For SCTV fans
This book is an episode-by-episode guide to every memorable sketch, character, and line created in the roughly 8 years SCTV was on the air. Dave Thomas's book SCTV: Behind the Scenes provided lists of each episode in the appendix pages at the back, but I always found them very confusing and difficult to use - closely printed, and just listed by title. Robbins's book uses that basic information and then provides several paragraphs describing some of the plotlines underway in the episode, as well as giving reference information such as the original appearance of a repeated bit (some of the commercial parodies were reused many times in later episodes). New characters are carefully noted upon first appearance, as well as their later evolution - Raoul Wilson, for example, the disgustingly oversexed host of "Men On Women" later evolved into Dr. Rawl Withers, editor of the tabloid National Midnight Star and host of 'Hollywood Dirt Tonight'. Performers who appeared as guests or eventually became cast members are also listen by name - I never knew who was the actor who played Robert Wellesley, Libby Wolfsson's opponent in her disastrous attempt to run for Councilperson during the great Melonville Election episode (Melonvote). I also didn't know some of the guests they had on the show. Betty Thomas from 'Hill Street Blues' was one of the dejected women on 'The Women Who Donahue Forgot', and since I'd never watched that show, I didn't know who she was.
Robbins isn't shy about rating the episodes and sketches, and for the most part his opinion tracks exactly with mine, so of course I appreciate his evaluations! I'm glad to know that I'm not the ONLY one who thought a little Mrs. Prickley went a long, long way, and that by the end, she was being overused to the point of positive aggravation. I differ on a few others, but that's to be expected, and Robbins is always reasoned in explaining why he thinks a sketch doesn't work. If it happened to strike me in just a slightly different way (NASA's production of 'Murder in the Cathedral' is one that has grown on me through its oddity to the point where I quite enjoy it) it doesn't detract from his very intelligent reading of the piece.
The book filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge; I now realize that I must have started watching SCTV at episode 3, because I have no recollection of anything he describes in the first two episodes. There are also some later ones I never saw, from the Cinemax years - naturally, we didn't get that early specialty channel. I just wonder now where I could have seen some of the pieces I remember - I did see "2009: Jupiter and Beyond" (and hated it), but where could I have seen it? It must have been included in a later syndication package. And once SCTV moved to late night on NBC, I saw it less often because I was in school and just couldn't stay up that late. There are some lines I now know correctly for the first time, because I just didn't hear them before. During Lola Heatherton's disastrous "Bouncing Back to You!" special, she's both high on pills and deeply depressed, and launches into a terrible, self-pitying song as she has a nervous breakdown on live TV. But I never really heard all of the followup rant, which Robbins hilariously gives in its entirety:
Embarrassing would describe the roll call of SCTV staff members that Lola has bedded, which she without warning begins to recite before being dragged out of the studio: "Mr. Guy Caballero! Johnny 'Why don't you just suffocate me' LaRue! Bobby 'How was I?' Bittman! Count Floyd, you're so bad it's scary! Bob and Doug, you hosers!"
The best thing about the book, though, is that it's FUNNY. I was laughing out loud every few pages, as Robbins would summarize some particularly amusing scene or transcribe some hilarious dialogue. It's almost as good as watching the show itself; of course, with the book as a prompt, I can replay all these scenes in my mind much faster than I can look them up on dvd, if they're even available. Now when we want to remind each other of past episodes, we don't have to rely on recitation from faulty memories - we can just read them out from the book.