- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 10, 2004

One of television’s all-time funniest series returns to the digital airwaves with Shout! Factory’s (www.shoutfactory.com) gala new five-disc set SCTV: Second City Television Volume 2 ($89.98). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

That rarest of network combos — maximum talent and minimal interference from above — enabled “SCTV,” like such later series as “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and the ongoing “South Park,” to shape and populate its own idiosyncratic comic universe.

In the nine 90-minute 1981-82 NBC episodes assembled here, you’ll find such fave “SCTV” fixtures as ever-frustrated horror-movie host Count Floyd (Joe Flaherty), pushy station manager Edith Prickley (Andrea Martin), the beer-guzzling McKenzie brothers (Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis), local Hugh Hefner wannabe Johnny La Rue (John Candy), stoned phony “celebrity” Lola Heatherton (Catherine O’Hara), obnoxious Vegas stand-up Bobby Bittman (Eugene Levy) and literally dozens of other, equally unforgettable eccentrics.

Among the choice episodes are the cheesy sci-fi parody “Zontar,” wherein alien cabbages commandeer the SCTV staffers’ already addled brains; “I’m Taking My Own Head …,” a brilliant sendup of faux female-empowerment plays; “Godfather” (with guest “The Godfather” alum John Marley reprising his uncooperative-studio-boss role); and a half-dozen more that amply exhibit the show’s seamless blend of freewheeling parody and character-rooted comedy.



Extras include a recent discussion with a jolly Joe Flaherty and a measured Eugene Levy (who takes comedy very seriously), a round-table with the show’s behind-the-scenes writers, a segment on the deliberately awful “Juul Haalmeyer Dancers,” revealing 1982 sessions with photographer Norman Seeff and the “SCTV” gang, and generous photo galleries.

Fun was clearly the operative concept, before and behind the cameras, and the show proves as subversively infectious today as it did back in its day.

Collectors’ corner, comedy division

Speaking of fun, subversive and otherwise, this week brings a bounty from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment:

• The six-disc The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection ($59.98) spotlights the first five films made by Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo (Gummo had left the act before the boys got to Hollywood): The Cocoanuts (1929), Animal Crackers (1930), Monkey Business (1931), Horse Feathers (1932) and Duck Soup (1933). The collection is supplemented by later “Today Show” interviews with Groucho and Harpo, the latter in mime.

m The laughs continue with Universal’s W.C. Fields Collection ($59.98), assembling 1933’s all-star International House, 1934’s It’s a Gift (arguably Fields’ greatest film), 1939’s You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man, 1940’s The Bank Dick and the same year’s My Little Chickadee, wherein W.C. famously spars with a duplicitous Mae West. Vintage trailers and a concise, insightful W.C. “Biography” episode complete this essential set.

m The label mines a somewhat more contemporary comic vein by teaming two high school romps, Amy Heckerling’s 1982 Fast Times at Ridgemont High, featuring a then-feckless Sean Penn, and Richard Linklater’s 1993 Dazed and Confused in a double-disc Ultimate Party Collection set ($27.98).

Tele-video

In new TV-to-DVD developments, Jane Seymour returns to the cathode frontier in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: The Complete Season 4 ($119.95) in an eight-disc set via A&E; Home Video. A&E; also releases the five-disc Profiler: Season 4 ($79.95) and the four-disc The Kids in the Hall: Complete Season 2 ($59.95).

Anchor Bay Entertainment bows bonus-laden editions of the 1990 Johnny Depp springboard 21 Jump Street: The Complete First Season and the John Ritter showcase Three’s Company: Season Three. The four-disc sets are tagged at $39.98 each.

Mystery and mayhem reign in a brace of new sets: MPI Home Video debuts the three-disc, six-episode The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes ($39.98), with Jeremy Brett as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s indefatigable sleuth, while WGBH Boston Video bows the fellow Brit import Touching Evil 2 (three-disc, $39.98).

Back in a comedy groove, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment celebrates a generally benighted decade with That ‘70s Show: Season One (four-disc, $49.98), complete with extras.

The ‘A’ list

In theatrical-to-digital news, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reprise their “Before Sunrise” romantic roles in Mr. Linklater’s sequel, Before Sunset (Warner Home Video, $27.95). Businessman Robert Redford becomes Willem Dafoe’s kidnap victim in The Clearing (20th Century Fox, $27.98), while Nicole Kidman finds much amiss in suburbia in Frank Oz’s The Stepford Wives remake (Paramount, $29.95). All arrive with bonus material.

Animated antics

For Bugs Bunny buffs and Daffy Duck devotees, Warner Home Video offers the most-welcome Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Two (four-disc, $64.92), gathering 60 — count ‘em, 60 — classic cartoons, along with select audio commentaries, featurettes, TV specials and much more.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Where can I buy old tapes of Ma & Pa Kettle? Thanks.

— “T-Bone,” Maryland

Movies Unlimited (www.moviesunlimited.com) carries a wide range of 1950s “Ma and Pa Kettle” titles.

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002, or e-mail us at [email protected] Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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