Second City TV

Global (ended 1981)


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Second City TV

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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