John Candy, Eugene Levy, Joe Flaherty, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, Catherine O'Hara
With a run that started in September, 1978, the second season of "SCTV" cemented the already burgeoning reputations of the cast members involved. The show was born out of a frustration with the major networks lack of exposure for new comedic talent. Unable to get precious airtime for their skits, the SCTV crew simply formed their own network, and put themselves on the air! The cast where a bunch of future stars in the making, and revolved around the core line up of John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Catherine O'Hara, Harold Ramis, and Dave Thomas. The second season has a higher budget, and a more polished look to the sets, but loses none of the biting satire from the original show. This release presents the second season in its entirety.
Runtime: 592 min.
Release Date: 10/19/2004
• Audio Commentary on Two Episodes
• “The Juul Haalmeyer Dancers” Featurette
• “The SCTV Writers” Documentary
• Easter Egg
• “SCTV Remembers: Part 2”
• “SCTV At the 1982 Emmy Awards”
• Photo Gallery
• ”The Norman Seeff Photo Sessions”
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SCTV Network/90: Volume Two (1978)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 7, 2004)
Happy happy, joy joy! A mere four months after Volume One of SCTV/Network 90 hit DVD in June 2004, we get Volume Two. That’s a great turn-around rate and one that makes me optimistic that we’ll run through the series rapidly. It’s not quite the same pace as the Star Trek shows and their seven seasons in 10 months, but it sure beats the one season per year from The Simpsons.
As I reflected in my review of Volume One, I’ve adored SCTV for much of my life, so I’m completely excited to get each and every one of these packages. As with the first set, this five-disc package focuses on the 90-minute NBC shows that initially aired in 1981-82. Referred to as SCTV Network/90, we get nine of those programs from their second “cycle”.
CCCP 1 (aired October 11, 1981) starts off the cycle. Whereas the shows in the first iteration used a lot of old footage, this series includes much more original material. The occasional retread still appears, but not as frequently.
This allowed SCTV to better develop the various themes that influenced each episode. The shows in the first cycle used running concepts as well, but now they start to become better developed and integrated.
I see this as a “for better and for worse” element, as demonstrated by “CCCP 1”. On the positive side, the Soviet concept allows for some great spoofs, and it creates an ambitious look at things. On the negative slant, the show gets more than slightly heavy-handed, especially at its end. That problem affects other episodes as well, for the programs often finish with simplistic moralizing.
This doesn’t stop us from enjoying the fine content of the various episodes, though, and “CCCP 1” includes many fine pieces. It starts with the excellent “Perry Como: Still Alive”, a hilarious look at the master of extremely relaxing music that benefits from absurd reworkings of pop songs. Other standouts come from the hilariously lowbrow “Wet Nurse” and Lola Heatherton’s “Way to Go, Woman!” with “Mummy Teresa”, and it’s also amusing to watch Dr. Tongue and Bruno argue as they drive through space.
The Soviet elements seem pretty hit or miss. The better ones come from “Hey Giorgy!” and “Tibor’s Tractor”, which posits that the spirit of Khrushchev inhabits the titular farm vehicle. More strident skits like “Today Is Moscow” and “Uposcrabblenyk” fall moderately flat, though, and the Jazz Singer remake with musical guest Al Jarreau fails to go much of anywhere. “CCCP 1” is generally entertaining but not one of the best episodes.
Even if all the other elements stunk, this set would merit a purchase just for the title sequence of I’m Taking My Own Head (aired October 23, 1981). It brilliantly spoofs heavy-handed feminism, overly sensitive women’s programming, and cheesy community theater all at the same time. It fares magnificently and remains one of the series’ strongest moments.
That runner works best, but some other fine moments appear as well. “Night School Hi-Q” is almost as funny as the original sketch, and Rick Moranis scores with two good bits: the ventriloquism episode of “Sunrise Semester” and Gerry Todd’s “Video Dinners” ad. Really, the only moderate dud here comes from the “Movie of the Week” Power Play; it goes on too long and fails to really take flight. Nonetheless, “Head” offers a terrific show.
While “Head” lacked a strong running theme, Zontar (aired October 27, 1981) boasts a much more prominent theme. It parodies bad sci-fi flicks as Zontar sends space cabbages to take over the cast and crew of the station. This mostly sounds better than it works. The theme presents some funny moments and boasts a good impression of DeForest Kelley from Dave Thomas, much better than his feeble Shatner from Power Play - but it doesn’t quite take off like I’d hope.
