Fans can breathe a sigh of relief. After brooding over the fact that life is unfair (Why are “The Anna Nicole Show” and “Gilligan’s Island” available on DVD, but “SCTV” is not?), they can relax in the knowledge that dreams sometimes come true.
The sketchcom never won a huge audience, but, as Conan O’Brien says in one of the DVD extras, “It is the show” for comedy connoisseurs.
Starting in 1976, “SCTV” was in syndication for three seasons, followed by two years on NBC latenight and one term on Cinemax. The five-disc DVD set kicks off with nine 90-minute episodes from the series’ first NBC season, from 1981.
The five-disc set offers four half-hour docus and a one-hour discussion among the cast. There is some overlap in the material, but for aficionados, this isn’t a problem: You can’t get enough of these people.
Throughout the DVD extras, the participants offer smart analysis of their work and hilarious horror stories of working on a low budget (which Dave Thomas seriously estimates at $3,000 per episode).
Several writer-actors say they benefited from working in a vacuum, without network interference and, interestingly for theater-trained comics, they think it was a good thing to work without a live audience: They never held for laughs, but just plowed ahead with rapid-fire gags.
Harold Ramis, who was in the first season, says working in this vacuum (the show began taping in Toronto and moved to Edmonton) helped them remain an ensemble, with no individual stars and no egos to tear them apart.
Other highlights include their anecdotes about coming face-to-face with stars they’d parodied (Jerry Lewis, Richard Harris, Meryl Streep).
The first docu, “SCTV Remembers,” features the writer-performers musing on the evolution from stage improv to the TV series. A second film traces the origin of Chicago’s Second City and its offshoots, and provides an overview of North American comedy in the 1960s and ’70s.
“The Craft of SCTV” focuses on the show’s key designers — Juul Haalmeyer, wardrobe; Beverly Schechtman, make-up; and Judi Cooper Sealy, hair and wigs — who laugh about how they threw together things with zero time for camera tests.
Disc four includes a salute to “SCTV” vet John Candy (who died in 1994), with fellow actors and six staff writers offering recollections that are affectionate, occasionally bemused and never maudlin.
The hour discussion, taped at HBO’s Comedy Arts Festival in 1999, distills many of the sentiments voiced in the four docs.
The next set is due in stores Oct. 19.