Monday, June 1, 2015

SCTV (1976-1984): not quite as overlooked a fictional television network

The Second City, the improvisational comedy troupe which has helped groom an impressive lot (to put it mildly) of comic actors and standups over the years (the list can begin with Anne Meara, Elaine May and Mike Nichols, Alan Arkin, Ed Asner, improv gurus Del Close and Severn Darden, Jane Alexander. Shelley Berman, Valerie Harper...and not too long after gathering the likes of Zohra Lampert, Fred Willard and Joan Rivers), began in Chicago (hence the name) and set up satellite workshops/theaters in Toronto and eventually Los Angeles. National Lampoon's Lemmings (a stage revue spun out of the The National Lampoon Radio Hour) and NBC's Saturday Night (as it was first known) were among the productions picking up on the early/mid-'70s talent in both Chicago and Toronto, and so it seemed like not the worst idea to create a Second City television series, beginning in 1976...which, in fact was the title of the first several seasons, Second City Television, produced in Canada for the then very small Global network and syndicated to commercial stations in the U.S. (at the same time, the second series known as The David Steinberg Show was being shot for a single season for CTV in Canada and syndicated in  the U.S. as well, featuring most of the SCTV cast in supporting or guest roles).

Second City Television, SCTV (on CBC and syndicated in the US), SCTV Network 90/SCTV Network (CBC and NBC) and SCTV Channel (cable channels Superchannel [Canada] and Cinemax [US]) all had a relatively similar format: a parody of the programming on a poorly-funded, small-time station (or. later, network) based in the possibly U.S., possibly Canadian town of Melonville. 

First-season episodes slightly repackaged to go with with chopped-up longer later episodes for latter 1980s syndication in the U.S., and rerun on Canada's Comedy Channel and US's cable station Ha!/Comedy Central:

3rd Season CBC/US syndication episodes:

CBC/NBC episodes:

SCTV Channel nearly complete excerpts:

Part 2

SCTV Remembers: Part 1

Part 2

A sort of grandchild of SCTV: latter-day Second City video:


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Don't think this ever crossed the pond (well, SN/L didn't either) but I love the retrospective doc Todd - thanks for that. It's definitely an education!

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have some vague memories of seeing this--I think from Windsor mostly. Never been much of a late night person.

Todd Mason said...

Sergio--SCTV was so invested in, if not quite dependent on, its audience being aware of Canadian and US culture, and peripherally that of the UK and elsewhere, that it wouldn't've been a natural for export beyond North America. Sadly, the short clips in the documentary don't let the concepts of the sketch breathe (and overemphasize the slapstick bits), hence all the complete episodes included in the post.

Patti--When I first saw SECOND CITY TELEVISION, on one of the Boston stations in 1976, it was on Saturday evenings (iirc) at about 7pm...the half-hour format was usually run by stations in the US in the "early fringe" primetime slots, though often on weekends. Did Windsor have a CTV as well as CBC tv station in the latter '70s? You might well've seen it at an earlier hour on CBC in Windsor, as well.