Judge Paul Corupe doesn't just play a Canadian on TV. He lives the life, baby.
Our reviews of SCTV Network/90: Volume 1 (published June 1st, 2004), SCTV: Volume 2 (published September 29th, 2004), SCTV: Volume Three (published April 20th, 2005), SCTV: The Best Of The Early Years (published November 8th, 2006), and SCTV: Volume Four (published October 12th, 2005) are also available.
Merry Christmas from Melonville!
Easily one of the most influential and critically successful sketch comedy shows ever, SCTV was a cataclysmic collision of mind-boggling talent. Using a three-pronged humor attack consisting of subversive satire, outrageous slapstick, and tragically hilarious characters honed from the improvisational battleground of Toronto's Second City theater stage, SCTV spent eight years on the air championing the silly and the sublime. Taking their inspiration not from the obvious, broad pop culture trends that ended up as fodder for less creative shows, the SCTV performers instead turned to the obscure and the unknown, spoofing the then-forgotten wasteland of late night TV, B-movies, and minor celebrity. In this way, cast members Eugene Levy, Joe Flaherty, Andrea Martin, Martin Short, Dave Thomas, Rick Moranis and John Candy were able to co-opt their esoteric muse and make it entirely their own, using incredible comic talents to transcend the original inspiration and connect with their audience on a level of pure comedy.
With four pricey SCTV box sets now out on shelves to satisfy fans, Shout! Factory has also begun to release a few single disc episode compilations for those who have fond memories of the series, but may not want to shell out for the big-ticket collections. Christmas with SCTV is their latest release, a DVD that brings together "SCTV Staff Christmas Party" and "Christmas," both of the series' yuletide episodes, from its 90-minute SCTV: Network/90 incarnation on NBC.
"SCTV Staff Christmas Party" is one of the finest episodes in the entire series, a rare opportunity to see many of the show's best-known personalities share screen time. A plotline established in an earlier show about Johnny LaRue (John Candy, Stripes) going over budget with an unauthorized crane shot comes full circle here when station manager Guy Caballero (Joe Flaherty, Freaks and Geeks) kicks him out of the staff party to do his no-budget man-on-the-street show, "Street Beef." Drunk and almost frozen-to-death, LaRue is visited by Santa, who gives him what he wants most: production values. There are the usual TV show spoofs, all with a Christmas spin, like Bob (Rick Moranis, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) and Doug McKenzie (Dave Thomas, Strange Brew) exchanging packages of smokes and showing you how to sneak beer into your eggnog glass, and the hilarious "Dusty Towne Sexy Holiday Special," in which Dusty (Catherine O'Hara, Beetlejuice) sings suggestive carols along with guest star Divine (Candy). Best of all are the staff party segments with many characters letting their hair down—Gerry Todd (Moranis) shoots lots of video, Earl Camembert (Eugene Levy, Waiting for Guffman) unsuccessfully sneaks in the liquor line, and Lin Yee Tang (Thomas) coyly invites the female bartender back for a liaison on his "Doorway to Hell" set. My only problem with this show is a relatively unfunny spoof on the Nutcracker and California Suite called "Neil Simon's Nutcracker Suite," which takes up a considerable part of the running time.
"Christmas," which aired after the departure of several cast members a year later, benefits from the return of O'Hara, who appears in the show as a guest star. More or less continuing the LaRue plotline from the earlier Christmas episode, Johnny learns that there's more to Christmas than just crane shots when he visits the Melonville Men's Mission, a far less engaging wraparound story mostly geared towards getting LaRue (and the audience) to hear a performance by gospel singer Andrae Crouch. Instead, it's the individual skits that are the clear highlight, a wide variety of always hilarious bits that properly skewer the bad TV holiday specials we're forced to endure every year. "Christmas Day with the Shmenges," which has polka kings Yosh (Candy) and Stan (Levy) explaining all the Leutonian yuletide traditions. Ed Grimley (Martin Short, Primetime Glick) unsuccessfully tries to fall asleep on Christmas Eve in "The Fella Who Couldn't Wait for Christmas," and Libby Wolfson (Andrea Martin, My Big Fat Greek Wedding) offers a rather unorthodox look at Hanukkah on her show, "You!"
Like Shout! Factory's box sets, Christmas with SCTV looks pretty incredible for a thirty-year-old, shot-on-video sketch comedy series. Although the shows have the tendency to come off slightly soft, the transfers look quite excellent—better than you've ever seen them on TV. Audio is a typical Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Everything sounds nice and clean, and you should have no trouble with any of the dialogue. Christmas with SCTV also replicates several extras from the earlier sets: "The Juul Haalmeyer Dancers" is a short featurette on the purposely untalented dance troupe that appears in both episodes on the set, headed up by the show's costume designer, and Andrea Martin and Catherine O'Hara offer a commentary on "SCTV Staff Christmas Party," while O'Hara and Martin Short do a side-splitting mocking commentary on "Christmas."
While Shout! Factory's four DVD volumes of SCTV Network/90 are absolutely indispensable releases for comedy fans, this is a nice seasonal package that delivers the goods for those unwilling to make a big investment. With two of the series' most memorable episodes, this DVD promises more than its fair share of good cheer and beernog.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
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