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SHOUT FACTORY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Various
Cast:
John Candy, Eugene Levy, Joe Flaherty, Andrea Martin, Martin Short, Rick Moranis, Catherine O'Hara, Dave Thomas
Writing Credits:
Various

Synopsis:
Spend this holiday season with Liberace, Mayor Tommy Shanks, Dusty Towne, Johnnie LaRue, Guy Caballero, Libby Wolfson and The Schmenges.

During its two year run on NBC, SCTV produced two Christmas specials - SCTV Staff Christmas Party and Christmas. Both garnered Emmy nominations for outstanding writing. These episodes feature John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short and Dave Thomas.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Monaural
Subtitles:
None
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 130 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 10/4/2005

Bonus:
• Audio Commentaries
• “The Juul Haalmeyer Dancers” Featurette


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


SCTV Network/90: Christmas With SCTV (1981/1982)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 28, 2005)

Back in the earlier days of DVD, studios tended toward “best of” packages for TV series. Fans protested that they wanted full season sets. Skeptical studios resisted this but finally relented. The result? Cha-ching! Season packages of TV on DVD have done enormously well,

But this doesn’t mean compilation discs have gone the way of the dodo. Instead, they’ve become a form of supplemental release. Once the season sets go on the shelves, we get smaller packages to appeal to casual fans.

With the holidays coming soon, Shout! Factory decided to head after that market via Christmas with SCTV. This package includes two Yuletide episodes from two consecutive years.

SCTV Staff Christmas Party (aired December 18, 1981) excels. It uses the titular gala as a runner, but we also find many examples of holiday programming such as specials with Liberace, Dusty Towne, and Neil Simon’s Nutcracker Suite.

The runner is the most fun. Nothing exceedingly inspired occurs at the party, but it’s very entertaining to see the extended cast and crew show up and interact. “Suite” is a pip, and the extended “Street Beef” is both amusing and slightly touching. Dusty Towne rounds things out with bawdy fun in this solid episode.

While the “SCTV Staff Christmas Party” offers a lot of great laughs, Christmas (aired December 18, 1982) is an uninspired as its title. Part of the problem comes from its main runner in which Johnny LaRue (Candy) tries to get presents from Santa. (Saint Nick gave Johnny a camera crane in the earlier show.) This theme straddles the line between drama and comedy but serves neither well. It also brings in guest musician Andrae Crouch for an ineffective turn.

Speaking of guests, Catherine O’Hara returns for One Episode Only! Too bad it’s such a bland show. She brings back the usually reliable Lola Heatherton for a mediocre sketch, though she’s more effective as Lucille Ball in “Count Floyd’s Scary Little Christmas”, one of the episode’s better bits. I do like her return as Sue Bopper-Simpson – who goes by Sue BopSTEIN-Simpson for Chanukah – in a reasonably strong turn with Libby Wolfson, and despite a sappy conclusion, she and the others turn out a good “Pre-Teen World” skit.

Actually, I guess most of the work in “Christmas” isn’t bad – it’s just not exceptional. I like the sketches I mentioned, but few really stick with me. Ed Grimley’s “The Fella Who Couldn’t Wait for Christmas” is probably the best part of the show – or at least tied with the Count Floyd special – and the Happy Wanderers bit works. Boy, that LaRue runner really drags down the rest of the show, though. Parts of “Christmas” offer decent humor, but it remains pedestrian for the most part.


The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio C+/ Bonus B-

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.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 5
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