Though his name tends to be at or near the top of everyone's list of greatest living narrative filmmakers, Martin Scorsese has for many years now been doing his best work on the documentary b-features he makes between his higher profile projects. He has directed memorable, and in some cases indelible, profiles of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Fran Lebowitz, the New York Review of Books, and produced several more. Now, he's turning his attention to one of the funniest and most innovative TV shows ever.
Netflix announced today that Scorsese will be directing a documentary about the legacy and influence of Second City Television (SCTV), the Canadian sketch comedy show that introduced the world to the talents of John Candy, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Rick Moranis, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Dave Thomas, and Harold Ramis.
Most of the surviving performers will reunite in front of a live audience for An Afternoon with SCTV, moderated by Jimmy Kimmel at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto on May 13. Scorsese will film it for his documentary.
SCTV aired in a variety of formats and on many different TV networks between 1976 and 1984. At its best it was about a thousand times funnier, smarter, sillier, and weirder than any lineup of Saturday Night Live. (Also, it was where I first saw both Roy Orbison and Talking Heads.)
I think it ages better than SNL, too. Shout Factory put out a three-volume box set of SCTVs a while back. And of course, there's always YouTube. Here's a handful of sketches I remember very fondly. I just spent the morning revisiting them and recommend you do the same. Not too shabby.