Kids in the Hall, Complete Seasons One and Two (A&E Home Video)
The very first scene of the very first episode of the very best sitcom in human history, Freaks and Geeks, pretty much sums it up: The three kids at the center of the series are killing time after school--not by smoking cigarettes, breakdancing, or setting stuff on fire, but by comparing notes on the greatness of Bill Murray. Two minutes later, when they get menaced by a bully, they try to explain themselves. He doesn't understand. He can't. His victims are comedy dorks, doomed to walk the earth being the only people who can appreciate the genius of the things that make them laugh. They'll grow up lonely, but they'll never give up the quest.
For comedy dorks like myself, DVD is the most important technology of the late 20th century--for good and for bad. We memorize the comedy we love almost reflexively; it enters our personal lexicons the way poetry lovers assimilate Whitman--there's a quotation for every occasion, and the best part is when you reverently cite the author. Sometimes, we have dusty videotapes to back up our assertions, but most comedy lives in the memory, where it remains inextricable from the circumstances under which it was first experienced. The advent of DVD releases of just about every movie, TV series, and special that ever existed presents a quandary, however: What happens when you're presented with cold, hard evidence that the comedy you grew up loving simply isn't funny?
The recent deluxe reissues of Kids in the Hall and SCTV are two of the most painful comedy reckonings I've ever had to reckon. After many years of fond proselytizing about the genius of these two totems of Canadian sketch-com, I come to find out that not only are they both utterly NOT funny, but that, projecting backward, they were never funny.
Chicken Lady? Not funny. Johnny LaRue? Not funny. Sammy Maudlin? Not funny. Squishing Your Head Guy? Totally not funny. Pre-Teen Telethon? Not funny. Scott Thompson's Gay Monologist? Kind of funny. Great White North? Funny--but only because it's two minutes long. Cabbage Head? No. Dave Thomas' Bob Hope impression? Funny, but not funny enough to save the sketches it's in--except "Bob Hope in Taxi Driver," which is brilliant.
Kids in the Hall I could live without; the sorry careers of the cast members since the show was canceled (note to David Foley: Get off the poker show, now!) had at least prepared me for the news that the original series was, in fact, crap. SCTV was another kettle of fish altogether. Despite the slide into mediocre Hollywood vehicle appearances suffered by John Candy (RIP), Rick Moranis, Eugene Levy, et al., staying up late to see SCTV's short-lived NBC series was one of the few happy memories from my misbegotten childhood. Aside from the bits, the show had great music, too; my first glimpse of the Talking Heads was on "Mel's Rock Pile." The newly released DVDs offer incontrovertible proof that my memory is as treacherous as a schoolyard bully.