The rest of the bits seem pretty scattershot as well. I like the “Farm Film Report” with Meryl Streep, and the kid in “Mrs. Falbo’s Tiny Town” who interrogates G. Gordon Liddy is a better-than-usual child actor. However, much of the material is decent but unexceptional, and the opening dental floss ad - which mocks the use of sex in unrelated enterprises - is downright lame. “Zontar” has some good moments but is more mediocre than usual for SCTV.
Unlike its predecessors, Walter Cronkite’s Brain (aired November 9, 1981) lacks any kind of unifying theme or runners. The title sketch is just that: a slightly long skit that parodies an educational series. It tosses out a clever Superman spoof but otherwise doesn’t do a lot for me.
However, even without any concept to overlay the show, “Brain” is a very good episode. The various sketches are unusually good this time. We get Volume 2’s first look at Pirini Scleroso, one of my favorite characters, in a series of great skits. We also find Gangway for Miracles, the absolutely brilliant Miracle Worker parody with Edith Prickley in the lead.
Virtually nothing on “Brain” stiffs. Much of the show seems excellent, and even the weaker sketches offer good moments. The main problem with some comes from excessive length. For example, both “Steeplechase” and “Screen Acting V” just ramble for too long. Nonetheless, with other pieces like “Emergency Caterers”, “Pre-Teen World” and “Carl’s Cuts”, this is an excellent program.
Only a show as great as SCTV could actively declare a lack of ideas and turn production pressures into something to put on the air. Doorway to Hell (aired November 16, 1981) does that. Initially we just see the title sketch as one segment, but then Guy Caballero polls the crew for concepts. When told to “go to hell”, Guy orders Lin Ye Tang to continue the show, and this becomes a de facto - and darned odd - runner. It’s not entirely successful, but it’s weird enough to work.
Actually, “Hell” is probably the strangest episode of this cycle, as it presents other quirkier than usual ideas. Any show with “The Nana Mouskouri Story” certainly qualifies as bizarre. We also get the entertaining “Pepi Longsocks”, the introduction of Skip Bittman, and “New York Rhapsody”, a skit that nicely integrates Paul Fedor, the episode’s musical guest. “Hell” isn’t exceptional SCTV, but it’s consistently good.
More delineated runners return in force with The Godfather (aired December 9, 1981). The overall concept seems obvious from the title, as the show parodies the Coppolla classic. And it’s absolutely brilliant. Floyd the Barber, Johnny Pavarotti, Leonard Bernstein, a talking horse and singing zucchini - all of this sounds incongruous for a Godfather spoof, but it melds seamlessly and makes the program creative, ingenious and hilarious. It follows the Godfather framework neatly and twists things just enough to make the program wonderful.
Whereas most runners pop up sporadically throughout the shows, Godfather fills the more than the first half of this one. I guess this makes it more of a really long sketch than a true runner. After Godfather ends, we get a pretty standard area of bits, though “3D House of Beef” - with guest star James Ingram - takes a big bite out of the remaining time. These pieces seem fine, but they come as a bit of a letdown after the superior Godfather. They probably should have used it in the second half of the show and ended the program with it instead of doing it the other way. In any case, this show works well overall and reaches “classic” level much of the time.
So far these shows have followed something of an “even/odd” construction. Episodes 1/3/5 have been fine but not great, while 2/4/6 were superb. SCTV Staff Christmas Party (aired December 18, 1981) breaks that chain, as our 7th program excels. It uses the titular gala as a runner, but we also find many examples of holiday programming such as specials with Liberace, Dusty Towne, and Neil Simon’s Nutcracker Suite.
The runner is the most fun. Nothing exceedingly inspired occurs at the party, but it’s very entertaining to see the extended cast and crew show up and interact. “Suite” is a pip, and the extended “Street Beef” is both amusing and slightly touching. Dusty Towne rounds things out with bawdy fun in this solid episode.
Most of the skits with musical guest stars fit into the shows awkwardly and don’t work particularly well. Teacher’s Pet (aired February 12, 1982) acts as an exception. It uses Boomtown Rats - with leader Bob Geldof before Live Aid and knighthood - in a perfect spoof of Sixties cinema. Actually, in a first, the Rats play twice here: they appear in “Farm Film Report” as well as the title skit. Both elements succeed, though “Report” works mostly due to Catherine O’Hara’s wonderful Brooke Shields impersonation.
