Hit & Run

With great but disproportion'd Muses


Someday scholars will scratch their heads at the idea that the forgotten observational humorist Jerry Seinfeld once attracted larger audiences than the visionary absurdist comic genius Jaleel White, and Frank Sinatra will be known only as an obscure lounge singer notable for having once insulted the immortal Harlan Ellison. Someday archivists will preserve Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio, not The Hours, as the prosthetic-nose masterpiece of 2002.

In the meantime, the universal acclaim critics have heaped on the DVD release of Volume 1 of SCTV Network/90 suggests another brilliant and unpopular classic may finally get its day.

Now some of you may object that SCTV was never that popular because it was never that funny, and my only worry about having all this material available again is that it may prove you right. (It's been at least 15 years since I've seen any traces of the show.) Others may claim that the whole show was too recondite and self-involved to be tolerated. But I say SCTV was a victim of a darker force: the hidden hand of anti-Canadianism, up to its shadowy work once again. If the North American Free Trade Agreement had been passed 20 years earlier, SCTV would be rerun several times a day on Comedy Central and Saturday Night Live would be available only at the Museum of Television and Radio.

This DVD treats only the first year of the show's run on NBC, with nothing from the original Canadian version or the shorter version that came later, as the show petered out. Does it contain HAL's appearance on the Merv Griffin Show? The Scorcesean neorealist version of Harvey? Will Hey Yorgi! be coming to our town? I can't say: SCTV's botched schedule and schizophrenic structure were baffling even in the original run. But the important thing is: SCTV is in the air.