Shit Happens – Kids in the Hall Death Comes to Town
Scott Thompson, Dave Foley, Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald.
The Kids in the Hall was a monster, monster moment in television history for me. Their comedy was like an intricately woven blood red and brown gold wreath made by a forlorn gen-x bisexual, dark strange ideas poured over with an eye-foaming lightheartedness that did not so much make you guffaw as it did your brain slide into a one-of-a-kind smile.
When the television show came to an end, The Kids in the Hall produced a feature length film called Brain Candy, the narrative of which tended wonderfully to their darker side and continued their taste for taboo subjects. At the time of it’s release, I was technically not of age to see an R-rated movie and my parents had just then thought it a good idea that they accompany me to any such film. One of the most awkward experiences in my life was watching the movie with four other people in a theater, one of which was my-not-so-forward-thinking father. Perhaps most uncomfortable was the scene where Scott Thompson’s closeted homosexual character has a flashback to his days in the army, where his commander lays out a perfect battlefield strategy for having sex with the enemy.
Thank you, Kids in the Hall!
Post-Brain Candy, the Kids were hit and miss. Bruce McCulloch released the incredible comedy/music/mindfuck solo album, Shame-Based Man, following up years later with Drunk Baby Project, And Dave Foley co-starred in one of my favorite sitcoms ever, News Radio. Other than that, their careers have been a series of limp dick movies/TV shows; appearances in limp-dick movies/TV shows; and a series of nostalgic live performances that grew less nostalgic over the iterations and came closer to the blandness that was to be found with their recent mini-series Death Comes to Town.
I had fairly great hopes for the series when I first saw it written about, seemingly promising more of the darker end of their spectrum, some early reports stating it may be a Kids in the Hall: Twin Peaks.
Then I saw the trailer and lost almost all of my excitement, a rhythmless patchwork of lines and actions you might think a TV executive would think of as cutting edge and shots of broadly sketched characters showing that the Kids in the Hall were indeed appearing in this show, at least in many of the shapes and colors you remember them being.
However, I remained skeptical of my first reaction. Trailers can show quite a different thing than the final product. I think one of the greatest studies of this is Terry Gilliam’s stellar Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for which there did not exist a single good trailer, instead a littering of trailers that tried to package the property as something completely different to many different moviegoers.
Although I was skeptical of my initial reaction, I certainly didn’t rush out to see the new show, only recently picking up episodes online. The first episode was completely flat. But I gave it another chance. The second episode continued a trend of lukewarm forgettable narrative. Should anyone agree with me on these first two episodes, but still believe the series improves starting with Episode 3, I will give it one more chance. Otherwise, I think I’m done.
The Kids in the Hall were very rarely “laugh-out loud” funny, but their sketches were uniquely, uniquely memorable for their daring caricatures, their outrageous situations, and overall their elegance, their artfulness, a dark soulful – oaty? – comedy.
Death Comes to Town, on the other hand, might make one think that some middle school students recently discovered The Kids in Hall, took to poorly emulating their comedy by adapting Murder She Wrote episodes, cast The Kids in the Hall in all the key roles – but without any creative input – and received enough money to make the show look slick enough to pass for professional in Canada.
But the hard truth is that the Kids in the Hall, themselves, failed miserably. It is very hard to watch the show,so obviously spotting the parts that were intended as shocking, funny, or insightful and realizing how completely tame and uninsipred they are.
I wouldn’t want The Kids in the Hall to simply copy what they’ve already done. And I don’t think they attempted to do that. They set out to do this project, which simply was not appealing to me in any way.
They might have done just as well filling a half hour of the five of them on a rotating display device where they smile as different characters and say things in different voices, as that’s pretty much all you’ll take away from Death Comes to Town.
Here’s wishing all of them better luck in the future.