SCTV stands for Second City Television, a fairly long-running show that
began in syndication in the late 70's and then ended up in the early 80's
at NBC's late-night Friday time slot following Johnny Carson (if you
don't know who _he_ is, you've really been gone a long time). Second City
is a venerable group of improv comedians in Chicago (alums include both
Belushi bros., Mike Nichols, Elaine May, Joan Rivers, among many others),
whose style has been cited as a precursor to the vintage Saturday Night Live
style of comedy. SCTV was originally produced by Bernie Sahlins, longtime
guru of Chicago's Second City, but actually featured the very talented cast
of Toronto's SC troupe. These folks make the original SNL cast look pale.
They included John Candy, Catherine O'Hara, Joe Flaherty, Andrea Martin,
Eugene Levy, Martin Short, Harold Ramis, and my favorite, Dave Thomas.
SCTV was a fictional tv network unto itself, run by a shady impressario
(played by Flaherty) called Guy Caballero. (Not a coincidence that in real life
Caballero Entertainment used to be the leading U.S. porno film distributor.)
Anyway, most of the skits revolved around high jinks at the network: big
guest stars who supposedly had been booked without knowledge of what a
fly-by-night operation it was, sporadic attempts by Guy's underworld superiors
to muscle in on the operation, hilariously inept imitations of mainstream
movies and tv shows, etc. The concept gave this great cast a fertile
environment in which to lampoon (and pay homage to) popular culture.
Probably the most vivid character in my memory was Lola Heatherton,
a talentless Vegas "all-around entertainer" whose barbiturate stupor was
penetrated only buy her irresistible attraction to Guy. As played
by O'Hara, Lola was a brilliant amalgam of Connie Stevens, Joey Heatherton,
and late-period Judy Garland -- what an indelible portrait.
I could try to summarize some of my favorite bits here, but the humor would
no doubt be lost. Suffice it to say SCTV was as funny as most people
mistakenly remember the original SNL to have been. Unfortunately, the show
never got a wide audience, and NBC killed it after just two years. Most of
the cast went on to be movie stars, anyway.