Sketch comedy liner notes

One thing I love about reissues of old albums is when they have information regarding the recording sessions for the individual tracks. This is more a thing that happens with jazz albums, where many were cobbled together from different sessions and lineups, but I’ve also seen rock reissues that provide background information about the sessions, as well as details about single releases, chart positions, and so forth.

I would love something similar to exist for TV shows that are made of short segments, particularly sketch comedy shows like SCTVKids in the Hall, and SNL. I’m especially interested in cases where the show had to work around performers’ absences, or if a sketch was held over from one production block and used in a much later show. I would love to get my hands on the paperwork for these (or similar) shows to find out information about tape dates, shooting locations, writing credits, and other little bits of minutiae related to the process of putting all these pieces together into a full-length show.

I’m also interested in the ways these shows are repackaged for reruns and syndication. I’ve written about SNL’s network reruns a few times before, but haven’t really touched on the 60-minute and 30-minute packages; in fact, there have been multiple 60-minute edits of the first five seasons of the show. The Kids in The Hall and SCTV had different cuts for the American and Canadian markets and occasionally included material in one country that wasn’t seen in the other. SCTV’s different incarnations over its original run were also eventually combined into a new package of 185 half hours (though again, the American and Canadian packages have some differences). Seattle sketch show Almost Live! was repackaged and aired on Comedy Central in 1992; these versions combined new material, remakes of studio sketches from the local version, and highlights from the show’s earlier seasons, though often editing or rewriting material to cut down on the overtly local references and to minimize music clearances.

I’m not sure how much of this information still exists, at least in a material form. I piece together what I can using video recordings and the memories of people who were there, but who knows what kind of paperwork still even survives from some of these shows. Even then, why bother? I think there are a lot more stories that can be told about these shows just from these little details, but to many, the aired product is really all that matters,