Second City Television

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Second City Television, or SCTV, was a Canadian television sketch comedy show offshoot from the Toronto troupe of The Second City.

Contents

Performers

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Secondcity1.jpg
Second City (Volume 1) DVD
The show's original cast included John Candy (1976-79, 1981-83), Joe Flaherty (1976-84), Eugene Levy (1976-84), Andrea Martin (1976-84), Catherine O'Hara (1976-79, 1981-82), Harold Ramis (1976-78) and Dave Thomas (1976-82), many of whom had previously been regulars on The David Steinberg Show. All of the original featured cast went on to successful careers in American film and television. Rick Moranis (1980-82), Tony Rosato (1980-81) and Robin Duke (1980-81) joined the cast for Season 3 to replace Candy and O'Hara. Rosato and Duke were called upon by Dick Ebersol to help fix Saturday Night Live in the Spring of 1981, while Candy and O'Hara returned for SCTV's network debut on NBC. Martin Short (1982-84) joined the cast at the tail-end of Season 4 to replace Thomas and Moranis.

History

SCTV first aired as a half-hour show on Global in Canada, starting in 1976, for two seasons. In 1980, after a one year hiatus, the show moved to the CBC for its third season. The first three seasons also aired in syndication in the United States starting in 1977. In 1981, it was picked up as a 90 minute show by NBC as a mid-season replacement (for the Midnight Special), airing first as SCTV Network 90, then as SCTV. During its network run, the show garnered 15 Emmy nominations, winning two (both for outstanding writing in a variety or music program). The show continued to air on the CBC in Canada as a full hour, compiled from the NBC shows. In the fall of 1983, for its final season, the show moved to pay-TV channel Superchannel in Canada and Cinemax in the United States, adding John Hemphill as a semi-regular and changing the name slightly to SCTV Channel.

Premise

The basic premise of SCTV is that it is the television station for the city of Melonville. Rather than broadcast the usual TV rerun fare, the business, run by the greedy Guy Caballero (Joe Flaherty) who sits in a wheelchair only for respect, puts on a bizarre and humorously incompetent range of cheap local programming. This can range from a soap opera called "The Days of The Week", to game shows like "Shoot The Stars", in which celebrities are literally shot at like targets in a shooting gallery, to full blown movie spoofs like "Play it Again, Bob" in which Woody Allen (Moranis) tries to get Bob Hope (Thomas) to star in his next film. In-house media melodrama was also satirised with characters like Candy's vain, bloated variety star Johnny La Rue and Martin's hatchet-faced, shrewish Edith Prickley, the station manager.

Features

Parody shows included Natalie Wingneck, a Tarzan-style spoof in which Martin plays a girl, whose family have died in a plane crash, who has been raised by geese. A parody of the popular western drama Grizzly Adams -- retitled Grizzly Abrams -- depicted the burly western hero as the owner of a wild tortoise, which took weeks to lead police to the skeletal remains of its master, trapped beneath a fallen log.

As one chronicler has noted, the TV station concept gave the show the ability to parody virtually any TV genre, as well as advertising. Some of the most memorable sketches involved parodies of late-night low-budget advertising, such as "Al Peck's Used Fruit", in which viewers were enticed to come early with the offer of free tickets to 'Circus Lupus', the Circus of the Wolves (accompanied by mocked-up photos of wolves forming a pyramid and jumping through flaming hoops). Equally memorable were the faux-inept ads for local businesses like Tex and Edna Boil's Organ Emporium.

Impersonations were also an integral part of the comedy, with almost every cast member playing multiple roles as well-known personalities. Some impressions include Short's Jerry Lewis, Candy's Orson Welles, Pavarotti and Herve Villechaize, O'Hara's Katharine Hepburn, Moranis' Merv Griffin and Woody Allen, Martin's Barbara Streisand, Thomas' Bob Hope and Walter Cronkite, Rosato's Lou Costello, and Flaherty's range of impersonations including Gregory Peck, Peter O'Toole, Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, Bing Crosby, William F Buckley, Geraldo Rivera, Charles Bronson, Alan Alda, Gene Siskel, Richard Nixon, Jack Klugman, Slim Whitman, Larry Fine and Salvador Dalí -- and of course, Levy's Ricardo Montalban.

Other popular sketches and characters include:

  • the "Farm Film Report," in which two hicks interviewed celebrities and finally encouraged them to "blow up" (creating the catchphrase "get blow'd up real good"),
  • "The Sammy Maudlin Show," whose sleazy showbiz guests and hosts usually did nothing but sit around and praise each other, and Martin Short's "Jackie Rogers, Jr." (a sort of albino Sammy Davis, Jr.)
  • insufferable talk show host Catherine Timber (O'Hara), host of chat show Enough About Me (which is, not surprisingly, her catchphrase)
  • Martin Short's Brock Linehan, a thinly-veiled impersonation of real-life Canadian interviewer Brian Linehan, who was famous for his over-preparation.
  • Harry, The Man With The Snake On His Face (John Candy), who runs Melonville's adult book and video stores.
  • Count Floyd (Joe Flaherty) who hosts Monster Chiller Horror Theater, featuring flicks like "3-D House of Beef" and "The House of Cats".
  • The newscasts hosted by Floyd Robertson and Earl Camembert, modelled after Canadian news anchors Lloyd Robertson and Earl Cameron and played by Joe Flaherty and Eugene Levy respectively. (Floyd Robertson was revealed in one episode as the same person as Count Floyd, host of the station's cheap late-night horror films)
  • Dave Thomas playing actor Richard Harris in a skit where "Harris" sings his most famous hit MacArthur Park, then waits in total agony during the orchestral stretch while the show moved on to other skits.
  • The famous Russian Television episode in which an aging and bedridden Perry Como (obviously played by cast member Eugene Levy) "stars" in his TV special "Still Alive", only to be interrupted by an illegal signal from a Russian Television station, CCCP 1. From there, all the skits are spoofs of Russian Television network shows.

Ironically, the most popular sketch was intended as throwaway filler. Bob & Doug McKenzie were the imaginary Canadian brothers in The Great White North sketch. The sketch was initially developed by Rick Moranis ("Bob") and Dave Thomas ("Doug") at the end of a day's shooting, as a sarcastic response to the CBC request for two minutes of "identifiably Canadian content". The brothers ultimately became icons of the very Canadian culture they were meant to parody, spinning off albums, a movie (Strange Brew), commercials, and cameo appearances on TV and film. It has been said that Bob and Doug popularized the inaccurate stereotype that Canadians say "Eh" after every sentence, which is often poked at in American shows featuring Canadian characters.

External links

SCTV Guide (http://www.sctvguide.ca/), including a searchable episode guide.

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