by Mike Corrigan

While TV viewers in the states were whooping it up each week with Belushi, Aykroyd, Radner & amp; Co. on Saturday Night Live, something equally funny was going on north of the border in Toronto at the famed improvisational comedy factory, Second City.

The Canadian-produced SCTV began in 1977 as a 30-minute sketch comedy show satirizing television and the entertainment industry. It was set in a fictitious small-time local television station, which featured grossly inept programming and a cavalcade of hack celebrities created by an inspired cast that included John Candy, Eugene Levy, Joe Flaherty, Rick Moranis, Andrea Martin, Catherine O'Hara, and Dave Thomas. The show ran in syndication in the States for years before it was picked up by NBC in 1981 and expanded to a 90-minute format.

The new SCTV 5-DVD set from Shout Factory -- the first episodes ever made available on home video -- assembles the first nine episodes from the show's two-year run on NBC. At 90 minutes each, you're getting enough classic skits to keep you cracking up until you split. The SCTV staples are all here -- "The Sammy Maudlin Show," "Monster Horror Chiller Theater," "Mel's Rock Pile," "Street Beef," "Great White North" and "Dr. Tongue's 3-D House of Stewardesses," among others -- along with some of the troupe's best TV and movie parodies, including send-ups of Dick Cavett and Merv Griffin; "Play it Again, Bob" with Thomas and Moranis hilarious as Bob Hope and Woody Allen; and (one of my all-time faves) their Fantasy Island spoof with Levy as Mr. Roarke and a miniaturized Candy as a sex-starved Tattoo ("I love chicks, Boss!").

There are a few flat spots to be endured: The strain of transitioning from a 30-minute format to one three times as long sometimes shows, and the formerly commercial-prompting "SCTV Network 90" logo appears way too often. Also, a more complete listing of the included sketches would have been a nice addition to the set's already informative 24-page color booklet. But these are minor criticisms of a document that lovingly showcases some of the best television sketch comedy ever to flow through our tubes.

Publication date: 07/08/04

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