Volume 90, Issue 66
Wednesday, January 22, 1997
Hazy memory of the Second City
SCTV: Behind the ScenesDave Thomas
McClelland & Stewart, Inc.
Hardcover, $29.99, 272 pages
It is said that absence makes the heart grow fonder. As time progresses bad memories are diluted and the shining moments and good times of one's past are elevated to a higher level.
In the natural passage of our existence, those things that were once looked upon as being good at the time suddenly become great. This is especially true when it comes to writing one's memoirs.
This is the case with the book SCTV: Behind the Scenes, which attempts to give a retrospective of the Canadian-based comedy show. The concept of the book in itself is good, however, the fact that Dave Thomas is both an alumnus of the show and the book's author, turns out to be a fatal flaw.
The book opens with a disclaimer from Thomas himself, in which he attempts to guide the reader to the perspective from which he writes it.
"This book is not designed to take advantage of the success of Grace Under Fire, to sell my standup act to a publisher to make some money. . . it's a story from my own point of view and I make no apologies for that."
Unfortunately, Thomas' point of view is one of effusive praise and eternal optimism, giving a very coloured and biased view of the show and its characters.
SCTV is an extremely divisive show. Either you loved it or you thought it was a waste of film. It is important when reading this book to understand your own perspective on the program.
I consider myself a fan of the show and appreciate some of the humour. However, SCTV's run from Canada's Global Television to NBC to Cinemax was marked by inconsistencies. Occasionally brilliant, the show was, at times, incredibly boring and banal.
There is no acknowledgment of this in the book. Thomas chooses to paint the show as a landmark of comedy which was always brilliant and intelligent. Marginal talents like Eugene Levy and Joe Flaherty are essentially canonized in the writing and they are made out to be comedic geniuses.
Thomas focuses, for the most part, on sketches either involving him or written by him. It is not, nor should it be, considered a comprehensive review of the show. Rather, it is an observation of the troupe seen through the eyes of one far too close to the topic.
There is good use of quotes from other cast members, producers and behind-the-scenes crew. However, all of these are tempered by Thomas' own asides. The end result is not one of appreciation for the show, but rather an off-putting sense of elitism and comedic snobbery.
Visually the book is stunning and the extensive use of photographs does more to commemorate the memory of the show than does the text. The book is far more useful as a visual tool to spark one's own memories of the show than it is as a behind-the-scenes look at the program influenced by Thomas' own opinions.
Next time someone decides to do a retrospective on SCTV it should be someone who can look at it through unbiased eyes, not by an insider who's memories have been polished by time.
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