Your Memories of SCTV

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 12: Catherine O'Hara and Jo Flanerty attend a SCTV panel discussion in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Second City at 1616 N. Wells Avenue on December 12, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo b... CHICAGO - DECEMBER 12: Catherine O'Hara and Jo Flanerty attend a SCTV panel discussion in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Second City at 1616 N. Wells Avenue on December 12, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for The Second City) MORE LESS
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Thanks to so many of you for writing in in response to yesterday’s post about SCTV. It hadn’t occurred to me that lots of the sketches and maybe whole shows are on YouTube. But of course that makes perfect sense. One of the interesting things about those notes is that many of you mentioned something that I didn’t say explicitly in my post but was likely implicit, which is that being a fan of SCTV was a bit like joining a secret club. About half way through it’s run it got picked up by NBC and then it ran I think after Saturday Night Live. That’s a helluva time slot. But still, that’s network TV. Before that, though, you had to be a bit of a freak to even have found it. It would only be available as a syndicated show on one of the non-affiliate channels picked up from whatever rando station produced it in Toronto. (And yes, for you youngs, this was back when there were like 5 to 7 channels total, the three affiliate channels, PBS and then two or three low budget local channels that probably ran mostly repeats of like I Love Lucy and Brady Bunch.) So it really was a bit like being in a secret club. The few, the elect, the viewers of a show that was legit funnier than SNL.

Here’s a recollection from TPM Reader PK … (and God is he right about John Candy)

I’ve been appreciating your work since the (George W. Bush) Iraq war and every now and then have sent you links to pieces I’ve written. I also loved SCTV as a kid. In a world where Saturday Night Live represented the televisable frontier of countercultural comedy and cool in general, finding SCTV was like joining a secret club. It was on at 12:30 AM on Friday nights where I grew up! And it was sillier than SNL and even then to my earnest nerdy young self seemed much smarter. I think a big part of SCTV’s success was that they often created sketches by switching in subjects that were somehow related to what they were spoofing, but in completely absurd ways, and just totally went with it. Another big part was that everyone involved was steeped in (and in some sense really adored) all kinds of TV history and artifacts of popular culture. Put those two things together and you get “What’s My Shoe Size?” – a version of “What’s My Line” that actually parodied Dorothy Kilgallen and Bennett Cerf, with the celebrity panel wearing masks while John Candy walked out with enormous feet. Or the “Mercury 3 Players,” where the actors, instead of being from Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater, are astronauts from the Mercury program. Or Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young singing “White Christmas,” because it’s Bing Crosby in the group. They’re all laugh-out-loud funny and I found them all when I went down a rabbit hole looking for the parody of Perry Como they did with him singing “I’m Still Alive” to the tune of “I Will Survive.”

SCTV clips often sound weird because NBC sometimes forced a laugh track on the show. And after it went off the air, Hollywood had no idea what to do with any of the actors. John Candy was funny in American movies, but not the crazy genius he was as Johnny LaRue. Eugene Levy didn’t get a decent vehicle for his talents until he and his son created Schitt’s Creek more than 30 years after SCTV. SCTV was the bomb.

Anyway, here’s Joe Flaherty as Kirk Douglas, Tom Wolfe and Bing Crosby. Hope your schedule can take losing as many hours as you’re going to end up looking for more clips along these lines. Enjoy.

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