Television [2005]

At long last, SCTV is on the air... or at least on DVD! While it never reached the ratings heights or pop culture cachet of Saturday Night Live, SCTV did garner critical buzz and a devoted cult following. As with the Python boys, the ensemble members, and the characters they created to populate the fictional Melonville TV network, are revered in hipper comedy circles. In this respect, SCTV is Letterman to SNL's Leno. This essential five-disc set collects the first nine episodes of the series' Network 90 incarnation, which brightened NBC's Friday late-night lineup in 1981. While original cast member Harold Ramis had since left the show, and Martin Short would join the following year, John Candy, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Catherine O'Hara, and Dave Thomas were SCTV's definitive ensemble (SNL-bound Robin Duke and Tony Rosato, we hardly knew ye). These inaugural episodes are comprised mostly of "the golden classics" (so dubbed by Flahrety's wheelchair-bound station manager Guy Caballero) linked by some new material. Included are such series benchmarks as "The Great White North" segments, featuring Moranis and Thomas as the stereotypically Canadian, parka-wearing, beer-swilling McKenzie brothers; "Play It Again, Bob," starring Moranis as Woody Allen and Thomas as Bob Hope; the ill-fated made-for-SCTV "Polynesiantown" starring Candy's Johnny LaRue; "The Sammy Maudlin Show," starring Joe Flahrety as the most sincerely insincere talk show host, with O'Hara as Lola "I want to bear your children" Heatherton, and "Indira," with Andrea Martin in her signature Evita spoof. And that's just on disc 1! SCTV could parody Leave It to Beaver and Fantasy Island with the best of them, but anticipating the future Ben Stiller Show, its genius lay in its show business savvy to subvert television and movie convention. When Levy's comedian Bobby Bittman arrives on a talk show, he brings "bloopers" from his congressional testimony. And you don't need to have seen The Oscar to appreciate The Nobel, but it certainly helps. The price is steep, but don't be a hoser. This is the comedy release of the year. And it blows up real good. --Donald Liebenson

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