John Candy, Eugene Levy, Martin Short, Rick Moranis, Cathrine O’Hara, and Dave Thomas reads like a who’s who list of the top sketch comics for their generation. It is almost hard to believe that they are all Canadian and at one time they were all in the same show.
SCTV for most Canadians needs no introduction. The innovative and influential comedy television series, Second City Television was started in Toronto in 1976, a year after fellow Canuck Lorne Michaels created a little show called Saturday Night Live. SCTV eventually ended down south and over its eight years created 135 shows. The concept of the show is of a day in the life of a fictitious low-budget television station in the small town of Mellonville. The low production values added to its bizarre satire and its multilayered approach featured behind the scenes aspects. Besides launching the careers of many of the artists, the show has influenced a new generation of comedy writers including The Simpson’s. Although these artists have gone on to feature film projects with larger budgets and a wider audience many would agree that their best work was achieved during these seminal years.
When the show moved to CBC, each episode that aired in Canada was to be two minutes longer than the shows in the States. The show’s producers requested that they add some identifiable Canadian content. Their absurd request was followed by a skit that included every conceivable Canadian cliché and thus The Great White North was born. As they drank real Canadian beer from stubby bottles while wearing toques and parkas and frying back bacon on a Coleman stove, the Canadian content requirements were amply supplied by the iconic Bob and Doug McKenzie brothers.
During the 1990’s SCTV all but disappeared and was not available on DVD. The shows producers never bothered to clear the music rights for the shows numerous use of copy written music. The NBC episodes were finally released on DVD in 2004 to the relief the fans and ensures the legacy of this great Canadian television series.