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Featured TV on DVD Review: The Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town

May 23rd, 2011

The Kids in the Hall - Buy from Amazon: Death Comes to Town or Complete Series Megaset

The Kids in the Hall are arguably one of the greatest sketch comedy troupes of all time, but after encountering creative differences during the making of Brain Candy, they broke up. A decade later, while on a live tour, they began talking about returning to television. The result of that was Death Comes to Town, which is coming out on DVD this week. Also coming out on DVD is the Complete Series Megaset. Will fans of the show be entertained by this new offering? Or have the years not been kind to their comedic timing?

The Show

The show begins with an introduction to Shuckton, population 27,063. Although given the name of the show, and since we actually see Death arriving in town, we know that number won't be that high for long.

The people of Shuckton are lead by mayor Larry Bowman (Bruce McCulloch), whom we meet in a promotional video sent to the Olympic committee in the town's attempt to win the 2028 Olympics. Larry Bowman is a highly popular mayor, despite his idiosyncrasies. He's married to Marilyn and the pair have an adopted son, RAMPOP. We are quickly introduced to other Shuckton residents, including kindly Doc Porterhouse, the town abortionist, who is always cheerful, and always busy. Marnie works at the local pizza parlor as a delivery woman, despite her frequent bouts of "the fuzzies". "Crim" Hollingsworth is a local minor criminal and "germ gel" enthusiast. (Apparently you heat it up and inhale it, like airplane glue.) We also meet Ricky Jarvis, the former hockey star who is now a morbidly obese shut-in. He must have done something pretty bad in his life, as Death hates him.

It's the big day for the Olympic committee announcement and the crack local news team led by Corrinda Gablechuck, the lead reporter; Heather Weather, the weather girl and Corrinda's rival; Levon Blanchard, the producer; and Shaye, the boom mike operator. The letter arrives... and it is a rejection. This news is a blow to the town's residents, but none are more affected than Mayor Bowman. That night, he and his wife get into a drunken fight before she drives off. Shortly after that, someone enters the house and beats the mayor to death with the TV remote. Death is there watching and ready to collect his soul.

And all of that happens in the first episode.

The next episode starts the next day, with the discovery of Mayor Bowman's body and the crime is investigated by two cops that will look very familiar to those who has seen The Kids in the Hall show. Also in on the investigation is the town coroner, Dusty Diamond, who was Larry's best friend and is taking this opportunity to spend more time with his now-deceased friend, and steal all of his stuff. They catch a lucky break after Crim is discovered covered in blood and with no memory of the night in question. It appears to be an open and shut case, especially with the trial being handled by a big city prosecutor, "Big City". But there's one man, Ricky Jarvis, who thinks they have the wrong man. And since Larry Bowman was his coach during his glory days of hockey, he's determined to find the real killer. Of course, being a morbidly obese shut-in will adversely affect the investigation, so he has to rely on Marnie. Meanwhile the local news team is having a meltdown. This is the biggest story they've ever had to cover, but the rivalry between Corrinda and Heather is just getting out of hand.

Death Comes to Town is a murder mystery done by the cast of The Kids in the Hall, and it is almost exactly as you would expect it to be. It has the same type absurd level humor as The Kids in the Hall, but it is toned down in order to service the narrative. This does result in a slightly different pace than we've become used and if you go in expecting the same rapid-fire jokes, you might be slightly disappointed. On the other hand, they have now decades of experience and that pays off with a show that balances the absurdity with a murder mystery plot that is a well-crafted parody. Although it does get more and more absurd as the series winds down.

There were enough call backs to the original series that fans should be pleased, but not so many that it feels like a rehash and unoriginal. Some of the plot threads are a little out there, even for The Kids in the Hall. For instance, the reason Death hates Ricky so much, or Crim's public defender's cat, or anything involving Doc Porterhouse. (Free kitten with every procedure. That's just wrong.)

The Extras

There are audio commentary tracks with Dave Foley and Bruce McCulloch on three of the eight episodes, including the first and last. There are a few times when they get caught watching the show, but for the most part, the tracks are filled with interesting tidbits and self-deprecating humor. However, these audio commentary tracks are not found in the special features menu; you have to go through the episodes menu. I hate that. Audio commentary tracks are clearly special features and should be located there. Next up are 30 minutes of deleted / extended scenes, much of which were simply cut for time. Also in this set are some outtakes for scenes that were cut. Finally, there are five minutes of outtakes, which can be watched individually. That's an unusual touch, but a nice one.

Also coming out this week is the The Kids in the Hall: Complete Series Megaset. This is essentially the old Complete Series Megaset, plus the two-disc Death Comes to Town DVD, all in a new package. It's worth picking up; however, the old set is now really cheap on, so much so that it is a better deal to buy the old Megaset and the new series separately.

The Verdict

The hype surrounding The Kids in the Hall return to TV was pretty high. So high that it could arguably be called a detriment. There's almost no way the mini-series could live up to the five seasons of classic sketches that proceeded it. That said, Death Comes to Town comes close enough to being considered a rousing success. It combines a solid parody of a police procedural / courtroom drama / small town soap opera with the bizarre humor we've come to expect. The DVD has more than enough extras to be worth picking up, as does the new Complete Series Megaset. Just double-check the price of them individually before buying the combined set.

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