“Pet” maintains the “even shows = good” rule as well with its remaining pieces. A good retread, we get the ancient but hilarious Ben-Hur, and some of the other elements fill out the episode nicely. It’s a quality program.
Finally, we head to Midnight Video Special (aired February 19, 1982). An odd program, this one lacks a true runner, as the title sketch is a simple, self-contained one. The show boasts a minor theme connected to sexist TV content via a controversy caused by “Johnny LaRue’s All-Girl Friday Night Pajama Party”, but even that peters out without any form of resolution.
This leaves “Video” as more of a general amalgam than usual. It also includes less original content than expected, as bits like “Lust for Paint” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” come from prior days. Heck, the show doesn’t even include a live musical guest; we get two acts - legends Talking Heads and forgotten Plastics - who both appear via music videos. The “Pajama Party” is funny, and I like both the Hitchcock piece and Count Floyd’s vamping during “Monster Chiller Horror Theater”, but “Video” is a lackluster SCTV show overall.
Hmm… it seems odd to note that both Volume One and Volume Two end on mediocre notes. That shouldn’t diminish that value of the packages as a whole, though. Volume One was excellent, and V2 continues that overall trend. SCTV remains one of the all-time great shows, and Volume Two once again reminds us of how terrific it was.
The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C/ Bonus B-
SCTV Network/90 appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I expected the picture quality to remain about the same as what I saw in Volume One, and that’s pretty much what I got, though Volume Two looked slightly stronger.
That occurred mostly because Volume Two included a much higher percentage of footage shot specifically for these shows. Volume One used a lot of older material, which led to more inconsistencies.
Sharpness improved moderately when compared to the earlier set. The shows remained somewhat loose and indistinct much of the time, especially in wider shots. Nonetheless, they looked a bit crisper and more detailed this time, as I noticed fewer instances of blurry elements. Some moiré effects and jagged edges cropped up at times, and some edge enhancement marred parts of the production. Source flaws appeared as well, mainly through some occasional video interference and pixelization. A few examples of specks also popped up for filmed footage. However, these stayed minor and infrequent.
Colors varied but seemed fairly solid. At times the hues came across as surprisingly vibrant and dynamic, though these elements didn’t appear consistent. Sometimes the tones became a bit muddy and flat. Overall, though, the colors provided some of the transfer’s best elements. Black levels actually came across acceptably well, as they looked moderately deep, but shadow detail was somewhat thick and excessively opaque. Ultimately, SCTV provided a pretty spotty image, but given the source material, I thought the DVD replicated the show in an acceptable manner. The improvements over Volume One weren’t extreme, but Volume Two seemed strong enough for me to bump up my grade to a “C+”.
As for the monaural soundtrack of SCTV, it seemed very similar to the audio heard in V1. As with that set, the whole thing didn’t present single-channel audio, as some brief moments blossomed into stereo. This occurred for the music of “The Cruising Gourmet” and the first piano playing in The Merv Griffin Show. I believe this occurred due to rights issues; I think the stereo music represented pieces replaced from the original shows. Otherwise, I noticed no signs of sound from the side speakers.
As a whole, the audio seemed about what I thought I’d get from an older TV show. Dialogue appeared acceptably distinct and accurate; occasional examples of edginess occurred, but no problems related to intelligibility happened. Effects were similarly flat and insubstantial, but they didn’t suffer from any distortion and they appeared perfectly adequate.
The music offered erratic quality. The shows used a mix of cues that sometimes sounded pretty robust and lively, but on other occasions they came across as somewhat tinny and lackluster, but occasionally the tunes appeared more robust and full. Unsurprisingly, the numbers from the musical guests worked best, so at the higher end, the songs sounded pretty decent. Some hiss appeared, and a bit of hum also popped up more than a few times. Ultimately, the audio of SCTV was nothing special, but it seemed fine for a TV show from the early Eighties.
This package includes a mix of extras spread across its five platters. Three episodes present audio commentary. For “CCCP 1”, we hear from cast member Dave Thomas plus producer Dick Blasucci and writer John McAndrew, while “I’m Taking My Own Head” and the “Christmas Party” include remarks from cast members Andrea Martin and Catherine O’Hara. For their respective pieces, the participants all sit together and provide running, screen-specific remarks.
