A&E Home Entertainment/Broadway Video Distribution LLC
2,701 min. (plus extras)/109 episodes/22 DVDs
Available May 24
Grade: 4 stars (out of 4)
In 1989, HBO launched a new series that changed the face of sketch comedy. The Kids in the Hall became a mainstay on that network for five seasons, and has run in syndication since. Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson took their Canadian-born comedy to hilarious and often absurd and bizarre extremes while exhibiting an intimate chemistry rare even among professional troupes. Though their satire and absurdist humor knew no discernable bounds, the Kids focused on the dynamics of dating and familial and workplace relationships.
Each member had his own memorable characters. Thompson’s Buddy Cole was arguably the most popular, though I always preferred his white-collar everyman, Danny Husk. Foley had a plethora of female characters that he carried so well, though his best was the (non-female) doctor who doesn’t know a thing about medicine. McCulloch’s finest moments were in playing characters with extreme behaviors, such as the annoying kid, Gavin; the addle-brained secretary, Cathy (or is it Kathie?); the macho-ridden and fisticuff-dispositioned loser; and even Tammi, the vacuous pop singer. McDonald had a masterful physical presence and could make people laugh with a subtle glance or motion of the arm, such as with the tea-drinking quiet guy; Simon, the master of manservant Hecubus; and the amnesiac husband who just wants to live life to its fullest for a while. McKinney seemed to be the weakest of the bunch, but perhaps that’s simply because he specializes in extremely annoying characters: Tanya the temp; Chicken Lady (which I never developed a taste for); and most famously, the “squishing your head” guy.
All five seasons are consistently strong, and perhaps surprisingly so. No particular season(s) stand out as better than the others, though in my opinion, the first season is slightly weaker than the rest, while the final season is slightly better. However, there’s plenty of room to argue the point, which proves my point.
When you have several hundred sketches, some are bound to fail, and KITH was no exception. Some weren’t as strong as others, and on rare occasion, they even fell flat. Still, the guys showed their brilliance in each episode, and some skits have become classics in the annals of comedy history — the “Dr. Seuss Bible,” for example.
The Megaset also includes last year’s IFC series, Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town. (See that review here.) That plus five seasons (at 4 DVDs per season) crammed into a package that’s a mere 3.5 inches wide.
As for extras, when you have 22 DVDs, there are going to be lots of them. The best is the hilarious series finale, which should not be missed by anyone who enjoys sketch comedy. Die-hard fans will enjoy the performances from the Rivoli Theater (before the Kids hit the big-time). The same biographies on each set, however, are overkill, though it’s understandable as each season is also sold separately.
At $100 for 22 DVDs, there’s an insane amount of material here. For comedy fans, and especially those who enjoy their humor offbeat, absurdist, dry, or Canadian, this set is a must.
Ray Sidman is a former associate editor and longtime reviewer for Comics Buyer’s Guide. Read his reviews in CBG each month.
(Image (c)2011 A&E Home Entertainment/Broadway Video Distribution LLC)