Judge Mike Rubino is crushing your head.
Our reviews of The Kids In The Hall: The Complete First Season (published April 19th, 2004), The Kids In The Hall: The Complete Second Season (published December 1st, 2004), The Kids In The Hall: The Complete Fourth Season (published May 10th, 2006), The Kids In The Hall: The Complete Fifth Season (published November 22nd, 2006), The Kids In The Hall: Complete Series Megaset (published May 18th, 2011), and The Kids In The Hall: Death Comes To Town (published May 18th, 2011) are also available.
"We need to get an exorcist in here, and this time I'm serious!"
Watching The Kids in the Hall was a refreshing reminder of my high school days, when I used to come home and catch reruns of the show on Comedy Central. The show was surreal, edgy, and unlike most of the sketch comedy I was used to seeing—mainly Saturday Night Live and Monty Python. Seeing it now, The Kids in the Hall clearly looks and feels like a product of the early '90s, while remaining fairly timeless in its humor.
The Best of the Kids in the Hall: Volume 2 provides a brief look into the latter half of the series.
Facts of the Case
If you haven't heard of the Canadian sketch troupe The Kids in the Hall by now, I'll briefly sum them up with a series of short statements: they're edgy, yet charming; they're groundbreaking and witty; and they're far funnier than anything Saturday Night Live has done in the past 15 years.
The 1988-94 series was first aired on the CBC and HBO. The troupe consisted of five members: Dave Foley (News Radio), Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson (The Larry Sanders Show).
Now that A&E has finished releasing all five seasons of The Kids in the Hall, it is releasing the "best of" episodes that were originally included in the sets. The Best of The Kids in the Hall: Volume Two features four episodes containing 31 of the "best" skits from the third and fourth seasons. Here they are:
Season 3: Part 1
Season 3: Part 2
Season 4: Part 1
Season 4: Part 2
This "best of" volume features a compilation of the funniest skits from seasons three and four of the show split across four 25-minute episodes. These episodes were originally produced back when the show was still being aired, and they're complete with the traditional opening, closing, and transitional videos from the show (and that awesome theme song by Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet). Because these "best of" episodes were created back in the Kids' heyday, their judgment may have been a little clouded. This collection contains some truly hilarious gems, but can be uneven at times.
When I was first discovering this troupe years ago, I might have thought every skit was pure genius. But watching them again now, with a more critical eye towards sketch comedy, I can see where things may have gone awry. Each of the four episodes does a good job of giving you a taste of what the Kids were all about: there are some recurring characters, some sketches in a series, and the deeper, more engaging material. The problem with things like recurring characters and sketches in a series is that if you don't find them funny the first time, they probably won't grow on you. Of course, even what I consider to be the worst sketch on the disc is still better than anything SNL has produced in some time (aside from that whole "D*** in a Box" thing)…so read ahead with that in mind.
Season 3, Part 1 started off well enough with the classic "I'm crushing your head" guy from the early seasons of the show. The skits after that are all fairly funny, but the episode really doesn't bust out the good stuff until almost the end. The best skit in the episode is a short film titled "The Pen," which emulates a black-and-white drama from the early days of film. A clerk (McCulloch) lends his pen to a customer (McDonald) who walks off with it. After the clerk realizes this, he chases after the man with an impressive amount of determination. It's a great skit that showcases the troupe's use of refined filming techniques on top of clever writing.
Season 3, Part 2 is a more consistent episode. It features of string of C.O.P.S. parodies about Ontario Provincial Police officers (played by McCulloch and McKinney) who never want to get involved when someone's in need of help. This episode also features the classic sketch "The King," in with Kevin McDonald plays a co-worker who is quick to make promises to Dave Foley, only to have them "slip his mind." Another great sketch in this episode is "Stay Down," which features McCulloch refusing to back down from a bar fight with a burly gent twice his size.
Season 4, Part 1 has, again, a pretty consistent bunch of sketches. Here, the Kids relate to the gay community in Toronto with their string of skits called "Steps." Each skit featured three homosexual characters, Riley, Butch, and Smitty, sitting on a market stoop trying to have a serious discussion about gay rights. They're not only funny, but feature some occasional social commentary from the group. This episode also features one of the Kids' best monologues: "The Night I Connected with my Dog." I was rather surprised to see that there wasn't at least one other monologue in this collection, since it felt like the troupe did so many of them…but at least they picked a good one. This episode also features a funny little mockumentary sketch called "The Escape Artist," which features some great clips made to emulate early 20th Century newsreels.
Finally, Season 4, Part 2 might be the weakest and most uneven section of the bunch. It has some funny bits, like "Try It Now," which features Thompson doing everything he can (which isn't much) to get his car to start. But it also features a not-so-funny string of sketches about prostitutes, and the return of the annoying Chicken Lady character. On occasion, during a few of the sketches in this last episode, I felt the habits of modern-SNL kicking in—mainly the fact that sometimes they didn't worry about concluding a skit, they would just pick a weird beat to end on.
It may sound as if I'm being kind of harsh on this wonderful little Canadian sketch troupe, but I really have great respect for them. This second volume has some classic sketches on it, and if you can't afford to buy the box sets of seasons three and four, then this is probably a good compromise. What would have been better, however, is if A&E had created its own compilation, after time has had a chance to better judge the canon of the Kids in the Hall, rather than just use the original "best of" episodes from back in the day.
The video quality is pretty much as it was in the '90s. It's kind of grainy, and the colors are a little soft, but it has held up well. I actually appreciated the look of the whole thing; and that classic '90s etched text animation for the credits is still sweet. The audio is quite good, coming in nice and clear in Dolby Digital stereo.
The only special features on the disc are a commentary track for each of the episodes and some cast bios. The commentary is very fun to listen to, and really has a nice balance of banter and production stories. Sometimes it is a little hard to hear all the cast, but if you crank it up it's a good time. The bios are okay, but I found the thick font hard to read on the screen.
I might be missing something, but I can't really understand the bright, loud color scheme used for The Kids in the Hall releases. It doesn't really reflect the style of the show very well, and overall this standard DVD case is pretty ugly.
The Kids in the Hall is a timeless and important piece of sketch comedy history. The Kids created some classic pieces of humor that rival even the best that other cross-dressing comedy troupe had to offer. This set isn't by any means the definitive compilation of their best material, however, and so I would advise you just pick up the complete series if you're really interested.
But if you are looking for just a sampling of the latter half of the show's run, you can't beat the price ($9.95 on Amazon) for 31 sketches.
Guilty of loitering in a hallway. and still being funny after all these years.
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Scales of Justice
• Four Commentary Tracks with the Kids
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