Second City TV

Global (ended 1981)
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  • show Description
  • Welcome to the Second City TV guide at One of the most popular and ever-growing comedy troupes of all time is the repertory theatre group The Second City. With humble beginnings in Chicago December 16, 1959, it soon grew popular enough that Second City company No. 2 began in Toronto in 1973. After a shaky start, Toronto's Second City settled in The Old Firehall, rumored to have a haunted belfry. With new comedic talents such as Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner filling the Toronto stage in its first two years, a television series seemed in order. However, the scant budget wouldn't allow it, until former alumnus David Steinberg offered some of those performing in 1974-76 roles on his show (which was also a show-within-a-show). The David Steinberg Show flopped, but the co-stars now had the budget, thanks to Steinberg's pay, to attempt a series. So, with the exception of Martin Short (who joined the show in 1982) and the addition of theatre performers Harold Ramis and Catherine O'Hara, they began the shoestring project Second City TV on Global. SCTV, as the station and the series would come to be known, was a television station in the small town of Melonville. At the heart of its off-center programming was owner-president Guy Caballero. Joe Flaherty created Caballero, first as a voice and then as a white-clothed conniver riding a wheelchair. Caballero could walk, but he rode the wheelchair for respect. Moe Green, played by Ramis, was the initial station manager. He was known for purposely taking advantage of and frustrating people on the air. Most of SCTV's programs were written by, directed by and produced by the money-grubbing snob Johnny LaRue, played by legendary comedian John Candy. He would be known for using crane shots at the end of his shows. What SCTV aired was a biting satire of everything on the tube. For example, Flaherty also played the Carsonesque Sammy Maudlin, a heavy-smoking talk show host with a curly Afro and bad singing voice, worshiped by announcer William B. Williams (Candy), who let Maudlin's every insult bounce off him. One of Maudlin's most frequent guests was Bobby Bittman, played by Eugene Levy, an unfunny stand-up comedian with helmet hair, gold chains, and the annoying catch-phrase "How are ya?" Flaherty and Levy also played newscasters Floyd Robertson and Earl Camembert respectively. Floyd and Earl were, along with Green and LaRue, among SCTV's first recurring characters. Robertson was an experienced, competent reporter with a shady secret life (he was an alcoholic and womanizer), and was always getting the interesting stories. Neurotic, bumbling Camembert was always getting flimsy pieces of trivia no-one cared about. Robertson was also Count Floyd, the host of Monster Chiller Horror Theatre, which showcased awful films going for terror. "Ooh, scary, eh, kids?" Many of these films were works of 3-D by having the actors thrust some ordinary object to the camera lens and retreat it. These flicks usually starred the evil Dr. Tongue (Candy) and his hunchbacked assistant, Woody (Levy). O'Hara, like Ramis, only played one serious recurring character, obnoxious, sleazy singer Lola Heatherton, with her own catch-line: "I want to bear your children!" But she also perfected impersonations of celebrities such as Katherine Hepburn. Other characters evolved as SCTV bounced around through eight years and four networks. Who could forget porn dealer Harry, the guy with the snake on his face (Candy)? Or Tommy Shanks (Candy), twice elected mayor of Melonville? The show also included Dave Thomas's pre-era Jerry Springer incarnation, Bill Needle), whose mailbox show was constantly being retitled. Andrea Martin, who was the least prolific writer among the cast, brought to SCTV Pirini Scleroso, the cleaning lady who believed repeating people was the way to carry a conversation. From what anyone could guess, Pirini was an emigrant from Leutonia, as were the Schmenge brothers (Levy and Candy), a polka group who make every song sound the same. Other greats of SCTV were the unscripted Great White North, aka Kanadian Korner, a public-affairs short featuring the show's most-remembered characters, Bob McKenzie (Rick Moranis) and his brother Doug (Thomas). Just as unstructured was the kids show "Mrs Falbo's Tiny Town" with clueless Falbo (Martin) and neurotic Mr Messenger (Candy). The list goes on. Going into its second season, Harold Ramis was planning to write movies in Hollywood (he had already co-written National Lampoon's Animal House). Thus Ramis and four others rented a summer house in Bel Air, California, where they scripted sixteen shows for SCTV's second season. In the second season, Moe Green was kidnapped by the Leutonian Liberation Front, who held him for an unpaid ransom. (While Ramis remained head writer on the season, he no longer appeared in sketches.) He was replaced as station manager by Edith Prickley (played by Andrea Martin), a nasal-voiced, leopard skin-clad, wise-cracking woman who aggravated the staff to no end. Guy Caballero was shown in person for the first time and was noted for frequently addressing his TV audience. SCTV was also known for it's incredible impressions. One of the most popular recurring ones was Dick Cavett, done by Moranis, who also did Woody Allen. Allen worshiped Bob Hope, done by Thomas. The Three Stooges were parodied as the Three Dummies, with Eugene Levy as Moe, Joe Flaherty as Larry, and John Candy as Curly. There was the famous Orson Welles impression, done by Candy, Kirk Douglas; done by Flaherty; Charo, done by Martin; and various others. There would occasionally be a real celebrity playing themselves, although always as much of a celebrity as the budget would afford. Needless to say, it wasn't the guest list that was the show's appeal, but the dazzling talent of its stars. However, it was cancelled by Global after two seasons. Fortunately, CBC picked it up the next year. Andrew Alexander, one of SCTV's executive producers, moved production from Toronto to Edmonton, fast becoming a hockey power in the NHL. SCTV was forced to adjust to both the new studios and the lack of John Candy and Catherine O'Hara, both of whom were doing other projects. For the Edmonton season, Moranis became a regular, as did two new writers, Tony Rosato and Robin Duke. It was during this third season that SCTV introduced Bob and Doug McKenzie in their Great White North program (originally done as filler for the slightly-longer Canadian version of SCTV). Both Rosato and Duke also established characters (chef Marcello Sebastian and Crazy Crafts host Molly Earle, respectively). This is the SCTV series most are familiar with, it being the longest running. In the spring of 1981, with NBC needing to reload its late-night lineup, senior VP of programming Irv Wilson cut a deal to bring SCTV to the late Friday night time slot that had belonged to The Midnight Special. Duke and Rosato were hired away by Saturday Night Live for 1981, prompting the return of Candy and O'Hara. The former low-budget TV satire series became SCTV Network 90, which is covered in a separate guide.moreless

