A&E // 1990 // 500 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Corupe (Retired) // May 10th, 2006
Broke my hand on a pineapple...didn't even care.
Although Canada has been touted as a breeding ground for some of North America's greatest comedic talents, rarely have we been able to harness the outrageous humor of these lauded performers on Canadian soil. In a country where "making it big" is usually just a polite showbiz euphemism for catching the next available plane to Hollywood, Canada has lost more than its share of talent to the siren song of American stardom. As a result, Canadian TV comedy -- especially sketch comedy -- can be pretty uninspiring: B-level comedians peddling toothless political potshots at government officials (who seem to be in on the joke more often than not).
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Canada has been blessed with at least two extraordinarily clever comedy shows; shows so incongruous with the usual primetime fare that viewers can only sit back and marvel that they hit the airwaves at all. After SCTV's awe-inspiring hodgepodge of poisonous satire, Canadian comedy was again thrust into the spotlight with the sophisticated stupidity of The Kids in the Hall.
A&E's long-awaited The Kids in the Hall: The Complete Fourth Season offers another twenty episodes of classic sketches, characters, and moments written and performed by Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson.
* Episode 1: Cameraman Memorial; Night I Connected With My Dog; Hookers Undercover; Pitiful Mechanic; Hair Styles; Giant Spider on the Face; Picture With A Hooker; Would You Do an Alien?; Work Pig; Cabbie Delivers Rush Hour Baby
* Episode 2: The Alley Fight 1; The New Girl; The Alley Fight 2; Daydreaming; The Alley Fight 3; Virtual Reality; The Life of Cyril St. John; Deer By the Water
* Episode 3: Fiore Perfume Commercial; Are You Holding Out on Me?; Couple Discusses Fantasies; Weird Plastic Surgeon; Asthma Medication; Can You Dig It?; Phil, From the Warehouse; John Wayne; Prison
* Episode 4: The Governor's Wrong Number; Spot Bellini Contest; The Alley Fight 1; Multiple Personalities; The Alley Fight 2; Sandwich People; Never Put Salt In Your Eyes; Mrs. Robinson
* Episode 5: Newscasters; Emergency Room Practical Joker; Perks; Out of Body Experience; Sex Girl Patrol; So Says You
* Episode 6: Radio; Big Bats; Apartment Games 1; Door-to-Door Knife Sharpener; Progress in Food; Apartment Games 2; Forced Date; Maria; Apartment Games 3
* Episode 7: The Beatles; Chicken Lady Goes Home; Firing Assistant; Confusing Names; Things to Do; Interviewing New Assistant; Hiring Assistant; Judy & Fran
* Episode 8: Pretty Woman; Gavin Finds Religion; Try it NOW!; Dull Since the Heart Attack; Sock Puppet; Similarities Between the McDonalds and the Airport Series; My God They Can Read My Thoughts; Thanksgiving
* Episode 9: Chalet 2000
* Episode 10: Incompetent Receptionist; Employee-Employer Exchange; The Rookie 1; Psychic Delivery Service; The Rookie 2; Answering Machine; The Rookie 3; Divorce Court
* Episode 11: Best Friend; Anal Probing Aliens; Good Worker; Plastic Surgery; Understudy; Commitment; Do Re Mi; Clothesline; It's Too Easy; Smoking Your Son's Pot
* Episode 12: Lucky Lobster; There's A Fine Line Between 1; Tuck it In; Losing My Religion; The Hangover; There's A Fine Line Between 2; Everybody Knew Who Everybody Was; Serpico; Wildman
* Episode 13: Refrigerator Sounds; Pizza Shop Threat; Holding Hands; The Fraud; Rudy's Birthday; The Secret of Nudity; Vacation Picture; Tarzan; Detective Peter Prince
* Episode 14: Inexperienced Cannibal; Visit from Santa Claus; Spot Bellini Contest Winner; Not a Wrong Number; Ain't Gonna Spread for No Roses; Borrowing Art
