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The Kids in the Hall Phail - Big Time [Jan. 16th, 2010|06:54 pm]
Young Geoffrey
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Freely-adapted from my piece in this week's edition of True North Perspective.

Maybe you can go home again
But usually you really shouldn't

Death Comes to Town is a sad class reunion for The Kids in the Hall

Kids in the Hall, from left, Scott Thompson, Dave Foley, Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch and Kevin McDonald, pictured during the shooting of Death Comes to Town in North Bay, Ontario in 2009. (Photo: Canadian Press.)
Kids in the Hall, from left, Scott Thompson, Dave Foley, Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch and Kevin McDonald, pictured during the shooting of Death Comes to Town in North Bay, Ontario in 2009. (Photo: Canadian Press.)

Time was, in the late 1980s and early 1990s — and for the first time since the heyday of SCTV back in the late 1970s — one of the few "must-see" programs on television was a Canadian show.

Working in the scripted but anarchic tradition of SCTV and Monty Python's Flying Circus before that, the Kids were hip, daring, sometimes shocking and almost always very, very funny.

The program went off the air in 1994, to be followed up by an amusing but not fully successful feature film in 1996, Brain Candy. After that I, at least, thought we had almost certainly seen the last of the Kids as a group.

But old hits have a way of returning in the 21st century, like tired movie franchises or decrepit rock bands determined to take advantage of today's ticket prices.

Occasionally a reunion is magic, but more often it is at best vaguelly embarrassing or, worse, proof that Time is a harsh mistress indeed and that only old fools dare attempt to recapture the glory days of their youth.

Which brings me to this Tuesday night on CBC television. The Kids are back, this time with an eight-part mini-series, Death Comes to Town.

New Kids, not the same as the Old Kids

Now, I'm a romantic and an optimist, and I do love those rare times when old masters beat the odds. And the individual Kids have talent enough that I approached their return with, well, a pretty good feeling about it. After all, eight half-hour episodes are enough for a troup to test their limits but short enough to impose some discipline — or so I thought.

Sadly, it was not to be, at least if the first episode is anything to go by.

Set in the fictional Ontario town of Shuckton, the program opens out with some quietly amusing moments. Mark McKinney's Death, wearing not much more than a leather codpiece and leather vest arrives on a vintage-looking Greyhound and then tours the town on a motorized banaseat bicycle; the character is both grotesque and ludicrous, not side-splitting stuff, but promising enough. So to with Bruce McCulloch's entrance as the very sleazy (and yet strangely popular) Mayor Larry Bowman. Possibly my only actual laugh came as the Mayor walks through a local eatery, taking food from adoring patrons, pocketing tips and finally necking with a young woman as her husband looks on proudly, later exclaiming, "The mayor kissed my wife! The mayor kissed my wife!"

Meanwhile, we meet the local abortionist and two very dumb cops (regulars from the old skitcom days) before Death orders pizzas and ... and there's really no point in going on with a synopsis. Stuff happens. Sight gags and wordplay, nonsensical confrontations and desperately surreal set-pieces, almost all of which fail to arouse much in the way of a smile, let alone laughter.

Death Comes to Town seems to suffer from a fundamental confusion the Kids were unable to resolve; namely, was this mini-series to be a plot-driven comedy or a skitcom sewed together with some sort of linear narrative? One or the either might have worked, but this unwholesome hybrid simply lies there, .

I will probably watch the second installment, hoping against hope that things will improve, but my remaining optimism is a feable remnant of what I had going in on Tuesday night. I fear it's time for the Kids in the Hall to grow up or go back to school. And I will also praise any and every power that is that SCTV managed to avoid it's own reunion show.

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: tokio
2010-01-17 12:40 am (UTC)
Yeah, there doesn't seem to be much room on television for comedy troupes anymore. It's very disappointing. I miss the 90s. We seem to have pretty similar taste in programs, you and I. I've heard that Canadian television programs have very little censoring, especially compared to the USA. Is this true? We have RIDICULOUS censorship. Not only is it rampant and pious, but female-oriented, such as "bitch," "son of a bitch," "whore," and "slut," are accepted and uncensored whereas masculine or gender neutral swears are completely okay. I can't help but think this is done for a reason. Programs in the USA focus a lot on anti-female indoctrination.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2010-01-20 04:30 am (UTC)

I don't think we can blame television for the dearth

In a way, I think of South Park as a (small) troupe, since it's essentially Parker and Stone doing their own thing. I'm sure another group will come out of nowhere and be fresh and funny and shocking sooner or later.

At least, I hope so. (Meanwhile, Sarah Silverman's 3rd season is starting soon, so I have that to look forward to!)

I think over-the-air Canadian television is a little more open than American network television, but cable in both countries is pretty loose, it least in terms of swearing and nudity.

Can't really speak for the current state of affairs vis-a-vis anti-female indoctrination (since I watch so little of what's available and much of that being British), but it still kinda sounds about right, I'm sad to say.
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[User Picture]From: tokio
2010-01-20 04:50 am (UTC)

Re: I don't think we can blame television for the dearth

I definitely don't think there's room for South Park on the air anymore. :P
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2010-01-20 04:53 am (UTC)

Re: I don't think we can blame television for the dearth

Ah, then you're right. I'm pretty sure it's still syndicated on over-the-air channels up here. Late at night, but still ...
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[User Picture]From: tokio
2010-01-20 05:05 am (UTC)

Re: I don't think we can blame television for the dearth

I wasn't blaming television for anything, by the way. ;) I'm blaming the writers for perpetuating an unfortunate power structure, and I'm blaming whomever pulls their strings.
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