Sunday, December 19, 2004

DVD Review: SCTV, Volume 2

I first stumbled onto SCTV while channel surfing late on a Sunday night during the Carter administration. Saturday Night Live was still going strong at the time, but this was SUNDAY night, so SCTV was a much needed comedy fix several hours before I had to begin yet another miserable work week at a job that was almost as much fun as walking barefoot on thumbtacks.

I quickly became a rabid SCTV fan, searching out the syndicated show as it moved from station to station and time-slot to time-slot. Over the years the show wound its way through syndication (in its 30-minute format) to eventually land, in a 90-minute format, in a late-night slot on Fridays at NBC. The show and its cast enjoyed enormous critical success, earning 13 Emmy nominations and winning two Emmys for writing. One hundred eighty-five of the original 30-minute shows were produced, and continue to run in syndication.

But the on-again, off-again availability of the show in syndication offered me no guarantee that I could get my SCTV fix. So I began taping any episode I could find as the show popped up on various cable networks. Of course, I taped them in Betamax format, which eventually meant starting from scratch to capture as many episodes as possible on VHS.

My stack of SCTV tapes includes one on which I captured an SCTV Christmas special, which consisted of several holiday-themed sketches, apparently pieced together from earlier bits. That tape gets trotted out every year when we set up the family Christmas tree. The audio-video quality of this aging tape has seen better days, and that's exactly why I was so excited to learn that SCTV would be available on DVD.

As with SCTV, Volume 1 - Network 90, the recently released SCTV, Volume 2 draws on the show's 90-minute format as repacked for NBC. The five-disk set includes nine episodes, including the SCTV Staff Christmas Party. This episode consists of several extended sketches, including Street Beef, which finds the late John Candy in his Johnny LaRue persona, drunk, dressed as Santa, trying to conduct man-on-the-street interviews. Also included is the Dusty Towne Christmas Special, featuring Catherine O'Hara as the raunchy dirty joke queen, and John Candy in an over the top impersonation of John Waters mainstay Divine.

The stuff is brilliant, of course, as is everything in this new collection. Watching the SCTV cast in action, it's little wonder that the surviving members continue to make significant contributions to the art of comedy. And the superb quality and clarity of the digitized programs beats the hell out of watching grainy, muffled, deteriorating video tapes.

A third volume of SCTV on DVD is due early in 2005. I've already cleared a spot on my shelf.

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