* Episode 15: The New Guy; I Love You; Got a Puck; Heroin Junkie; Missing Airline Pilot; Undercover Preparation; Rollerblades; Love and Sausages
* Episode 16: Shut Up, Judge?; Job Sharing; The Voices; Who's Hot and Who's Not; Chad's 13th Birthday; Warehouse Party; Art Collector; Gay Marriage
* Episode 17: Janitor Retires; Marriage Denial; Francesca in Yugoslavia; Worms; The Nap; Cops Hangover; Let the Flirting Begin; No Chocolate Diet
* Episode 18: Transvestite; Mozart; Movie Star; 1/4 Life Crisis; Cemetery; Drunk As a Crow; Rudy's Second Job; Advantage
* Episode 19: Bike Courier; White Filipino Boy; I'm Charging You; Atrium; Drunk Chick From Winnipeg; Art Class; Hopeless Romantic; Surrogate
* Episode 20: Epithet 1; Gezbo, the Video Selling Clown; Vacation; High School Diploma; Epithet 2; Poor Attempt at an Affair; Scary Sandwich; Extreme Argument; Epithet 3
* Episode 21 (Best Of): Fiore Perfume Commercial; Things To Do; Art Collector; The Night I Connected With My Dog; The Life of Cyril St. John; Steps -- Gay Marriage
* Episode 22 (Best Of): Inexperienced Cannibal; Try it NOW!; Do Re Mi; Anal-Probing Aliens; Whores; Answering Machine; Chicken Lady Goes Home
A brilliant television series that easily stands among the most memorable sketch shows ever produced, The Kids in the Hall may have drawn influences from Monty Python's Flying Circus and Saturday Night Live, but they also tapped into a very distinctive brand of Canadian humor. Eschewing the satire-based SCTV and the literate belly-laughs of the grand old patriarchs of Canadian comedy, Wayne & Shuster, the Kids played off of type and the expectations of the audience while mixing satire and broad characterization into a hilariously unpredictable stew. By the end of The Kids in the Hall's third season, arguably the show's finest, the Kids had mastered this anarchic brand of sketch comedy. They also knew how to present it, building an unmistakable rhythm by mixing short and long pieces, monologues, sketches and location work. As egos grew, however, the troupe members began to focus on their individual talents. While there are still many laughs here, this season has a noticeably fragmented feel when compared to its predecessors.
That's not to say that this set isn't still highly enjoyable, however. It's just that viewers will notice a pronounced emphasis on individual monologues and filmed location work this time around -- a stylistic evolution that brought the kids even further away from their humble stage origins. This new direction accommodates some of the show's finest moments: mini-films (such as McCulloch's "Love and Sausages") and a hilarious, Lynchian short about a meat factory worker pining after a co-worker. The latter features a crazed performance by Thompson as a spittle-flecked old coot who demands more sausages from his swooning son. In another fan favorite, Foley plays a happy-go-lucky serial killer who delivers a meditation on his profession of choice while his axe is being sharpened by an itinerant tradesman. "Chad's 13th Birthday" is an amazing bit that has McCulloch getting fall-down drunk and spouting nonsensical advice to his bewildered son. Hilarious pieces, no doubt, but peppered among these surefire bits are several self-indulgent sketches in which presentation unfortunately trumps humor. At over five minutes, Foley's "Cyril St. John" is one of the longest skits ever on the show, a biography of an unsuccessful escape artist that really stretches its one-joke premise to the breaking point. Similarly, Thompson's "Peter Prince" sketch is a noir-styled detective farce about a gay P.I. solving a missing person case that really meanders in desperate search of some laughs. Each is well-directed by Kelly Makin, who would later helm the Kids' film Brain Candy, but the jokes just aren't up to the show's usual high standards.
