Most Kids in the Hall fans are usually quick to designate their personal favorite Kid, but it’s the group’s uniquely close alchemy that turned the show into a cult sensation, and each of them seemed to have used their own personalities to open doors for the rest of the cast. (Even the venerable Monty Python troupe can’t compare in this respect; when they were coasting, they could come off as six extremely well-read clown-twits.) Dave Foley’s wide-eyed faux-innocence offset his snarky undercurrents (and only he could deliver and sell a monologue about being that guy “who’s fine with menstruation”). Bruce McCulloch had a quiet sensibility that usually anchored even the most absurd of sketches. Kevin McDonald’s total lack of vanity when portraying female characters allowed for some of the most well rounded female characterizations in drag comedy. Mark McKinney had an unforced intelligence and sometimes unnoticed versatility (he was the show’s unsung overachiever). And then there’s Scott Thompson, who is, at least to the show’s sizable straight, young male fan base, the guy who was allowed to write one sketch per week that had something to do with homosexuality. But, even taking into account that he probably didn’t write every gay skit (and there were many, even outside the Buddy Cole monologues), his candid, brazen expression of his own sexuality (which was, in the late-‘80s, nearly without peer in the world of sketch comedy), in addition to making it by far the gayest show that was ever a fixture at frat houses, allowed the rest of the cast the opportunity to lampoon other taboo topics with zest. And, as mentioned, rarely has there ever been an all-male improv troupe that’s been so talented and flexible when playing female characters (I’ll spare you a second blaspheme against Monty Python). Gossipy office secretaries, love-struck schoolgirls fawning over death-row inmates’ glossies, women’s talk show hosts reacting with consternation over misogynistic fashion designs…whether they were frumpy fiftysomethings played by Thompson or surprisingly sexy French whores played by McKinney (who even made a clear effort to sound like a woman in a few sketches), the girls in the Hall were as memorable as the dudes, which probably explains the first season DVD’s appropriate choice of cover.
Not even the shittiest of transfers could prevent fans from picking up this set (the success or failure of which the Kids website claims will dictate whether future seasons will show up on DVD.yeah, right), but damned if A&E and Broadway Video didn't appear to be testing the hypothesis. Granted, one can't expect a 15-year-old television show to look perfect now, and truth be told it never looked like the most polished, well-lit show ever. Colors are pretty weak, and contrast is out of proportion. The sound is less compromised overall, but it's still just a basic mix from a live performance. There's no reason to expect better than this, I suppose.
There aren't commentary tracks on any of the actual episodes, but there are two best-of compilations complete with cast commentary (Scott Thompson shows up late and, thereby, misses one of the Buddy Cole skits). One of the compilations takes material from the pilot episode (not included otherwise), and the other sort of redundantly takes sketches that are already shown in their original context on the other three discs. The Kids' commentary track sees them in fine form, bouncing one-liners and running (faggot) jokes off of each other. A real treat for the fans. I'm not convinced that much else other than the title of An Oral History, a 40-minute documentary culled from recent interviews, will appeal to the same fans, but those who are interested in the history of the show's development will find it irresistible. Splitting the difference between those two features is a collection of pre-Kids live stage performances (looking like Mommy recorded them with the date flashing up on the bottom corner sporadically). Some are funny, some not so much, but more importantly you do get to see Kevin McDonald in his "fat years," which adds backstory to his female characters' self-consciousness. Also included is a DVD-ROM PDF file of the Rolling Stone article from 1988 that called them the hot new thing in comedy.
You've gotta love the type of show that can name their sketches "Power of My Cock," "Fat Hitch-hiker" and "Stinky Pink."