Posted in: Amazon Studios, Review, TV | Tagged: amazon prime video, Bruce McCulloch, Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, Review, Scott Thompson, the kids in the hall
The Kids in the Hall Review: Broken Record Duct Taped Too Many Times
It's been 25+ years since The Kids in the Hall was last on television and just like their literal opening that saw the Canadian comedy troop unearthed from their grave, it's like a time capsule opening again back to 1995. To put it more accurately, the time capsule's seal burst and the contents within have withered over time. Everyone from the cast- Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson– is back for this run. Also joining them are a number of veteran contributors like Paul Bellini as well as the band the Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet (to perform the theme and interludes). The series' revival for Amazon Prime Video is updated for the streaming era but given the timing of filming, there are some changes to note here.
First, unlike their previous incarnation, the series was filmed on set under stricter pandemic conditions so there are no audience reactions to any of their sketches, which I argue played a significant part in the success of their skits. It wasn't any less awkward for Lorne Michaels' other major sketch series in Saturday Night Live when the cast performed in front of empty crowds, too. Personally, it probably would have helped me appreciate their sketches more because the formula is still there: they're not too long so the point where they drag, the punchline is hit, then we get to the next segment.
If you're expecting any timely changes to reflect the social media and smartphone era, you're probably going to be disappointed. Most of the season felt like they were leftover skits planned if the series survived into 1996 or were left on the cutting room floor from their feature Brain Candy. The series retained some of the raunchy spirit of its original run, but it hardly paid off beyond the first episode. The theme of the season is clear: they're old and use up about 80 percent of the time to go that comedic route as possible. It definitely missed more than it hit. The time it did hit was the first episode's "Bank Robbers" sketch led by Foley and McDonald. "Super Drunk" played by McCulloch with his bartender assistant played by Foley bordered on Monty Python absurdity that also found a way to include McKinney's "Head Crusher" (which didn't have the punch it used to have during the original run). The same goes for Thompson's signature character in Buddy Cole, and there was a meta bit between Foley and McDonald at an antique shop that was also a highlight.
The worst was the cast as male strippers as their clichéd elderly characters as younger women ogled over them. Kind of felt as degrading as it gets as a lazily-written sketch. The only thing missing was them asking their audience "Are we funny yet?" while gyrating several times to fill out the time of the sketch that dragged way too long. The biggest waste is the "Friends of The Kids in the Hall" segments that had their biggest celebrity fans like SNL's Pete Davidson and Keenan Thompson, SCTV legend Catherine O'Hara, and more film bits by themselves in some pseudo-improvised monstrosity. I understand the self-contained nature of the series, but what's wrong with having a little fun with having said celebrity friends appear in your actual sketches? It's basic half-assed filler and a glorified guestbook (remember those?) from those early '90s sites. The worst SNL sketches that Davidson and Thompson were in during their combined 100 years on the show are still dramatically better than what we were offered here. If there's ever a seventh season, I don't think it would kill the cast to let the "friends" participate in an actual sketch here and there.
The Kids in the Hall on Amazon Prime Video is one long trip down memory lane. It's the porridge you're used to that you grew up with, it's just that a little mold has settled in. Like other revivals, the Prime Video version opted not to film in front of an audience, which takes some of the magic away. I found my sense of humor has evolved to the point where I just don't find them as funny as I used to and that's okay for those who want the old and familiar. It could have grown in this digital age but ironically, it actually played it safe for the brand and missed chances to break new comedic ground.
The Kids in the Hall Season 6
The Kids in the Hall on Amazon Prime Video is one long trip down memory lane. It’s the porridge you’re used to that you grew up with, it's just that a little mold has settled in. Like other revivals, the Prime Video version opted not to film in front of an audience, which takes some of the magic away. It could have grown in the digital age, but ironically, it actually played it safe for the brand. A nice trip down memory lane more than anything that felt like it was breaking new comedic ground.
Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney & Scott Thompson
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