One of the other most important shifts this season is a distancing from the recurring characters of the show's earlier years, a conscious move away from the now-tired Saturday Night Live style. The Head Crusher and Cabbage Head, two of the Kids' first "hit" personalities, are nowhere to be seen this year. Most of the other familiar characters -- gay monologist Buddy Cole, secretaries Cathie and Kathy, the annoyingly inquisitive Gavin, Sir Simon Milligan and Hecubus, the Chicken Lady, and the Cherry Beach cops -- typically only get one skit apiece. The few new recurring bits introduced this season involve mostly despicable characters like the racist cabbie, and McCulloch and McKinney playing the ultimate, squabbling, white trash couple. As the idea of recurring characters was imposed on the troupe by producer Lorne Michaels, it's refreshing to see them let loose from his influence a bit.
For better or for worse, the fourth season's centerpiece is "Chalet 2000," an ambitious half-hour-long sketch staring Thompson in the dual role of Buddy Cole and Queen Elizabeth II, which has Her Majesty escaping the paparazzi at Buckingham Palace to spend some time up at Buddy's chalet in the frozen Canadian tundra. The skit, not unlike Brain Candy, has trouble sustaining momentum. It often feels like a series of fragmented bits that never really come together as a cohesive show. "Chalet 2000" also suffers from Thompson's indulgent writing and the awkward shoe-horning of all the cast members into barely related parts. McDonald and Foley reprise their French-Canadian fur trappers from a previous year, McKinney only has a few lines as an annoying British photographer, and McCulloch, oddly enough, plays Buddy's son (an adopted teenage beaver on the make for the Queen). While it doesn't always work, when it does, it's hilarious. It is easily the best Buddy Cole bit from all six seasons of the show, as he schmoozes with Santa, cracks jokes with guest star Rip Taylor, and ogles his menservants. Despite its unevenness, "Chalet 2000" is a clear turning point for both the show and the troupe. It shaped the remainder of the show's run and the Kids' subsequent leap to the big screen before they would break up a few short years later.
Like A&E's first three season box sets of The Kids in the Hall, there's very little to complain about here in terms of quality. Although the shows have a soft tendency, the transfers look excellent; better than you've ever seen them on TV. Audio is a typical Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, which is exactly what the unqualified doctor ordered. Everything sounds nice and clean, and you should have no trouble with any of the dialogue. As usual, the fourth disc houses a generous selection of extras, starting with the Kids' commentaries for the two "best of" shows. As always, these are great listens: excellent, if chaotic, tracks that have them joking, laughing and sharing production stories and outright lies. It seems that these were recorded at the same time as last season's commentaries. They're not as spontaneous as those on previous sets, but the sense of fun is still there. Each is absolutely worth a listen. Aside from some simple text biographies and a still gallery, we also get another half hour of "vintage" camcorder footage taken from the pre-TV show performances at Toronto's Rivoli club. I found the material selected to be mostly uneven, and useful only as a comparison to the increasingly polished sheen of the TV show. Unfortunately, the "Oral History" documentary on the earlier releases has been entirely dropped. Still, it is a satisfying batch of extras overall, if not quite up to the quality and quantity we've seen before.
The Kids in the Hall: The Complete Fourth Season may not be the best representation of the show's output, but it's still highly enjoyable television and some of the finest sketch comedy to ever hit the airwaves. Despite a lightweight extras disc, this is yet another outstanding release in A&E's ongoing collection of the landmark show, and won't disappoint fans.
Not guilty, so let's celebrate with a game of screaming numbers! 4! 27! 18!
Review content copyright © 2006 Paul Corupe; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 500 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary by the Kids
* Two season 2 best-of compilations featuring fan-favorite sketches
* 30 more minutes of never-before-seen-on-TV performances from the Rivoli Theater
* Original KitH performance poster gallery
* DVD Verdict review of The Kids in the Hall: The Complete First Season
* DVD Verdict review of The Kids in the Hall: The Complete Second Season
* Official Site