Back in the 80s and 90s, Canada’s Kids in the Hall seemed poised to inherit some kind of spam crown from Monty Python. Their live and television shows developed a sizable cult following, though they never achieved as widespread a fandom as the Flying Circus, and their single theatrical release played to moderate houses. This January sees their return to television, an eight-part comedy series in which the Grim Reaper arrives in a crazed small town.
Cast and Crew
Writers: Bruce McCulloch and Kevin McDonald
Director: Kelly Makin
As Various Characters:
Full cast and crew available at the imdb.
As the small Canadian town of Shuckton awaits for news on their bid to host the 2028 Olympics, Death arrives in town, summons his moped chopper, and sets out for the site of a murder mystery.
Death here resembles an unattractive, portly man in a hooded black cloak and too little else (though he has the power to summon additional outfits). He buys pizza for an obese man; his credit card number consists of zeroes.
I like the Kids, but I was never a diehard fan. I found many of their sketches more clever and bizarre than funny, and too conscious of the troupe’s “hip” appeal. Nevertheless, their oddball characters can be compelling, and this show creates a few darkly comic moments. The first episode includes a genial abortionist conversing with a promiscuous patient, a mentally challenged child seeing his bickering parents as outsized insects, and Death snorting a human soul like a drug.
It’s difficult to know if the parade of impossibly quirky characters can sustain an eight-part series. We have an entire town of them, and it already verges on overkill. Balanced against their shenanigans are too few really memorable moments.
Originality: 3/6. Death in a Small Town join characters who could have been, or actually were, on the Kids’ old sketch comedy series. Especially familiar will be the emotionally abusive middle-aged couple, a satiric riff uncomfortably close to reality.
Effects: 5/6. The costumes, fat suits, make-up, and a few actual visual effects serve their purposes.
Story: 4/6. The first episode introduces the characters and sets a story in motion. Perhaps that’s all we can expect in one-half hour of a four-hour tale. I would have liked at least one knockout comic moment, however, and a less disjointed sense of the town.
Acting: 5/6. As in their sketch comedy series, the Kids generally do an admirable job of playing most of the principals. Their female impersonations have a certain sameness, however, and no character really stands out.
Emotional response: 4/6. I found this funny in places. If you liked the Kids before (or would have, had you watched them), you’ll enjoy aspects of their new show. If you never got their appeal, Death Comes to Town won’t explain it for you.
“Death Checks In” receives 30/42.