DRIVE-BY GEEKERY (Early Eighties Edition): SCTV: “Zontar” (Season 4, Episode 12)

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The Republispouse got me SCTV on DVD as sort of an present-in-advance for my birthday next month. (I know. I don't get it either, but, hey, windfall!) and I’ve been plowing my way through them in delirious abandon. There’s a number of old SF gags in the show, which I’ve been debating mentioning on here despite being nearly 30 years old. I mean clearly, no one cares anymore, so why should I waste everyone’s time? I realized that I have to do at least one of these: the episode entitled “Zontar” which is an obvious reference to the 60s d-movie “Zontar: The Thing From Venus.”

For those of you not familiar with the concept, SCTV was a sketch comedy show that took place in a TV station. The sketches were loosely tied together by a wraparound plot most of the time (But not always). The wraparound this time out is that Guy Cabellero (Joe Flahrety) is producing cheap knockoffs of NBC shows, and has hired Hank Bain, brother of Conrad Bain, to star in a sitcom called ‘Different Folks,’ a sitcom about a white guy who adopts two black kids. "It's not so much a sequel or a spin-off as it is a total rip-off," he explains. He's also looking to hire Marlon Burr (Brother of Raymond Burr) to star in a detective/cop show called ‘Ironhead.’

Anyway, Hank Bain (Played by Conrad Bain's real-life identical-twin brother*) is secretly in the employ of the planet Zontar, which seeks to use SCTV as a means by which to invade the earth. They pull this off successfully with a Frisbee and some cabbages. The Cabbages take over the minds of everyone they come into contact with, making everyone act very stiff and robotic, excepting Rick Moranis’ DJ character, Jerry Todd ("Oh, he always talks like a zombie no matter what's going on!").

The first 2/3rds of the episode are really good, but the last third starts to fall apart when the Zontarans take over the Sammy Maudlin show (Joe Flahrety, again) while DeForrest Kelly (a really bad impression by Dave Thomas) is guesting, and then the rest of the episode has Guy and "Bones" trying to save the station.

Ultimately they make contact with Zontar the Munificent (a bald John Candy) who tells them that his planet has no entertainment, and he intends to take over our world for his people's amusement, starting with SCTV ("Starting with a cycle of nine new episodes and three 'best-of's" which I'm assuming were the terms of their development deal with NBC as it sounds awfully specific).

Then, with no warning, an asteroid hits the planet Zontar wiping out the entire race and freeing their possessed earthlings in the very definition of deus ex machina. Bones and Guy had nothing to do with it, and we’re told it was a well-known impending disaster, but the Zontarans simply hadn't been paying attention.

The End.

We get a bit more fake behind-the-scenes-at-the-station stuff in this episode than most. Gus (Eugene Levy), the annoying security guard, gets possessed early on and tries to kill Juul Hallmeyer, the costume manager. In real life, Juul was the costume guy for all seasons and incarnations of the show, and the choreographer for the woefully incompetent Juul Hallmeyer Dancers. Occasionally, they threw him in front of the camera, too, as here. There's a scene of the director and crew being taken over by the cabbages.

As I said, I’ve been plowing through these things at irresponsible breakneck speed, surprised by how many of them I’d missed when I was a kid. For a while there, I thought this was gonna' be like the third episode in a row that I hadn't seen, but I had vague, fleeting memories of cabbages rolling around, and when they did "Money, with Brian Johns" (Eugene Levy, again) I had very clear memories of that. Basically, Brian was interviewing a female Hugh Heffner type (Catharine O'Hara) who started talking very openly about menage a' trois, then put Brian in bed with a half-dressed obviously gay dude who said Brian "looked like fun" while O’Hara ran off to get some oysters. "So. What...uh...what do you do around here?" Levy asks. "She pays me," the gay dude says. "Oh," says a very clearly frightened Levy.

I remember seeing that sketch, so I'm assuming that just creeped my 13-year-old-self out all to hell, and I must have turned off the TV and gone to bed.

Really funny stuff unrelated to the wraparound plot: O'Hara doing an impression of a drunk Joan Embry of the San Diego Zoo: "Last time we were on Carson, this little guy pinched a loaf down Johnny's back!" Also, there was a pretty damn funny commercial from the American Dental Association advising flossing, but which consisted of nothing but shots of people's asses getting groped.

*- Despite Conrad Bain having a real-live identical twin, and despite said twin actually playing himself in this episode, they don’t use his real name. They insist on calling him “Hank” though he’s really called “Bonar.” Granted, “Hank” is way funnier. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0047691/

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