“Don’t touch that dial! Don’t touch that one either!
Stop touching yourself! SCTV is on the air!”

Featuring some of the brightest young comedians that Canada had to offer, Second City Television, or SCTV if you prefer, catapulted the careers of just about every performer who passed through, and guaranteed a few laughs for anyone watching from home.

SCTV started off in 1976 as a half-hour show on Global in Canada, running for two years. After taking the 1978 TV season off, the show moved to CBC for its third season. It also caught syndication in the U.S. and was picked up by NBC as a 90-minute season replacement show under the name SCTV Network 90, then shortened back to its original name SCTV.

According to the show’s premise, SCTV was a TV station for the city of Melonville. The station, also called SCTV, was run by the greedy Guy Caballero (played by Joe Flaherty), who sat in a wheelchair so that he could “gain respect” and get leverage in his business deals.

The station stayed away from the usual fare, and only put on a strange array of cheap local programming, from game shows like “Shoot the Stars” to soap operas like “The Days of the Week.” They also provided other programming, such as Woody Allen’s “Play It Again, Bob!” and “Monster Horror Chiller Theater.” The station was filled with lively characters, like Johnny La Rue, critic Bill Needle, newscaster Earl Camembert and Ms. Edith Prickley.

SCTV (the real show) had a moderate budget and few resources outside of the immense talent of the cast of characters (and the participation of the crew that went above and beyond) but it made the most with what it had. All told, SCTV was a launching pad of epic proportions, much like its American counterpart, Saturday Night Live.

Its original cast included a who’s-who of Canadian comedy. John Candy would go on to fame in on the big screen in a number of films, including Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and The Great Outdoors. Joe Flaherty would later appear as the pop to a couple of Freaks and Geeks.

Eugene Levy is known as much for his role in the American Pie film series as he is for his numerous turns in Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries where he often appeared alongside fellow SCTV alumni Catherine O’Hara, who has appeared in numerous pop culture favorites, including Home Alone and Beetlejuice.

Harold Ramis would go on to write a long chain of notably quotable movies, with Caddyshack, Groundhog Day and Stripes leading the pack. In later seasons, they would be joined by the honey who shrunk the kids, Rick Moranis, and Mars Attacks! press secretary (and SNL alumni) Martin Short.

During its run from 1976 to 1984, SCTV picked up a respectable thirteen Emmy nods, taking two of them home for Best Writing. The show has influenced countless shows through the years, such as The Upright Citizen’s Brigade, The Kids in the Hall, and even The Simpsons, making it a seminal part of the comedy of yesterday and today.

If you have fond memories of watching SCTV, or have a favorite sketch you would like to mention, we’d love to hear all of your recollections in our comments section, as we tip our hats to Canadian comedy at its finest.

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