The fourth season of SCTV was broken into three, nine episode cycles. This set is comprised of the second cycle and you basically only need to know two things - the audio and video quality of this set is exactly the same as the first set, because nothing has changed. Shout! Factory did the best they could with the materials they had, but it's 80s video. There's only so much you can do. And the second thing you need to know is that the first cycle was referred to as SCTV Network 90. While the format remained exactly the same (sketches and some musical guests), the show dropped the Network 90 handle (and the accompanying commercial in-out station IDs.)
Some of the best episodes of the series are featured in this set, but what really makes the set is the continued buffet of extras. SCTV fans will have a lot to chew on. While the first disc set had a feature about the late, great John Candy, this set has the nice bonus of Andrea Martin and Catherine O'Hara sharing their favorite John Candy memories. It's the one bittersweet thing about watching old SCTV episodes, the realization that John Candy will never be able to share his own memories about working on the show. But at least we now have a DVD record of his work with comments by his friends.
80s video and all its glory is immortalized on DVD. Shout! Factory offers it up as best they can, but the show had its built in flaws. As a result they get immortalized as well. Fortunately, glaring flaws are few. The couple that stick in my mind are some odd video lines during Mrs. Falbo's Tiny Town and spots on the lens during Johnny LaRue's big crane shot - the rest is usually light ghosting from time to time. Not much you can do about that twenty years later.
Mono! Except, once again certain music cues are in stereo. There are two possibilities - the first is that music rights required new music be substituted and hence, stereo. The other is that Shout! Factory, being fanatical about presenting content as it originally aired, got the rights to the music and made the most of it (or maybe the rights holders insisted on the best quality.) I'm inclined to bet on the latter, rather than the former. But until I can find a taping of the original broadcast (like those are just lying around all over the place), your guess is as good as mine.
SCTV Remembers Part 2 (14:10)
Using more footage from the same interview seen on the first disc set, Eugene Levy and Joe Flaherty reminisce about more sketches and bicker over who's remembering things properly.
The Juul Haalmeyer Dancers (9:10)
SCTVs resident costume designer talks about how he got roped into being head of the world's worst backup dancers. A great selection of clips from their various appearances on the show (including some from the previous season set and some from sets to come) with some great interview commentary by Juul, but the men-in-tights quotient is a little heavy. Maybe you're into that sort of thing - I'm not judging.
The SCTV Writers (25:55)
Dick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Bob Dolman, Mike Short, Doug Steckler, John McAndrew sit down to talk about writing for the show. Previous features let us get an idea of how the actors liked to write, so it's interesting to listen to a group of guys who never got in front of the camera talk about how they worked with the actors. If you sense a bit of nepotism (check a couple of those last names), you'd be right, but to be fair, these guys actually have skills.
SCTV Emmy (3:40)
In 1982, five shows were nominated for a writing Emmy. Four of those shows were SCTV. It was a pretty good bet that SCTV was going to win for one of them. As it happened they won for the "Moral Majority" episode (which is on the first DVD set, for those of you following along at home). With 18 credited writers for that episode (it looked like they were all there to accept their awards - I'm not going to count them. That can be a fun game you can play yourself), the stage was a mad house. Award presenters Milton Berle and Martha Raye have some fun with having to read out a phone book of winners.
Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery
62, count 'em, 62 polaroids of the actors dressed for various roles. Most appear to have been taken for costume and make-up reference, but a few look like genuine candids. Most maddening is that a lot of the characters are from episodes not currently out on DVD, so it just makes you want to see them that much more - which might be Shout! Factory's plan. Even Bill Murray, who makes a brief appearance in the upcoming third cycle (presumably the next DVD set), had his photo taken and is included in the gallery. I want that third disc set now - I can't wait until February! Well played!
The Norman Seeff Photo Sessions (40:40)
This is the feature that makes this set a must-have. Produced by Star! for airing on TV (Star! is kind of like Canada's answer to E!) the feature covers an SCTV photo shoot by photographer Norman Seeff for Life magazine. Besides new interview footage with Seeff, Dave Thomas, Joe Flaherty, and hair and make-up artists Judy Cooper-Sealy and Beverley Schechtman, the show features a lot of behind the scenes video footage of the photo shoot itself. Honestly, I wish we could have seen more of this rare footage, as it's extremely funny watching the actors ad-lib with their more famous characters on the spot.
Zontar: The Thing From Venus (5:00)
On disc two, if you press to the left of the play button for the Zontar episode, you get a hidden treat - clips from the cheesy B-movie that inspired Joe Flaherty to write one of the best SCTV episodes ever.
Each disc contains access to a selection of three advertisements for SCTV Network 90, Freaks and Geeks, and Easy Riders - Raging Bulls. There is no menu for the ads - they just play one after another - but you can chapter skip to them. You can access them by selecting the Shout! Factory logo on each menu screen or they will automatically play if you let the menu screen loop a few times.
While not every episode gets the commentary treatment, there's more commentary in this set than the previous set (and with some different people to boot.) Dave Thomas, along with staff writers Dick Blasucci and John McAndrew contribute commentary for one episode, while Andrea Martin and Catherine O'Hara add their two-bits for two episodes. Most amusing is when Andrea expresses outrage that Bob and Doug McKenzie were being ripped off for Disney's Brother Bear. O'Hara gently explains that they actually did the voice for the animated movie.
Funny story - When I was younger, my parents took the family for a weekend in Banff, Alberta. We stayed at the Banff Springs Hotel, which is one of those massive, extremely lavish and posh hotels from the turn of the century (the last one, obviously.) Sure, it was a bit pricey, but it was one of those "let's do something totally grand" kind of holidays. Anyhow, part of staying at the hotel was that you got to go to a fancy dinner. Suit, tie, the whole deal. While we're eating we notice a man on the dance floor that we would swear was Mr. Drummond from Diff'rent Strokes. Being very young (and thus being completely free of all the adult hang-ups that keep grown-ups from pestering celebrities) my brother marches out into the dance floor to ask for an autograph.
He got his autograph, but not as he expected. After a brief and polite chat, he comes back to the table with a very serious look on his face.
"He says he's not him. He says he's his twin brother."
I recall thinking that's the lamest brush-off ever (I was a bit cynical, even then). As it happens though, Conrad Bain actually does have a twin brother. Who knew? The two of them were born and raised in Lethbridge, Alberta. Conrad went off to act. Bonar (not a name I would have picked, but they were born in the 20s - maybe it's an old-timey thing) stayed in Alberta. Which meant he was pretty close when he acted (as Conrad Bain's twin brother) in the Zontar episode of SCTV.
There is a point to this, honest.
With all the stuff happening behind the scenes, it's largely impossible to cover it all. I hope somehow a definitive cataloging of the creation of SCTV will one day all come together, but in the meantime we have this DVD set. There are so many cool behind-the-scenes extras to have a look at, it will take you hours to go through them all. And then you watch something like the Zontar episode and you wish you knew how the hell Conrad Bain's twin brother ended up guest starring on SCTV.
Maybe the accompanying booklet, by Howard Rosenberg, covers this, but I doubt it (again, my review copy is sans booklet, so if you buy this set - and you should - you'll be one up on me.) What we have then is an excellent DVD set that can never possibly cover everything fans want to see. But it does its best. I only hope Shout! Factory keeps it up.