The Thomas/Blasucci/McAndrew conversation is quite good. The three get into issues such as the influences and inspirations for the sketches, the problems executing the skits, and other elements from the set. It drags at times, and the guys disappear entirely for a moderate stretch between “Wet Nurse” and “Eskimo Art’s”, but the chat usually moves briskly, and it fills in the time with a lot of useful notes about the series.
In the O’Hara/Martin chat, we probably find a lighter level of hard facts about SCTV, but we get a more fun experience. The pair interact nicely and we really feel like we’re hanging out with them as they reminisce. They provide many good details about their experiences, with topics like inspirations for characters, the general tenor of the program, and reflections on the work itself. We get fun remarks like meeting personalities they spoofed and dealing with those repercussions. It’s somewhat tough for me to pin down a lot of specifics that I learned from the commentaries, but I truly enjoyed the two chats and was sad to have them end. They’re not the most informative tracks I’ve heard, but they’re lively, fun and amusing. SCTV fans should really like these conversations.
The rest of the extras spread across the various discs. On DVD One, we find The Juul Haalmeyer Dancers, a none-minute and 12-second program. It presents show clips with comments from costume designer Haalmeyer. He watches Dancers segments and relates his memories of the bits as well as general comments about the work. Some interesting notes appear, but this is a pretty rudimentary piece.
For info about the behind the scenes talent, we go to DVD Two’s The SCTV Writers. It runs 25 minutes and 57 seconds as it includes comments from Blasucci, McAndrew, Paul Flaherty, Bob Dolman, Mike Short, and Doug Steckler. We occasionally see some instances of show clips, but we mostly watch the six men as they sit and chat together. They talk about their experiences writing and pitching ideas as well as various influences and the atmosphere of the series. The presentation makes the piece somewhat dry, but it includes some fairly interesting reminiscences. We get a decent feel for the writers’ work and their methods in this moderately compelling program.
We get additional memories via DVD Three’s SCTV Remembers Part 2. It presents show clips with interviews from Eugene Levy and Joe Flaherty. We get specifics about the creation and elements of skits like “Perry Como: Still Alive”, “Zontar”, “Monster Chiller Horror Theater”, and “Farm Film Report”. Too many show snippets occur, but Levy and Flaherty present some useful notes to make this a good clip.
Over on DVD Four, two minor elements appear. We find a Photo Gallery with 62 images. These mostly show Polaroids of character makeup tests, and they’re very fun to see. We also get a three-minute and 45-second clip that shows the cast and writers at the 1982 Emmy Awards. The show received four of the five writing nominations and won for Volume One’s “Moral Majority” episode. Joe Flaherty delivers the acceptance speech in this cool historical artifact.
Lastly, DVD Five includes a program called The Norman Seeff Photo Sessions. In this 40-minute and 42-second piece, we see photos from the shoot, behind the scenes video from the session, and we hear comments from Flaherty, Thomas, hair designer Judy Cooper-Sealy, makeup artist Beverley Schechtman, and Seeff. They reflect on the characters and their elements as well as the shoot and a few other background elements. I’d have preferred more raw footage from the shoot, but this is still an intriguing piece.
At least one Easter Egg pops up here. Click to the right of “Play” from “Zontar” on the main menu. This activates a five-minute and five-second clip from Zontar: The Thing from Venus, the real flick that inspired the spoof.
Volume Two of SCTV features two interface improvements over Volume One. First, we get closed captioning for the episodes. We still don’t find actual subtitles, but at least some form of text appears. In addition, the chapter options broaden vastly for Volume Two. During the first set, each show included a mere five chapters, strewn almost randomly across the programs. Here, each sketch gets its own chapter, which makes specific access extremely easy. Good job!
When I reviewed Volume One of SCTV, I related my strong affection for the show, and that hasn’t changed over the last few months. Volume Two continues to be fun and indeed likely improves over the earlier release. The series achieves a bit more consistency with this compilation and offers a great deal of terrific material. Picture quality was erratic but better than for Volume One, while I heard similar audio for both sets. Some good extras appeared, mostly due to a few nice audio commentaries, but Volume One offered more substantial supplements overall. Nonetheless, Volume Two was another good set of excellent comedy, and I highly recommend it. I can’t wait for Volume Three in another four months!
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6119 Stars|| Number of Votes: 67|