Friday, March 7, 2008

The SCTV Movie Parodies: GARTH AND GORD AND FIONA AND ALICE

Everybody's got their favorites, but as far as I'm concerned the greatest TV show of all time is still SCTV. The Simpsons is an extremely close second (and allow me to say that they've been having a pretty good season this year, so fuck all those naysayers out there) and at its best is extraordinarily brilliant, but SCTV wins the race for being a different kind of brilliant. Satire is by no means an easy thing and poking fun at such an obvious topic as television is like shooting fish in a barrel, but SCTV got it right in ways never topped before or since, as far as I know of. Part of what made it so good was the fact that it was Canadian in nature - staying away from the NY/LA TV scene was well to their benefit - and with that they were able to create a TV world different from our own but no less hilarious than it would have been by poking fun at the big networks. The characters were also all genius creations, not just the station regulars (Bob & Doug McKenzie, Edith Prickley, Johnny LaRue, and my favorite, Guy Caballero) but those who turned up in commercials - Tex and Eden Prairie, Harry, the Guy with the Snake on his Face - and during the regular programming, as well. If you put a gun to my head and made me choose between Bobby and Skip Bitman I may as well die, that's how much I love these characters. And it should go without saying that the sketches they put them in, from The Sammy Maudlin Show to Monster Chiller Horror Theater, are works of comedy art.

Can you get the impression that I love SCTV?

If you ask me, however (and I know you didn't, but humor me here), SCTV did the best movie parodies in the history of television, bar none. The show had the advantage of a 90 minute timeslot and no studio audience, so they were able to take it much farther than the likes of an SNL ever could, shooting on location with expanded running times that could take sketches to upwards of 20 minutes. The production quality was always a bit better than you'd expect (SCTV's crews were famous for stretching the budget in very creative ways) and the writers and cast understood what they were parodying and made sure they got it right. The tone for all of their movie parodies was always spot-on, be it Ingmar Bergman's WHISPERS OF THE WOLF or the genius MAUDLIN'S ELEVEN, they always got it right; hell, even ROME, ITALIAN STYLE started off with a "Shot in Cinemascope" credit that was cut off thanks to pre-letterboxing TV broadcast standards. Brilliant!

Originally the idea was to do a wrap around piece about all of the great SCTV movie parodies, but I found myself liking the idea so much that I've decided to make it a regular monthly feature here at HQ 10. If you're going to start somewhere, you absolutely have to start with GARTH AND GORD AND FIONA AND ALICE, the sketch that may also serves as the very best in all of the series' history. A parody of GOIN' DOWN THE ROAD, Donald Shebib's 1970 film that's considered one of the greatest of all Canadian films (justifiably so - it's excellent), the sketch works no matter if you've seen the film or not. I hadn't until I hit college (yes, I actually went to college for a bit) and after seeing it the sketch just got funnier, even though the original film is kind of the definition of a downer (a great film, though; can't stress that enough). GARTH replaces the film's uneducated working class schlubs with educated schlubs, headed for Toronto for "doctorin' jobs and lawyerin' jobs", played by John Candy and Joe Flaherty. In a sublime added touch, SCTV corralled ROAD co-star Jayne Eastwood to reprise her original role (she's also Flaherty's real-life sister-in-law), but again, you don't have to know the original to be amused. This sketch also demonstrates another wonderful aspect of SCTV, of how it took every opportunity to lampoon Canadian culture, but always affectionately. These guys may come across like the worse kind of stereotypical Canadians, but that doesn't mean they don't love them. Like I fucking love this sketch.

OK, enough of my gabbin', here's GARTH AND GORD AND FIONA AND ALICE:


Part 2:

1 comment:

J.D. said...

My fave SCTV sketch was always Death of Salesman starring Ricardo Montalban (dead-on impersonation by Eugene Levy) as Willy Loman, George Carlin as Biff (Rick Moranis), DeForrest Kelly as the other brother (Dave Thomas) and Margaret Hamilton (Andrea Martin), and special appearance by John Belushi (Tony Rosato). Classic stuff.