  • Latest News
  • Episode Guide
  • S 3 : Ep 26

    Best of SCTV, season 3

    Aired 3/13/81

  • S 3 : Ep 25

    The Cisco Kid

    Aired 3/6/81

  • S 3 : Ep 24

    Dick Cavett

    Aired 2/27/81

  • S 3 : Ep 23

    Mel's Rock Pile - Macarthur Park

    Aired 2/20/81

  • S 3 : Ep 22

    Gene Shalit's America

    Aired 2/13/81

  • Cast & Crew
  • Eugene Levy


  • Andrea Martin


  • Catherine O'Hara


  • Dave Thomas


  • Joe Flaherty


  • Trivia & Quotes
  • Quotes (7)

    • (The onscreen roller caption at the start of Masterpiece Theatre) THE GIRLS OF VIENNA ADAPTED FOR TELEVISION BY SOME CHEAP BBC HACK

    • Humanities 196: "Let's briefly look at the creation of man. According to Gypsy Mythology, God baked the first men and women in an oven. Some, however, were kept in the oven too long, and they burned—the black race. The second time, God opened the oven door too soon and the baking was not quite finished—the white race. The third time, the baking was absolutely perfect and out came the gypsies. "In the same respect, the destruction of man, according to Gypsy Mythology, will come when one member of every race simultaneously licks the fuzz off an over-ripe peach." —Earnest Bruter, Gypsy Mythologist

    • Floyd Robertson (Joe Flaherty): Early this morning at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, celebrated Warner Bros. cartoon characters Porky and Petunia Pig succumbed to the swine flu. The internment will be held tomorrow morning at the Jimmy Dean pork sausage factory.

    • Floyd Robertson (Joe Flaherty): Before I sign off tonight's newscast... Earl, I've been wondering about something ... Earl Camembert (Eugene Levy): What's that, Floyd? Floyd: Well, your name is spelled 'Camembert' with an 'M', as in 'Mary', but it's pronounced 'Canon-bare' with an 'N', as in 'Norman' . . . and I was just wondering why. Earl: (long pause) It's just the way I pronounce it, Floyd. Floyd: I see. Earl: And that's the news. Floyd: Don't you mean, "And that's the mews"? (Earl punches Floyd in the face)

    • "A voluminous tractor trailer annulled itself on Route 4, which, as you know, circumambulates the orb of Plattsburgh. The imbroglio caused by the congested traffic had cars falling astern each other ad infinitum. Highway Patrol officers feverishly bestirred themselves to ameliorate the situation, but acrimonious motorists found little taliation in their somniferous endeavors." —Earl Camembert, consulting his thesaurus

    • Earl Camembert (Eugene Levy): Tonight's top story: Psychiatrist Dr. Vincent Botts rocked the world of medicine today when he announced that mental illness is actually caused by a virus -- the "schizococcus" -- which he has successfully isolated at the Botts Institute. Dr. Botts stated that the virus, a distant relative of the yeast mold, can be contracted in almost any public place -- especially doorknobs, toilet seats, and large office buildings. Dr. Botts says that only a shortage of funds prevents him from finding the final cure to mental illness, and is asking for massive donations from the public. Sounds like a real worthy cause. Floyd? Floyd Robertson (Joe Flaherty): Well, here's an update on that story, Earl: Police today arrested Dr. Botts at his Marina del Rey apartment. Dr. Botts was charged with practicing without a license and attempted fraud.

