Top row, left to right: Eugene Levy as Bobby Bittman, John Candy as Johnny LaRue, Andrea Martin as Edith Prickley. Bottom row, left to right: Catherine O'Hara as Dusty Towne, Joe Flaherty as Guy Caballero, Rick Moranis as Bob McKenzie and Dave Thomas as his brother Doug.
"There were six people who loved to watch television, but they didn't like what they saw—so they decided to do something about it..."
Proof that Canadians are attempting to control America through comedy.In 1976, there was a small group of comedians who had worked together for a season on a previous series, The David Steinberg Show — a sort of It's Gary Shandling's Show a good decade before Garry Shandling did it. They got together and produced a sketch comedy show around the premise that the sketches were episodes of local shows (or commercials for local businesses) being produced and aired by a television station in the mythical city of Melonville.This show, SCTV (Second City Television), has probably had more impact on American comedy than most American shows.How is that? Well, let's run down the original cast: John Candy. Joe Flaherty. Eugene Levy. Andrea Martin. Catherine O'Hara. Harold Ramis. Dave Thomas. Add in latecomers Rick Moranis and Martin Short, and you have a veritable who's who of '70s-'80s Canadian comedynote Although Flaherty, Martin and Ramis were actually American, they were working in Canada.. Due to the connections between the Chicago and Toronto branches of the Second City comedy troupe, there was considerable constructive feedback between this show and Saturday Night Live.The show started with a thirty-minute format on the Global Television Network, which ran from 1976-1979. After that, the show was picked up by CBC and expanded to an hour. During this era, the show's most popular characters, Bob and Doug McKenzie, debuted. The show was expanded to ninety minutes in 1981 when NBC picked it up as late-night programming (this version was known as SCTV Network 90). During this stretch of the run, coupled with the fact that it was neither live nor taped before a live audience, it was able to push the boundaries of traditional sketch comedy. It won 15 Emmys over its network lifespan. A final season of 45-minute episodes aired on Superchannel in Canada and Cinemax in the U.S. (as SCTV Channel) over 1983-84.
SCTV provides examples of:
And Starring: "And Dave Thomas as The Beaver." Doubly deconstructed: Dave Thomas wasn't any more famous than anybody else in the cast, he was just alphabetically last; also, he did not, in fact, play The Beaver when SCTV did its Leave It to Beaver sketch, John Candy did.
And You Were There: The Fantasy Island episode, and later with Lola Heatherton in the "Bouncin' Back To You" sequence.
Berserk Button: Mayor Tommy Shanks seems to live in his own loopy world. He even shrugs off accusations that he's corrupt. Then, a drunk Floyd Robertson makes comments about his mother. Shanks is NOT amused AT ALL.
Bill Needle DOES NOT like to be corrected.
Breakout Character: Bob and Doug were created to be strictly filler to satisfy, and make fun of, Canadian Content broadcast rules, but they became the most popular characters of the series. In fact, the show itself lampshades this in "The Great White North Palace." In that episode, Guy Caballero realizes how popular Bob and Doug are, and gives them their own Variety Show to shore up the flagging network. This is completely outside the brothers' comfort zone, however, and the show is an instant failure that is so bad that Guy Caballero orders the broadcast halted in the middle of an atrocious sketch with Bob and Doug as the Festrunk Brothers (Two Wild and Crazy Guys).
Canada, Eh?: Taken to a truly extreme length in the episode "The Sammy Maudlin 23rd Anniversary Show", where the station has to pipe in programming from the CBC due to budget cutbacks. The resulting footage skewers several Canadian films and series (including Goin' Down The Road, Front Page Challenge and the "Hinterland Who's Who" nature commercials) and makes fun of established institutions like curling and Prince Edward Island.
Canadian Accents: Bob and Doug McKenzie, probably the most "Canajun" Canadian accents ever aired, eh?
The Caper: Thoroughly spoofed in "Maudlin's Eleven".
Catch Phrase: Both straight (Bob and Doug, Count Floyd, Mayor Tommy Shanks) and subverted (Lola Heatherton, Bobby Bittman)
Celebrity Star: Performers like Robin Williams and Bill Murray did guest spots as sketch characters. Most guest performers were musicians appearing as themselves on the Show Within a ShowThe Fishin' Musician and thus engaging in outdoorsy activities with its host. Within recurring sketches like The Sammy Maudlin Show and Farm Film Report, this concept was frequently spoofed with cast members playing various celebrities or Expies thereof.
Christmas Episode: Several, which took plenty of potshots at Christmas programming tropes.
Corpsing: In a sketch where a Scotsman and a rabbi exchange stereotypical insults at each other, Rick Moranis, who plays Rabbi Karlov, is clearly stifling his laughter directed at the insults he comes up with for the Scotsman.
Possibly, but it could also be the character of Rabbi Karlov stifling his glee at coming up with (what he thinks are) brilliant insults.
Harold Ramis, in his sketches from season 1, corpses constantly. See, for example, Do-It-Yourself Dentistry, in which he constantly looks off screen and smiles at the crew, because that's real rum in that bottle, which he didn't know until he took a drink. He ended up legitimately plastered after this sketch. and this scene from Ben-Hur, where he again grins and glances off camera while John Candy barks at him.
