commercials, so make way for spots for Evelyn Wolf’s School of Speed Eating and Roto-Rooster.
So, yes, I’m standing by my position: “SCTV” might not have been on the air for as long as “Saturday Night Live,” but even if it had, the material it provided during its comparatively brief time on the air is enough to make it classic television…and, of course, to make this set worth owning.
For the first time, Robin Duke gets the opportunity to do audio commentary, and she’s joined by Joe Flaherty, who – having done multiple commentaries over the course of the previous four sets – spends more time steering Duke from topic to topic than he does offering his own recollections. We also get a few commentary tracks from producer Andrew Alexander, who spends his time on the mike answering the fan mail the show has racked up since arriving on DVD a few years ago; there’s also a featurette where Alexander gives a behind-the-scenes tour of the Firehall, the Toronto nightclub that Second City called home for two decades. The most fun feature, however, is “Take Off, Eh!” It’s a CBC news segment which shows just how much impact the McKenzie Brothers’ “The Great White North” had on Canada.