It may be hard to believe, but there was a time not too long ago when the worst thing you could be was weird. Before GeekDad, before the ubiquitous public internet, before the alternative music revolution, the world was so much bigger, but its outlets for letting one’s freak flag fly were far less robust. Then came The Kids in the Hall. This month you can bring home the entire series, in all its early ’90s splendor, for one budget price thanks to Mill Creek Entertainment’s newly released The Kids In The Hall – The Complete Collection + Digital.
Perfectly positioned stylistically between the surreal Old World charm of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Lorne Michaels’ other, fairer-haired child, Saturday Night Live, Canadian sketch comedy stalwart The Kids in the Hall originally aired on CBC and HBO (and, later, CBS) from 1989 to 1995. Thereafter, it founds its way to Comedy Central, further extending its reach to an additional audience of North American outsiders.
Still, while troops like the Pythons mixed high art and drama with distinctly lowbrow subject matter and The Not Ready for Prime-Time Players seemed more content to make comedians the new rock stars, the Kids instead celebrated weirdness. If you, too, were a peculiar Gen Xer, chances are the opening swell of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet’s instrumental “Having an Average Weekend”—the series’ iconic theme song—still transports you back to time of CRT televisions, grainy VHS bootlegs, and piss-poor Sir Simon Milligan impressions.
Mill Creek’s Complete Collection plays directly to that nostalgia by including all 102 episodes (including the original pilot) alongside interview features (centered around seasons 1 and 2), limited seasonal “best of” cast commentary tracks, archived early performances from the Rivoli Theatre, 2010 reunion mini-series Death Comes to Town, and more. Best of all, it does it at a budget price, with its original $70 price tag currently slashed on Amazon to around $32.
That nets you some 800 sketches featuring the precocious Gavin, the insatiable Chicken Lady, Mr. Tyzik (AKA The Headcrusher), and the always over-the-top Buddy Cole. But the Kids are often at their best when they’re channeling the common men and women of Toronto, be they record store owners, office workers (always in the employ of the seemingly monolithic A.T. & Love), or, well… prostitutes Maudre and Jocelyn.
They also tend to shine when just being themselves, but from Bruce McCulloch’s admission that he is the cause of cancer to Dave Foley’s “good attitude towards menstruation,” it’s rather impressive to see how far these young writer/performers were willing to go in the name of comedy and, y’know, weirdness.
Other times, it can honestly get a little uncomfortable. As much as I love Mississippi Gary, I had somehow managed to misremember the fact that each skit was, essentially, Mark McKinney in blackface. The same goes for the near-constant stream of pejoratives launched at Scott Thompson regarding his sexuality. (Of course, the fact that Thompson himself is usually the one employing this slang is certainly worth noting.)
Let this also serve as a warning that this edition is wholly uncensored. This means the f-bombs and brief nudity that we Americans likely missed on the CBS and Comedy Central broadcasts are there in full force. Still, there’s something to be said for authenticity, and this is certainly not a knock against The Kids In The Hall – The Complete Collection.
There are, however, some problems with this release. The video fidelity, for example, is very inconsistent, with the earlier seasons specifically looking only roughly as good as their original over-the-air broadcasts. That said, Death Comes to Town and the “Oral History” features, both more modern productions, do look and sound great, and, given the price, it’s hard to knock this set for fuzzy transfers of 4:3 source material from nigh-30 years ago.
The more unforgivable sin is this collection’s packaging. Rather than a plastic clamshell, The Kids In The Hall – The Complete Collection arrives in a shoddy box containing five flimsy cardboard sleeves, each holding two individual discs. Add to this that the “+ Digital” feature touted on said packaging relies on Mill Creek’s own streaming platform (as opposed to any of the myriad of other streaming apps out there), and this is far from a perfect product.
What it is, though, is an affordable product. So, if you want to catch up on all your favorite bits from Rod Torfulson’s Armada featuring Herman Menderchuk, Cathy and Kathie, and the 30 Helens, and you want to do it without breaking the bank, The Kids In The Hall – The Complete Collection + Digital is ready to take home to your living room, den, or Pit of Ultimate Darkness.
Review materials provided by: Mill Creek Entertainment