We're contemplating doing an Inventory on people, places and things that we can never look at the same way after The Simpsons had their way with them. Who can look at Jimmy Carter these days and see anything other than history's greatest monster? Or see Paint Your Wagon as anything other than a movie about tuneful wagon-painting? In the same way, SCTV has permanently altered the way I see a lot of pop culture flotsam and jetsam.
A few weeks ago I watched George Cukor's Rich and Famous. In quick succession, Candice Bergen's trashy best-selling author is interviewed by Merv Griffin and Dick Cavett. All I could think was "Wow, Rick Moranis is so much better at doing Merv Griffin and Dick Cavett than those guys. They should have had him play both roles."
I similarly can't hear Michael McDonald without immediately thinking about the SCTV sketch, included in today's episode, where he races in and out of a recording studio to record his fifteen seconds of back-up vocals for Christopher Cross' "Ride Like The Wind". It's an incredibly simple idea beautifully executed. On a related note (man, I am killing in the segue department today) I can't think about 3-D without the image of John Candy's Dr. Tongue and Eugene Levy's Bruno lurching rhythmically at the camera in "Dr. Tongue's 3-D House of Stewardesses", a brilliant parody of grade Z horror movies, 3-D schlockfests and 70s softcore porn. I will only see the forthcoming 3-D joint Journey To The Center Of The Earth (Brendan Fraser in a special-effects heavy kids adventure film? That's unpossible!) if John Candy somehow makes a posthumous appearance as Dr. Tongue alongside Levy. Make it so, Hollywood!
Today's Emmy-winning episode of SCTV is one of the show's most beloved theme shows. In the opening segment Guy Caballero announcing that certain advertisers have been making demands regarding SCTV's programming and that he is wholly willing to capitulate to any of his advertiser's demands, particularly those of Sunbright, the detergent with a towel in every box.
Accordingly, Dave Thomas' professional angry man Bill Needle delivers a scathing commentary on the folly of bending to the will of fickle advertisers, only to recant his statements following a phone call from the money people. It isn't long until he's not only endorsing Sunbright but appearing in its ads.
Sprinkled in between the segments devoted to SCTV's courtship of Sunbright and Sunbright's ever-increasing demands are some of the show's all-time classic segments, like the aforementioned "Dr. Tongue's 3-D House of Stewardesses" and "Doorway to Hell: The Man Who Lived In a Box", a Twilight Zone parody where the hapless announcer (Dave Thomas) gives away the twist ending of the episode he's introducing.
Eugene Levy has talked about how, in his impersonation of Floyd The Barber, he alternated randomly, between mimicking the actor who played Floyd pre and post-stroke. It's a tactic at once unconscionably mean and pretty damned hilarious. It proves the highlight of a sketch re-imagining The Andy Griffith Show as a vehicle for Merv Griffin.
Elsewhere, we're treated to another installment of video DJ Gerry Todd, a man with a voice so soothing in its monstrous banality that I have a hard time staying awake when I hear it. If Rick Moranis recorded an entire album of Gerry Todd blathering on about nothing much at all I suspect it would be a much better sleep aid than anything else on the market. Plus a second Michael McDonald back-up vocals joke, with the bane of Paul Rudd's existence contributing backing vocals to easy listening cheeseball Tom Munroe's gently narcotizing take on "Downtown".
Where most of the cast of SCTV came from, you know, Second City, or a legendary company of Godspell featuring, no lie, Victor Garber, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Gilda Radner, Dave Thomas, and Martin Short, Moranis came from radio, where he had endless hours to hone his voice into an instrument of incredible range and power. He also became adept at holding an audience's attention with nothing more than the dulcet sounds of his words. Is it any wonder he emerged as the show's great soloist?
Today's episode also featured an appearance by one of my all-time favorite SCTV characters, Harry The Guy With a Snake On His Face. You can probably guess what Harry's defining characteristic is. Just like the Sunbright people, Harry has problems with SCTV's programming, only he pulls his ads because he doesn't find SCTV's shows sexy or violent enough. For shame.
In a neat bit of conceptual motherfuckery, this theme episode segues neatly into next week's theme episode. With SCTV losing all its advertisers, they're reduced to holding a pledge drive to raise money to keep the station afloat. Yay!
Grade: A- Stray Observations– –Apparently Levy was fired from playing Jesus in Godspell (though Garber is of course the actor most strongly identified with the role) for coming off "too Jewish". Ironic, given Jesus' religious heritage (as my great aunt likes to say, "Jesus did three things: he was born a Jew, lived a Jew and died a Jew") –I'm excited about next week's pledge drive but it can't possibly compete with the awesomeness of Pre-Teen World's pledge drive –Oh shit, I totally forgot to mention Floyd Robertson's rehab adventures in a place where "they don't beat you or nothing" and you might not stop drinking, but maybe you'll slow down a little. That was awesome. –Hey, no musical guest this week –How bout that new Girl Talk, eh?