Cathode Ray Mission: THE VACANT LOT (1993-94)

CanTV expert Cameron Archer navigates the often inhospitable landscape of Canadian television for the CATHODE RAY MISSION, our regular blog column that highlights some of Canadian television’s most offbeat offerings.

Debutting in 1993 and lasting a full six episodes, CBC’s sketch comedy showcase THE VACANT LOT (CBC, 1993-94; Comedy Central, 1994) was one of a handful of attempts by the natinoal network to exploit the success of their flagship show, THE KIDS IN THE HALL (CBC, 1988-94; CBS/HBO, 1988-95). THE VACANT LOT featured Mark McKinney’s brother, Nick McKinney and it was executive produced by Jim Biederman, who  fulfilled the same role for THE KIDS IN THE HALL.

THE VACANT LOT‘s most appealing feature was the full support of Lorne Michaels’ production company, Broadway Video. Michaels needs no introduction — SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE (NBC, 1975- ) and THE KIDS IN THE HALL are his two most enduring cultural signposts. THE VACANT LOT was in a unique position to become the next big Canadian comedy export. Unfortunately, that never happened.

The Basic Formula

The show basically cribs THE KIDS IN THE HALL‘s formula. It’s a Broadway Video show, so it’s slick, looks good, and is America-ready. Troupe members Vito Viscomi, Rob Gfroerer, Nick McKinney and Paul Greenberg are set to be household names, on par with Dave Foley, Mark McKinney, Scott Thompson, Kevin McDonald and Bruce McCulloch.

The Weird Bits

THE KIDS IN THE HALL starts with Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet’s “Having an Average Weekend,” and scnes of  the Kids having fun. It doesn’t let viewers in on the show’s potentially offensive material right away. By comparison, The Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant” serves as THE VACANT LOT‘s theme song. An allusion to the Maxell “Blown Away Guy” commercial lets the audience know what The Vacant Lot are about, from the off.

THE VACANT LOT is less straightforward, and more absurd, than THE KIDS IN THE HALL. But THE VACANT LOT also looks unfinished and spotty, as the castmembers feel the television medium out. Broadway Video’s series often look like that by design, but THE VACANT LOT is messy even by BV standards.

Let’s Watch

The first part of episode 5 (or episode 1, in the Comedy Central run.)

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CanHorror Linked to Recent Murder: All Aboard for Specious Reasoning

There’s a new, bizarre Canadian horror movie twist in the case of accused Montreal-based killer Luka Magnotta. Apparently, Magnotta was friendly with neighbour Derek MacKinnon, the actor who formerly played Kenny in TERROR TRAIN. Now MacKinnon is being quoted in the media as speculating whether TERROR TRAIN influenced the grisly crimes. Because, they’re like, totally the same.

“(My character) killed 11 people, my appearance was always changing and I dismembered a victim,” MacKinnon said of his character in the film, shot in Montreal 32 years ago.

“The similarity is pretty significant.”

Um, what? See the rest of the article.


Upcoming Screenings: June 2012

While many of us discovered Canuxploitation films through late night TV screenings and VHS rentals, there’s still something special about catching a locally produced B-movie classic in the theatre alongside other Canadian film fans. Here’s our monthly update featuring upcoming classic Canadian cinema screenings. Want your screening listed? Contact us.

June 1, 9:30
Trash Palace, Toronto
Tax shelter classic about a conservative political party that unleashes a conspiracy of dirty psychological tricks to get people to vote for them. My, how far fetched! More info here.

THE GATE — 35mm
June 21, 8pm
Toronto Underground Cinema
Canuxploitation.com is proud to co-sponsor a screening of Tibor Tackas’ kid horror classic  THE GATE, part of Rue Morgue magazine’s monthly CineMacabre screening series. More info here.


Cathode Ray Mission: KUNG FU DINO POSSE (2010)

CanTV expert Cameron Archer navigates the often inhospitable landscape of Canadian television for the CATHODE RAY MISSION, our regular blog column that highlights some of Canadian television’s most offbeat offerings.

I don’t usually talk about recent Canadian shows for this column, since they either aren’t obscure yet, haven’t proven their worth to a worldwide audience or simply don’t belong on Canuxploitation. However, KUNG FU DINO POSSE (CITV, 2010- ) does — it’s a Canadian cartoon that is persona non grata to Canadian television, despite recieving many tax credits. Sadly, KUNG FU DINO POSSE,  which has a 2009 copyright date, is worse than its name implies.

The Basic Formula

Four anthropomorphic dinosaurs — tyrannohuman Kane (Matthew Gorman), tricerahuman Lucy (Laura Kolisnyk), pteranohuman Jet (Brent Hirose), and stegohuman Chow (Nolan Balzer) — are revived in a present-day city. They know kung fu (of course), and they live and work in a museum. Two humans, Edgar Chudley (Simon Miron) and Polly (Amy Tang), help the Kung Fu Dino Posse in their battles against the evil Skor (Carey Smith) and Skrap (Kevin Michele) .

The overall premise is a variation on EXTREME DINOSAURS (syndicated, 1996) and DINO SQUAD (CBS/KEWLopolis, 2007-09), in which good dinosaurs fight a villain, usually a raptor. For KUNG FU DINO POSSE, the lead villains, Skor and Skrap, are called “raptors”, but they’re actually dilophohumans. No matter, KUNG FU DINO POSSE throws lampshades on things like “accuracy.”

The Weird Bits

It’s a TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (Syndicated, 1987-93; CBS, 1990-96; 4Kids TV/The CW4Kids, 2003-09; Nickelodeon, 2012- ) variant, in 2009. The show’s creator is Peter M. Lenkov, who’s better known in television for the HAWAII FIVE-0 revival (CBS, 2010- ), and CSI: NY (CBS, 2004- ). Lenkov’s other recent cartoon is METAJETS, which Teletoon officially debuted in fall 2011. While METAJETS has bounced on and off Teletoon’s schedule for a few years, no one in Canada has touched KUNG FU DINO POSSE. It’s never a good sign when a completed show — of forty episodes — can’t find an immediate home in its originating country.

From what I’ve seen of KUNG FU DINO POSSE  (i.e., one and a half episodes; any more would be torture) it’s a show that knows it’s stupid. Unfortunately, KUNG FU DINO POSSE lets you know how postmodern it is, as the show constantly sends itself up. KUNG FU DINO POSSE covers up its brainfarts by coughing every single minute.

Let’s Attempt to Watch

First up is a Cookie Jar Entertainment teaser for the series. Keep in mind, this show compares itself to TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES and JUSTICE LEAGUE (Cartoon Network, 2001-04; Cartoon Network, 2004-06 as JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED). KUNG FU DINO POSSE throws rocks at men with machine guns.

In the next clip, take note of the choppy animation. That’s not YouTube dropping frames. Dutchboyasaurus–see what I mean about the send-ups? Imagine this five-minute clip expanded to four times its length. That’s KUNG FU DINO POSSE. I realize this is entertainment for grade-school children, but KUNG FU DINO POSSE will likely hold up the way HAMMERMAN (ABC, 1991) holds up in 2012.

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Long Live the Newest Flesh

First it was Ivan Reitman and his son Jason, and now Canada may have its second family film dynasty in the works. Canadian horror icon David Cronenberg has hit Cannes with his son Brandon, whose debut film, ANTIVIRAL had its first screening. Here’s a nice little clip of the pair being interviewed at the festival last week:

While it seems that Cronenberg the elder has largely abandoned his exploration of body horror, we’re hoping that Brandon’s ANTIVIRAL, a U.S. co-production about designer “celebrity” diseases, may be poised to pick up where he left off.

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