Christmas with SCTV appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The visuals were consistently acceptable but average.
Sharpness usually appeared pretty weak. The segments generally came across as soft and moderately undefined, though bouts of greater clarity occurred. Jagged edges and shimmering appeared with some regularity, and edge haloes popped up throughout the shows.
Source flaws appeared as well, mainly through some occasional video interference and pixelization. A few examples of specks also popped up for filmed footage. However, these stayed minor and infrequent.
Colors were erratic. I thought they tended toward the bland and muddy side of things, though they occasionally mustered brighter tones. Blacks were flat and inky, and shadows usually seemed dense and flat. I couldn’t call the visuals of this set a disappointment, as SCTV never looked good, but they were consistently unimpressive.
As for the monaural soundtrack of SCTV, it came across as acceptable. One problem: In the Count Floyd Christmas special, “Gene Upshaw” and “Ed Garvey” originally dueted on “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”; now we get no song at all and just hear scary noises. The bit makes absolutely no sense in its current incarnation. It’s too bad they couldn’t clear the original song, as its absence makes a good sketch into something incoherent.
Audio quality stayed unspectacular but just fine. Dialogue appeared acceptably distinct and accurate; occasional examples of edginess occurred, but no problems related to intelligibility happened. Effects were similarly flat and insubstantial, but they didn’t suffer from any distortion and they appeared perfectly adequate.
Music seemed pretty bright and dynamic. Bass response was better than decent, and the tunes usually were reasonably lively. Make no mistake: this was a mix that showed its roots as a TV show from more than 20 years ago. That said, the audio was more than fine given those constraints.
This package includes a mix of extras. All of these already appeared on prior SCTV season sets; nothing new pops up here.
Both episodes present audio commentaries. For “SCTV Staff Christmas Party”, we hear from cast members Andrea Martin and Catherine O’Hara, while “Christmas” includes remarks from cast member Martin Short and guest/returning cast member O’Hara. For their respective pieces, the participants sit together and provide running, screen-specific remarks.
In the O’Hara/Martin chat, we find a somewhat light level of hard facts about SCTV, but we get a fun experience. The pair interact nicely and we really feel like we’re hanging out with them as they reminisce. They provide many good details about their experiences, with topics like inspirations for characters, the general tenor of the program, and reflections on the work itself. We get fun remarks like meeting personalities they spoofed and dealing with those repercussions. It’s somewhat tough for me to pin down a lot of specifics that I learned from the commentary, but I truly enjoyed the chat and was sad to have it end. It’s not the most informative track I’ve heard, but it’s lively, fun and amusing. SCTV fans should really like this conversation.
Unfortunately, the Short/O’Hara discussion presents a major disappointment. They mostly just watch the show and laugh. Very little good information pops up here, as instead they kid around and go silent quite often. In fact, O’Hara encourages this, as she wants them to hush up and listen to the gags. A few funny moments emerge – such as when the pair do dueling Hepburns – but this track largely exists as an exercise in frustration.
We also find a featurette called The Juul Haalmeyer Dancers, a nine-minute and 12-second program. It presents show clips with comments from costume designer Haalmeyer. He watches Dancers segments and relates his memories of the bits as well as general comments about the work. Some interesting notes appear, but this is a pretty rudimentary piece.
Christmas with SCTV bats .500. One of the episodes is terrific, while the other seems lackluster. Still, there’s a lot of laughs to go around, as mediocre SCTV is still better than most other comedy. The DVD presents average picture and sound plus extras that are also an iffy proposition; the good episode gets a fine commentary, while the weak one offers a fairly dull discussion.
Bottom line: there’s absolutely no reason for fans who already own the SCTV full season sets to bother with this DVD. It replicates elements they already own and offers nothing new. If you don’t have those packages, I think you should go with them instead of this sampler; they’re excellent and well worth the money. However, if they’re too pricey for you – and with $90 list prices, they don’t come on the cheap – this $15 hors d’oeuvre is worth a look.