TORONTO — Loud and abundant hometown love set the tone in Toronto’s historic Elgin Theatre on Sunday, as seven stars of the legendary “SCTV” reunited for a lively conversation filmed in front of a live audience for inclusion in an original Netflix comedy special, set to air in 2019.
Announced last month, the as-yet-untitled special, directed by Martin Scorsese, will explore the legacy of “SCTV” —the beloved Canadian sketch-comedy series that ran six seasons, between 1976 and 1984, and chronicled the singular oddball characters and outrageously ambitious programming of a small, perpetually underfunded station in fictional Melonville.
Three days before the Sunday taping, local excitement heightened when it was confirmed that Rick Moranis — who in 1997 took a hiatus from regular onscreen work — would join previously confirmed “SCTV” members Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Andrea Martin, Martin Short, and Dave Thomas onstage.
After the tech checks (one camera boom was named Johnny LaRue, after the late “SCTV” star John Candy’s recurring character), the curtain rose on panel moderator Jimmy Kimmel, standing center stage in front of eight armchairs, which were set in a curved row, and a backdrop of large “SCTV” stills that surrounded a two-story-high image of a vintage television.
Kimmel, who watched “SCTV” growing up in Las Vegas, called the show “one of the strangest, greatest things I’ve ever seen” and the reason why the U.S. is “not building a wall on the Northern border,” then introduced the first clip montage, which included the first scene of Episode 1 and generous clips of some legendary “SCTV” sketches and characters.
For three hours, the audience — former “SCTV” crew, friends and family, Canadian media industry and cultural types, and hundreds of ticket buyers (but, sadly, no one dressed as Edith Prickley) — in the packed 1500-seat Elgin responded with laughter and applause to smartly assembled, themed montages that provoked the group chat.
While there were few revelations, the warm, effortless banter that flowed between the actors kept the audience hanging on every word, whether it be about celebrity impressions, wrap-arounds, wrap parties, or the secret behind successful “SCTV” parodies of well-known American plays, soap operas, and mobster films.
As Levy related, “SCTV’s” first two seasons, which aired on the then-fledgling Ontario network Global (the show was only available then in syndication in the U.S.) “taught us what not to do — almost everyone came out of theater, so we had to learn how to produce a show.”
In addition to naming favorite and despised characters, the actors discussed the origins and ethos behind iconic bits, recurring sketches, and, of course, the pop-culture phenom Bob and Doug McKenzie, the toque-wearing, beer-guzzling hosers who emerged in 1980 when the show was aired on pubcaster CBC and two additional minutes of Canadian content was required.
“We couldn’t believe how easy it was,” laughed Moranis, who played Bob. “It was nothing like any of the other pieces in the show — one of those weird things that caught on.”
While the actors took some polite digs at rival show “SNL” — they had a hoot recalling the “SCTV” sketch “Thursday Night Live” — they more frequently described the show’s supportive working vibe, which was the polar opposite of the fictional station’s dysfunction. “We would stand behind the cameras, it was always collaborative,” Martin recalled. “We were a part of everybody’s scene, it was never us against them.”
The Toronto audience particularly enjoyed the discussion of Candy’s brilliance and warmth, and of how everyone the cast met or worked with — even longtime “SCTV” producer Andrew Alexander, who is one of the reunion-special producers — inspired a bit for the show.
Canadian broadcaster CTV announced that it has teamed with Netflix to become the exclusive Canadian broadcast partner of the special. Under the partnership, Netflix will premiere the “SCTV” special worldwide in all territories except Canada, where it premieres exclusively on CTV. Following CTV’s airing, the special will be available on Netflix in Canada.