Dark Reprise: Parodied in Garth and Gord and Fiona and Alice. The early scenes in The Maritimes are set to the sprightly "To It And At It" by Canadian folk-country icon Stompin' Tom Connors. Once they get to Toronto, it's replaced by a slower, grittier hard rock Cover Version.
Dead Air: During an episode about an up-and-coming boxer who was slated to fight the champ on their station. The entire episode is spent hyping up the underdog, even making a short film about him. At the end, when the fight begins, the underdog is knocked out by a single punch, leaving SCTV with nothing but dead air for the remainder of the program as they desperately looked for something, anything they could fill it with.
Death Trap: Used in the Talking Projector sketch and the Six Gun Justice sketches.
Downer Ending: Subverted in "CCCP 1", where Edith Prickley assures the audience that nobody died when the Russians retaliated against SCTV, but since The Cold War was going on at the time, the future between North America and Russia is uncertain at that point.
Gory Deadly Overkill Title of Fatal Death: Monster Chiller Horror Theatre, and some of the "movies" featured thereon, such as the oft-promised-but-never-screened Bloodsucking Monkeys from West Mifflin, Pennsylvannia and Dr. Tongue's 3-D House of Meat.
Humor Dissonance: In-universe in Neil Simon's Nutcracker Suite ("SCTV Staff Christmas Party"). In The Sammy Maudlin Show leading up to the film's debut, Simon makes a quip about something being "an uplifting experience, not unlike Dolly Parton's Cross-Your-Heart Bra" that has trouble getting laughs from the host and sidekick, much less the audience. In the film itself, the main character — a Simon Expy — makes much the same quip while trying to check into an overbooked hotel, and the staff thinks it's so funny that they find a room for him and his wife on the spot.
Juggling Loaded Guns: In a parody of Captain Kangaroo called "Captain Combat", Gunny Rabbit is shot by an accidental discharge. (Captain Combat's lesson to the kiddies at the end of the sketch: "Never be in a room with a loaded gun unless you're holding it.")
Kaiju: Grogan on The Tim Ishimuni Show and Johnny Nucleo (and Godzilla (!)) on "Towering Inferno."
Laugh Track: The show never taped before an audience, so most episodes used a sprinkling of very polite canned laughter. According to Dave Thomas, the man responsible for adding the laugh track was a sound technician notable for his lack of any discernible sense of humor, so not only was the existence of the laugh track annoying in itself, it was also poorly executed.
Nightmare Fetishist: Lin Ye Tang, as he demonstrates, not only on Doorway To Hell, but even on Chinese Fairy Tales ("Happy endings! I don' believe in them!").
Nightmare Retardant:invoked Count Floyd is often frustrated by the tendency of the movies featured on Monster Chiller Horror Theatre to have this... if the films are even horror films at all, as opposed to old Rat Pack movies or Ingmar Bergman films.
Shown Their Work: The writers generally display a lot of knowledge about what they're parodying, but the "Three-C-P-One" parodies of Soviet television (where CCCP-1 takes over the SCTV satellite) are particularly spot-on and informed by good research.
Especially evident in the 30 minute episodes, which would often do a full day's worth of shows in 30 minutes (and in the proper order, at that). See here for a list of the most common programs.
Something Completely Different: While many of the parodies were straightforward, others placed already established recurring characters in the key roles; Ocean's 11 became Maudlin's 11 by incorporating the Sammy Maudlin Show gang, for instance.
Straw Feminist: "I'm Taking My Own Head, Screwing It On Right, And No Guy's Gonna Tell Me It Ain't", a short-lived play created by the feminist character Libby Wolfson, pushes the envelope on this trope.
Stuff Blowing Up: The Farm Film Report critics like movies with this trope the best. ("Blowed up real good!") Even when reviewing art-house fare. They love Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point (where everything blows up at the end), but are sadly and ironically disappointed by Blowup — in which nothing blows up! But they lovedScanners.
Subverted Kids Show: Mrs. Falbo's Tiny Town, Pre-Teen World, Happy Hour, and Muley's Roundhouse. And Mister Science with Johnny La Rue.
Subverted Trope: Generally portrayed any "show" with all the worst hallmarks, flipped on their end and sprayed with graffiti.
Take That: Bob and Doug McKenzie were created to mock a CBC requirement that the show contain at least two minutes of "distinctively Canadian content." And yes, the Stylistic Suck was also intentional, the thinking being that this is what the CBC deserved for making such a demand. To use the absolute minimum effort and resources, all the bits for a season were improvised and recorded late in a single night with only a camera operator for a crew. The segments were always exactly 2 minutes long, the minimum required by CBC.
Violent Glaswegian: Angus Crock, in such segments as "Sunrise Semester: Conversational Scottish."
You Say Tomato: John Candy and Eugene Levy as Yosh and Stan Schmenge each pronounced their last name slightly different (which was part of the joke). Candy pronounced it "Shmen-gee", while Levy's pronunciation sounded more like "Schman-gee."
Earl Camembert always pronounced his last name "Cannonbear", the subtle joke being that he's so dense he doesn't know how to say his own name!
However, Floyd Robertson also pronounced Camembert as "cannonbear," so either that's how it's really pronounced or they are both just that dense!
Zoom In Zoom Out: A method of simulating "3-D" effects on the cheap. Averted by the makers of the "Dr. Tongue" series, who were apparently too cheap or incompetent even for that. Instead, the actors simply thrust objects toward the camera, then pulled them back again, to the tune of zoom-in-zoom-out music.