Judge Paul Corupe's worst nightmare is being on trial with a jury made up entirely of his ex-girlfriends.
Our reviews of The Best Of The Kids In The Hall: Volume Two (published September 5th, 2007), The Kids In The Hall: The Complete First Season (published April 19th, 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.
"Screw you, taxpayer!"
Although Canada has been touted as a breeding ground for some of North America's greatest comedic talents, we've often been unable to harness the outrageous humor of these performers on home soil. In a country where "making it big" is usually just a polite showbiz euphemism for ditching a two-bit burg to catch the next available plane to Hollywood, Canada has lost more than its share of talent to the call 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 so incongruous with the usual primetime fare that viewers can only sit back and marvel that they hit the airwaves at all. Both SCTV's awe-inspiring hodgepodge of poisonous satire and the later, sophisticated stupidity of The Kids in the Hall rank not only among Canada's finest comedy moments, but they stand alongside Monty Python's Flying Circus and Saturday Night Live as some of the most memorable sketch comedy shows ever made.
With SCTV already boasting two seasons released on DVD, it's time for The Kids in the Hall to catch up with A&E's The Kids in the Hall: The Complete Second Season, a four-disc set that finds both the show and the Kids themselves maturing and settling into the comfortable formula that worked so well in their remaining three seasons.
Facts of the Case
The long-awaited "Season Two" set of The Kids in the Hall packs in another twenty episodes of classic sketches, characters and moments written and performed by Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson.
The Kids in the Hall may have drawn influences from Monty Python's Flying Circus and Saturday Night Live, but it also tapped into a very unique 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 to get their point across. The only Canadian show that came close to setting a precedent for the Kid's wacky humor was the short-lived but underrated 1985 show 4 on the Floor, starring a comedy troupe known as The Frantics. Best known for their Dr. Demento show staple "Boot to the Head" and a series of segments about unlikely superhero Mr. Canoehead, The Frantics's sketches seemed to exist in an entirely different plane where satire and extremely broad characterization were mixed into a crude, but hilariously unpredictable, stew.
The Kids certainly retained the shock humor influence of The Frantics—not surprising, since Frantics member Dan Redican turned up as a supervising producer for their show—but their stroke of genius was to contain it within a more sophisticated package. While they weren't above exploiting tried and true comedy routines like recurring characters and monologues, where the Kids really differentiated themselves from other troupes was in the way they would take a normal life situation—a job interview, standing in line at a bank, or buying a pair of shoes—and have reality give way to surrealistic nonsense where anything could, and often did, happen. Whether it was a nightclub suddenly being overrun by two clearly insane people, a teenage son unexpectedly telling his mother that she makes "fucking good ham," or having Scott Thompson, the openly gay member of the troupe, spout lines like "Thank God I'm not a fag," the show delivered its own anarchic "boot to the head," only in this case, the audience would never see the devastating blow coming.
Despite the occasional self-indulgent sketch in which presentation would trump humor, The Kids in the Hall's second season of was an extremely important one, and ranks among the finest the troupe did. While the first season of The Kids in the Hall was largely made up of sketches conceived for the stage, a slew of new directors, including SCTV's John Blanchard, were brought on board to help the Kids to adapt their style for a TV audience. These additions were invaluable in helping shape the material, and the experienced talent behind the camera allowed the Kids to leave behind the pasteboard sets and take their manic chaos out onto street locations, where they were arguably at their best.
In fact, you can definitely see the Kids discovering their limitations, and improving their consistency during the second season. Never having watched the show is this precise order before, I was amazed at how the episodes progressed from singularly hilarious moments in the first few installments, to brilliance being the rule rather than the exception. The last three or four shows in this set are especially solid, building an unmistakable rhythm through mixing short and long pieces, monologues, sketches, and location work. It was really in this season that the show as a whole began to gel as something more than just a collection of sketches.
Although the Kids themselves wanted to avoid creating recurring characters in the now-tired Saturday Night Live-style, they also recognized their value for a rigidly-scheduled weekly show. Making their reappearance on this set are the self-pitying womanizer Cabbage Head, gay monologist Buddy Cole, secretaries Cathie and Kathy, and the Head Crusher, who in this season are joined by the debuts of annoyingly inquisitive Gavin, the barely evil Sir Simon Milligan and Hecubus, the Chicken Lady, and the Cherry Beach cops—not to mention foreign film stars Bruno Puntz Jones and Francesca Fiore. Although too numerous to list here, just some of the fan favorite sketches in this season include Kevin McDonald seeking Bruce McCulloch's advice on becoming a Doors fan, a guitar battle with Satan, Buddy coaching a lesbian softball team, and every Canadian's worst nightmare, "Screw you, taxpayer!" an inspired bit in which the Kids waste as much of their government funding as possible.
Like A&E's first season box set of The Kids in the Hall, there's very little to complain about here at all. 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, which is exactly what the unqualified doctor ordered. Everything sounds nice and clean, and you should have no trouble with any of the dialogue.
Housed on the fourth disc is a generous selection of extras that kicks off with a continuation of the "Oral History" documentary from the first set. While the first installment of this doc was a good 40 minutes long, this one is a disappointing 15, but it's no less enjoyable, with each member of the Kids talking about the changes that were made that year in fascinating detail. Half-an-hour of "vintage" camcorder footage taken from the pre-TV show performances at Toronto's Rivoli club is also included, but I found the material selected to be mostly uneven, and useful only as a comparison to the increasingly polished sheen of the TV show. In light of the much shorter documentary on this volume, the Kid's commentaries for the two "best of" shows included here are promoted to the best feature on this set. The troupe provides a couple of excellent, if chaotic, tracks that have them joking, laughing, and sharing production stories. With five people all talking simultaneously, it can get a bit muddied, but there's a sense of fun about the whole thing that makes it absolutely worth a listen.
It's no coincidence that SCTV and The Kids in the Hall are among the first Canadian shows to make their way onto DVD, as they rank among the finest programming to come out of the Great White North. Not only is The Kids in the Hall: The Complete Second Season an absolutely essential release for fans but this is a fantastic set that reaffirms the troupe's membership in the pantheon of sketch comedy. Kudos to both the Kids and A&E for another outstanding collection—keep them coming!
This court finds the Kids innocent of all charges. Now, bring on the whores!
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by the Kids
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