Self-satire and navel-gazing was at an all-time high with “Cycle 3” of season 4, and in retrospect the sense of culmination that characterized many of the wraparound sequences was merited, as this would be the last cycle before key SCTV players Catherine O’Hara, Dave Thomas, and Rick Moranis left the show, nearly gutting the comedy troupe in the middle of their NBC stride (though Martin Short was added mid-season, so the blow didn’t turn out to be fatal). Hell, the subtext of the impending exodus shows its face in the very first episode (“The Great White North”), in which the Scutz brothers talk SCTV station manager Guy Caballero into letting them turn their rinky-dink public access show into a glitzy, big-budget television special, which portends Thomas and Moranis’s imminent Hollywood jaunt to film Strange Brew, based on their Scutz brother characters from SCTV. (Can you twist the mobius strip any tighter?) A few episodes later, Caballero finds himself in hot water when it becomes apparent that he has bought off the ballot tabulators of the People’s Global Golden Choice Awards ceremony. Every single category’s trophy finds its way into the hands of an SCTV performer (aside from the one that Caballero arranges to go to Hill Street Blues, then a record-setting Emmy favorite, to throw the visiting C.I.A. agents off the scent). Meanwhile, Bob Hope hunts down lefty SAG president Ed Asner as the entire show descends into a riot that is as much characteristic of the state of faux-awards ceremonies post-Pia Zadora as it is a demonstration of frustrated awards fatigue that (like Network and its riffs on television sensationalism) has only grown more justified in the years since. Given the sensation that the entire fabricated SCTV Network enterprise is fraying along the edges, the show’s writers and performers still maintained an awe-inspiring level of hermetic continuity. When Caballero is watching the shambles of his programming line-up while plotting the Scutz brothers’ live showcase, a rerun of “Way to Go, Woman!” with Lola Heatherton and special guest Mother Theresa (from Cycle 2) runs in the background, a ridiculous bit of surrealism that actually proved to be the culmination of an incidental bit of casting from an earlier season! (Mother Theresa happened to be on Sammy Maudlin’s show during Cycle 1 when Lola dropped in for a visit.) And their knack for bettering Mad Magazine at their own game in skewering actual films (be it the commercial for Edith Prickley’s version of Body Heat or the entire episode dedicated to Francis Ford Coppola’s disastrously-received One from the Heart) was as sharp as ever—indeed, when Tip O’Neill and Margaret Thatcher deviate from their standard TV debate forum to discuss the relative merits of Dr. Strangelove and The Who, it’s clear that SCTV’s portrayal of a world obsessed with the culture of mass media is in full bloom.
Take what I wrote about either of the first two cycles. Mix. Match. Rinse. Repeat.
I hope that Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara jumped in the sack together at some point. It would just be too sad and pathetic to watch them reminisce on how sweet they were for each other for a full 25 minutes (alright, with some minor tangents) if they hadn't. It would be like watching a stand-up reenactment of Before Sunset. Still, that's preferable to the insanely dull half-hour segment devoted to the producers of the show. There are also a couple commentary tracks on selected episodes. Joe Flaherty, Paul Flaherty, and Dick Blasucci's track on "Pre-Teen World Telethon" is rife with plenty of empty stretches where they're clearly enthralled by the episode they're watching. In contrast, Blasucci and Mike Short keep the comments at a pretty steady clip. Incidentally, it's the first track without any of the SCTV stars involved, and the tone is notably more mellow and retrospective. There's an hour-long panel discussion from 1997 at the Museum of Television & Radio with the requisite sycophantic questions from the audience (including the meta moment where one participant howls for the release of the series on home video), but also a gradually building sense of camaraderie from the panel.and Andrea Martin impersonating Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient, post third-degree burns. And finally, there's a That's Life clip devoted to John Candy and his flat, Canadian, suburban, flat, flat homestead, and a Candy photo gallery.
Favorite moment of Cycle 3: Andrea Martin channeling Lorna Luft (or Liza Minnelli) singing, marching, and chugging her way through the opening musical number of an awards show with Catherine O'Hara's Lola Heatherton.