SCTV: Network 90 (1981)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Sketch Comedy, Variety Show [TV]  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |  
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After a successful three-year run on Canada's Global Television Network and in U.S. syndication, the satirical sketch comedy series SCTV was given an upgraded and expanded venue on America's NBC network. Debuting May 15, 1981, and telecast in a 90 minute late-Friday slot just after The Tonight Show, SCTV: Network 90 was at base the same program as its half-hour SCTV predecessor. Each episode consisted of a "typical" broadcast day at Channel 109, flagship station of the SCTV (Second City Television) Network in the town of Melonville (actually Edmonton, Alberta). The sketches were lampoons both subtle and broad of contemporary TV programs and genres, with all the roles enacted by a small but talented troupe of repertory performers. The new hour-and-a-half time slot allowed SCTV: Network 90 to introduce a whole new slew of recurring characters and running gags, and allowed the writers full creative reign to vary the length of the individual sketches and to develop many of the bits in parallel rather than consecutive fashion, intercutting or alternating one routine with another throughout the program's timespan. On the (potentially) minus side, NBC obliged the SCTV producers to utilize "hot" musical guest stars, but the writers were generally able to integrate these performers into the proceedings without doing damage to either the comedy or the music. In many ways, season one of SCTV: Network 90 boasted the "perfect" cast. Back from SCTV were such gifted comic talents as Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Dave Thomas, Rick Moranis, and, after a one-season absence, John Candy and Catherine O'Hara. Toward the end of the NBC show's first season, Martin Short graduated from staff writer to full-fledged regular. It was during this period that several of the troupe's most memorable characters were introduced: the polka-playing "Happy Wanderers," -- aka Stan and Yosh Schmenge (Flaherty, Candy); agriculture reporters Billy Sol Hurok (Candy) and Big Jim McBob (Flaherty), whose mission in life was to goad celebrities into "blowin' up reeeal good!"; bar-hopping Gil Fisher (Candy), otherwise known as "The Fishin' Magician." Later on, newcomer Martin Short introduced his own character repertoire, most notably super-nerd Ed Grimley, wizened Tin Pan Alley songsmith Irving Cohen, and smarmy Vegas headliner Jackie Rogers Jr. And, of course, many of the characters popularized on the original SCTV were back in fine fettle, including wheelchair-bound station owner Guy Caballero (Joe Flaherty), cackling station manager Edith Prickley (Martin), beer-guzzling "Great White North" cohorts Bob and Doug McKenzie (Moranis, Thomas), over-effusive talk show emcee Sammy Maudlin (Flaherty), pompous news anchors Floyd Robertson (Joe Flaherty) and Earl Camembert (Eugene Levy), fourth-rate comedian Bobby Bittman (Levy), glitzy songstress Lola Heatherton (O'Hara), and many more. Of the new recurring sketches, the most prominent was the lugubrious and seemingly never-ending soap opera "The Days of the Week." Having defected to NBC's Saturday Night Live, Catherine O'Hara, Dave Thomas, and Rick Moranis were absent during SCTV: Network 90's second season; taking up the slack somewhat were new regular Mary Charlotte Wilcox and the aforementioned "late arrival" Martin Short. Retitled SCTV Network after its first nine episodes, the series was canceled June 24, 1983, but was revived the following fall, in a 45-minute format, as The SCTV Channel on the Cinemax cable service. All versions of SCTV were taped in Canada.