In his obituary, published yesterday by his hometown paper The Chicago Tribune, Harold Ramis was described as leaving behind "a reputation as a mensch and all-around good guy." There's really not much more one could ask for when your life is being summed up. But as it turns out, Ramis was a lot more than that. He was a comedy pioneer, a trailblazer, and a visionary. Without Ramis, Ghostbusters would have been about "ghost smashers" that travel through time with magic wands. Without Ramis, we might not have the "serious" phase of Bill Murray's career that we're all enjoying now. The man co-wrote Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, and Groundhog Day, for goodness' sake. I'm probably understating it when I say we lost a legend.
We could spend time looking at any one of those movies in depth and analyzing what made it so special, but you could get that anywhere. Today we're going back to his roots. After performing at the Second City in Chicago, after working on the National Lampoon radio show, but before he conquered Hollywood. Today we're looking at SCTV.
Unless you're in Canada, SCTV has basically disappeared from the airwaves, but it marks the start of many big names in the world of comedy like John Candy, Catherine O'Hara, Rick Moranis, Martin Short, and Eugene Levy to name just a small sampling. Often dismissed as a Saturday Night Live rip-off, that couldn't be further from the truth. Whereas SNL in the early days was a variety show comprised of cast members and writers thrust together, SCTV was made of people who had worked together for years trying to entertain each other first and foremost, as they created an entire universe for their sketches to live in. Without the inspiration of this show, Conan O'Brien, Matt Groening, the brains behind Mystery Science Theater 3000, and the Kids and the Hall, all self-avowed fans, might have all been a little less inspired by the world of comedy. Beginning in 1976, the show was made in Canada for very little money, and featured many of the actors and actresses who were starring on the stages of the Second City Toronto. The only one to come from performing in America was also their head writer, Chicago's Harold Ramis.
The premise of the show was simple: for half an hour, the small television channel SCTV, broadcasting out of the fictional town of Melonville, would take over with their own programming. This would vary from traditional interview shows, morning programs, parodies of popular movies or TV shows, and announcements from the seemingly insane people who were running the network. In just the three short years Ramis was on the program he not only managed to steer the show towards it's strange, specific sense of humor, he also managed to carve out some classic characters of his own. READ MORE