SCTV, the call letters for a fictional Second City television station, was written and performed by primarily Canadian artists from 1976 through 1983, and seen across the US and Canada. It eventually produced 72 half-hour shows, 42 ninety-minute shows, 18 forty-five-minute shows, and it was honoured with 13 Emmy award nominations, 2 Emmy awards for best writing, 3 Actra nominations and 2 Actra awards. It is in syndication across North America and around the world.
The origins of this remarkable satire of the very media on which it appeared can be found in the original Second City, a comedy cabaret which opened in Chicago in 1959, and, since 1985, has been owned by Canadian entertainment entrepreneur Andrew Alexander. In 1973, the Toronto-based Alexander bought Canadian rights to Second City from its Chicago founder for one dollar, its first show opening in February 1974 at The Old Firehall in downtown Toronto. Soon a respected theatrical institution in that city, SCTV grew out of the stage show.
By 1976 Alexander and his partner, Len Stuart, began to produce a half-hour format TV show, initially produced by and airing on GLOBAL Television to good ratings and excellent critical response. From 1977 through 1981, jointly produced by Old Firehall TV Productions Ltd and Allarcom Ltd (see Charles ALLARD ), SCTV was first taped in Edmonton, then back in Toronto, syndicated in the US as well as in Canada, and moved to CBC and eventually NBC. Most of the performers also wrote the superb comic and satiric material. They included Andrea MARTIN, Eugene LEVY, John CANDY, Joe FLAHERTY, Catherine O'HARA, Dave THOMAS, Rick MORANIS and latecomer Martin SHORT. All but Martin and Flaherty were born in Canada.
Moranis and Thomas both dropped out of SCTV early, owing to the phenomenal success of their parody of 2 Canadian hicks, the McKenzie brothers, and others also left and returned during its brief reign. They and most of the others found success in Hollywood films (Candy appeared in some 2 dozen) and American TV comedy, both weekly and pay-TV specials. Many of the characters ("Edith Prickly,""Guy Caballero,""Ed Grimley") and impersonations of the SCTV performers have entered international television history.
In 1996, original member Dave Thomas wrote SCTV - Behind the Scenes, an insightful and delightful overview of that extraordinary television series. This book, filled with photographs and thoughtful interviews with all of the stars, helps capture some of the magic of those years. To quote Rick Moranis from the book, "I think everyone involved agrees SCTV was their purest creative time. The irony of it is we all may have done our best work at the beginning of our careers." To which writer/performer Joe Flaherty adds, "We will never have that chance again."