April 17, 2008

Having An Above Average Weekend

I love the Kids in the Hall. I make no apologies for it.

It was a love that led me to travel to Toronto in 1995 for one of the last tapings...and met several of the Kids. I had a slightly extended flirtation with a fellow KITH fan on the classic Prodigy online service. (Meaning, she thought I was sexy and I wondered what was wrong with her for thinking so, such was the extent of my insecurity). I got to speak to Paul Bellini several times on the phone. When they played live in St. Louis several years ago, I went to see them, and had my head promptly crushed by Mark McKinney. In fact, I even maintained a now abandoned web site with KITH transcripts.

So buying all five season boxed sets was of no consequence...but there was one holy grail to pursue...the original HBO pilot, little seen since 1989, to be released on DVD. Yes, it had been released (in highly shortened form) on the Season One boxed set, but that wasn't enough - we needed to see it uncut.

In a way, watching the newly-released pilot (delayed due to "complicated rights issues) on DVD seems almost anticlimactic - not that the material doesn't hold up; moreover, it increases the confusion as to why the material wasn't included on the Season One DVD set.

Think of it as a sampler - a great hint of greatness to come. Although many people point to the Kids' tendency to portray women in a forthright manner, it was their exploration of darker comedy, their honest, insightful portrayal of sexual politics (both gay and straight), and a greater sense of characterization and "shared universe" in their sketches that set them apart from the rest.

(Compare them to their only other competition, In Living Color. Although both embrace stereotypes, one uses it as a way of articulating insights into culture; the other recycles lame jokes. I'll let you guess which is which).

This isn't wall-to-wall brilliant, but the high points easily surpass the low ones. Of course, the highlight is the Headcrusher, which carries the stink of Lorne Michaels and "catchphrase comedy." (Yes, it's funny, but as the series progresses, one can see the Kids gradually shaking off Michael's influence and coming into their own). Mixing the surreal with the incisive, the highlights demonstrate a willingness to go all-out: three construction workers talk about women, but wouldn't throw certain women "out of bed...for aging. A young man finds romance with an older woman. Many "classic" Kids in the Hall characters make their debut. The "restored" material...isn't horrible, but still, one wonders why it was taken out (or even, why the pilot wasn't split into two "Best of" episodes)

Even in the supporting material (which is minimal, and which does not include Bruce McCullough, who was presumably off making the horrid Carpoolers), there is a sense that this was their point of discovery, their asserting themselves as a solid troupe. It's not mandatory viewing...but it's a far cry from comedy then...with contemporary comedy only now catching up.

If you're a completist fan, it's a necessary buy. If you're not a completist fan - or new to the Kids in the Hall - it's worth renting through Netflix. But if you get a taste and want more, you can always order the boxed sets - there's a brand new KITH-only subpage at the Blog THIS, Pal! store.

I tell you, between the Kids in the Hall, Homercat, and Siskoid, Canada more than redeems itself for inflicting Bryan Adams upon us.

P.S. The Kids are going to tour with brand new material. Thanks to Ian Brill for posting this new sketch and other info.



Siskoid said...

HEY, what am *I* doing in that list of redemptions?

But honestly, I'm a big Kids in the Hall fan as well, and have tried to keep an eye on their later projects. The clear creative winner is Mark McKinney who, after not getting very much to do on SNL, went on to co-write and star in one of the best things since butter: Slings & Arrows. I discovered this series the same year he was starring in the late, lamented Studio 60. Yeah, I'm a big McKinney fan.

Gotta check KitH on DVD now...

Siskoid said...

One more thought: I'm not just Canadian, I'm FRENCH Canadian. Clearly, my mission is to redeem my country for foisting Celine Dion on the world.

At least I'm not an Quebecker.