    • Floyd Robertson: (Joe Flaherty): Earl, I would very much like to sit down with you one day and have you explain to me exactly how your mind works. Earl Camembert: (Eugene Levy) Certainly, Floyd, it's not that complicated. Floyd: That much I know.

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    Notes (16)

    • The "English for Beginners" sketch of this episode would be remade for the very first edition of NBC's SCTV Network 90 in 1981, with Catherine O'Hara and Andrea Martin reprising their respective roles of instructor Lucille Hitzger and foreign student Pirini Scleroso.

    • This episode was changed for the US market. In the USA the "Out Patient" skit was replaced by "Dining With LaRue: Greek Restaurant".

    • The set at which Lin Ye Tan introduces Theatre North America, is identical to the one in "Hints for Homemakers."

    • Singer/songwriter Mary Margaret O'Hara (Catherine O'Hara's sister) and future third-season regular Robin Duke are among the uncredited extras in the "Broads Behind Bars" sketch.

    • The first appearance of the Monster Chiller Horror Theatre series and its "scary" host, Count Floyd. The Count's true identity was revealed in the opening: "With Floyd Robertson as Count Floyd."

    • Within the "Sammy Maudlin Show" sketch (and also shown in the following "World at War" episode) was an ad parody with John Candy's "Johnny LaRue" character promoting a toothpaste for smokers called "Stay White." This spoof was ahead of its time, as within a few years of its original airing, an actual "smoker's toothpaste" (or, as referred to in the ads, "smoker's tooth polish") called Topol was introduced on the market for a few years in the early 1980's.

    • Beginning with this episode, a new, synthesizer-based theme music is introduced for the "SCTV News" sketches (which replaces the "Scherzo" (Op. 61) from Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream that had been the first-season "SCTV News" theme). This new theme will be used through the first season (1981–82) of NBC's SCTV Network 90 (which, in the SCTV canon, is today considered as up to Series 4, Cycle 2).

    • This episode marked the end of Harold Ramis' stint as a regular.

    Show More Notes

    Trivia (3)

    • In The Babe Ruth Story promo, the Sultan of Swat (John Candy) is wearing a uniform with the number 4 on the back. In fact, Ruth wore number 3 while his New York Yankees teammate, Lou Gehrig, wore number 4. (In addition, in the sick kid's room, there was a Brooklyn Dodgers pennant hanging on the wall.) But then, SCTV may have been parodying the often gross inaccuracies and other licenses with the truth that were in countless biopics of various historical figures in science, technology, politics, sports, show business, and other fields.

    • In The Silly Bastard trailer, Benjamin Franklin says, "It's 1791. The Revolution has been over for ten years." But Franklin died in 1790. And anyway, 1781 only marked Cornwallis's surrender. The official end of the American Revolution came in 1783.

    • In The Millionaire, Mike says that the Addamley couple "got into another argument. Then they kicked me out." Of course, they kicked Mike out before the fight.

    Allusions (4)

    • Plainclothes Mountie: It's the plumber. I'm here to fix your sink.
      The introduction "It's the plumber. I've come to fix the sink," was a big cartoon piece on The Electric Company in 1973.

    • The credit of "Ben-Hur by General George S. Patton" was a parody of the fact that the actual Ben-Hur book on which both the 1926 silent and 1959 Charlton Heston film versions were based, was written by famed Civil War General Lew Wallace (1827–1905).

    • In the "SCTV Boogie" sketch (one of the predecessors of the eventual "Mel's Rock Pile"), Catherine O'Hara played a collegiate student named Robin Duke. This was an inside joke, as Duke was an old school friend of O'Hara's, and both had at one time or another been part of the Toronto Second City repertory theatre. Duke would go on to temporarily replace O'Hara for the third season (1980–81) of SCTV.

    • Credit at End of "Murder Is Bad for Your Health" sketch: Lucy Papazian as Celia
      The surname of the actress Andrea Martin played in this sketch was derived from that of her grandfather, prior to emigrating from Ottoman Turkey to the U.S. in the early 1900's, upon which the family surname was changed to Martin.

  • Fan Reviews (6)
  • An oasis of genuine humor in the vast wasteland of 70's television.

    By jawsthecabbie, Apr 08, 2009

  • this is one of the best shows to come out of Canada, and it made some big names out of people.

    By kevinb4444, Mar 26, 2007

  • This was a great late 70s Canadian version of SNL.

    By SoylentYellow, Jan 15, 2007

  • A great skit tv show much like Saturday Night Live.

    By OtisBrotis, Jul 07, 2006

  • A great comedy show very much like SNL.

    By vicmackey31, Apr 25, 2006