Sunday, June 19, 2011

Going (Not Very) Berserk

SCTV stars John Candy, Joe Flaherty, and Eugene Levy made this scattershot Canadian comedy the same year Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas brought their Great White North characters to STRANGE BREW.

GOING BERSERK, which was written by Dana Olsen (THE ‘BURBS) and director David Steinberg (PATERNITY), would likely had been much funnier had it been penned by its stars, who each won two Emmys for writing SCTV NETWORK 90 shows. Perhaps it wasn’t developed specifically for Candy, Levy, and Flaherty, who look lost.

The closest that GOING BERSERK gets to reminding fans of SCTV is a pair of parodies that would have probably been rejected by the show: a kung fu spoof (a dead horse after KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE’s brilliant “A Fistful of Yen”) and a meanspirited updating of FATHER KNOWS BEST (that features Elinor Donahue!). At least these setpieces break up the hamfisted plot, which stars Candy as John Bourgignon, who runs an unsuccessful limousine service with his best pal Chick Leff (Flaherty).

John’s impending marriage to Nancy (THE WONDER YEARS’ Alley Mills), the daughter of presidential candidate Ed Reese (Pat Hingle), is endangered by Reese’s nemesis, religious cultist/con artist Sun Yi Day (Richard Libertini). Day concocts a plan to brainwash John using a playing card and writhing aerobicizers into assassinating his new father-in-law on his wedding day.

GOING BERSERK’s major failure is a paucity of scenes of the SCTV actors together. Levy is sadly underused as a sleazy filmmaker named Salvatore DiPasquale, who hounds John to convince Reese to let him film the wedding. Flaherty is wasted in a straight part; he’s awkwardly included in one scene in which he literally does nothing but watch Hingle and Levy. Director David Steinberg, a standup comic with a Second City background, became a prolific TV director, but his work here is bad. His timing is haphazard, and he stages some sight gags out of camera range.

Candy survived this flop, moving on to scene-stealing supporting parts in SPLASH and VOLUNTEERS that turned him into one of the 1980s’ top comedy stars. Levy, also funny in SPLASH, joined Christopher Guest’s repertory company and acted in the first eight (!) AMERICAN PIE comedies. Flaherty starred in the ‘90s sitcoms MANIAC MANSION and POLICE ACADEMY: THE SERIES.


Anonymous said...

After reading this review, and all the Joe Flaherty well-wishing on Mobius, I felt like I had to share my personal best random celebrity encounter with you. Which was with Joe Flaherty, obviously. I was standing outside on Yonge St. in Toronto (looking for doctorin' and lawyerin' jobs, obviously) when Flaherty just comes casually walking up the street. Now if this was just about any other celebrity I wouldn't have said anything, because really, outside of gushing, what is there to say to an actor you like? But I actually had something I was always curious about from SCTV so I just stopped him and asked if Count Floyd was based on Bill Cardille from Night of The Living Dead and Chilly Billy fame. I knew Flaherty was from Pittsburgh so he would have known who Cardille was at least. He said, yeah, the idea of the newscaster doing double duty as horror host was based on Chilly Billy, even though Cardille never dressed up like a vampire or anything. I also asked if there was ever a sketch that made it clear that Count Floyd and Floyd Robertson were the same person, and he said he didn't think so, but did have the idea once of doing a bit where Robertson does the news drunk in his Count Floyd outfit. But he said they never got around to doing it. Best celebrity encounter ever--a legitimate question answered, some pleasant small talk, and an un-awkward farewell. Great guy.
These are the kinds of things that make me wish I was still a Mobius member so I can add to the conversation. I guess I should have thought of that before I gave away the ending to Signs and got the boot from Todd in 2004.

Marty McKee said...

Hi, Jeff. Glad to know you're still out there. And a great story too. I actually keep a mental file of relevant questions to ask specific celebrities if I ever happen to meet them. Not that, even if I do meet them, I'll be able to remember what it is I want to ask them.

I was thinking there was a direct reference to Floyd/Count Floyd in an episode--maybe some crack Earl Camembert made--but it's not coming to me right now. Flaherty seems to have a pretty good memory about that stuff, so I guess he'd know.

John Charles said...

I, too, once encountered Joe Flaherty on Yonge Street in Toronto, but didn't speak to him. Had a similar moment with John Candy during the summer of 1981.

I could have sworn there was an SCTV sketch where Flaherty turns up drunk as Count Floyd and does the news, much to the chagrin of Earl Camembert. Or maybe it was just Floyd drunk. At any rate, as those SCTV commentaries prove, Joe's memory is not all that good when it comes to this stuff.

Anonymous said...

I remember that sketch. it was just Floyd Robertson drunk---no cape.
The Count Floyd doing the news thing might just be one of those things everybody thinks they saw because it's so obvious. It's like in Moonraker, for years I, and everyone I've ever met, assumed the blonde girl in pigtails that falls in love with Jaws had braces. I mean, that's the gag, right? But nope. it's like the movie hypnotically implanted the idea of braces in the audiences head without ever actually showing them.
But I digress.

Marty McKee said...

The funniest parts of the Shout Factory DVD extras are Flaherty trying to tell some story and Levy sitting next to him, saying dryly either, "Nope, that's not right," or "I don't remember."

What's going on down on Yonge Street that draws Joe down there all the time? Is that where all the peeler bars are, eh?

Before the NBC NETWORK 90 show, how recognizable were the SCTV cast in Canada? I presume Candy was a bigger name, but were the other actors famous enough to be recognized on the street?

Anonymous said...

I was a kid at the time, but I would have recognized them, especially after the syndicated half hour season, which is where I really got into the show. Candy was a pretty big Canadian celebrity, even getting his own sketch show for a season (where are the dvds of that?). Of the others, I think Dave Thomas might have been the best known. To this day, when I hear his name my mind adds "as the Beaver!" to it, even though I think the show dropped that gag after the first season on Global

Anonymous said...

In the very first appearance of Monster Chiller Horror Theatre, back when SCTV aired on GlobalTV in Southern Ontario (and was little seen anywhere else), an on-camera super informed us that MCHT starred "Floyd Robertson as Count Floyd"

Then at the very, very end of the series, when SCTV was on Cinemax (which many people didn't have), there was a piece about Floyd Robertson's retirement, in which Earl explicitly mentioned Floyd's role as "beloved children's entertainer Count Floyd".

wbhist said...

I have to wonder if, in his role as anchor, Floyd Robertson was modeled at least loosely after legendary Pittsburgh news anchor Bill Burns - or some other Pittsburgh TV news anchor with a temperament similar to whenever Floyd snapped at co-anchor Earl Camembert (Eugene Levy). Also, it would appear Floyd was also news director as well as anchor, given an "SCTV News" sketch where Pirini Scleroso (Andrea Martin) botched a field report, and when Floyd asked how it went after it was over, Earl pointed reminded him, "You hired her" - something an anchor does not do unless he's also news director (as, perhaps most famously, was Ralph Renick in Miami from 1950 to 1985).