Bob Hope Show
Bones Writers Room
Comedy Bang Bang
Grace Under Fire
The Dave Thomas Show
The New Show
Public Enemy Number 2
Time Travels of Henry Osgoode
(From Vulture Sept. 11, 2019)
As the seminal Canadian sketch-show SCTV closed out its run in 1984, its insanely talented cast scattered to the winds of Hollywood. Martin Short was off to SNL, John Candy had already left the show to begin his film career, and Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara were right behind him. Dave Thomas, on the other hand, just couldn’t shake off sketch. In 1984 he was both a writer and actor for Lorne Michaels’s short-lived return to television, The New Show. It was here that he met Max Pross and Tom Gammill, legendary writers who’ve worked on The Simpsons, Seinfeld, and Late Night With David Letterman. But in 1984, they were just starting out on television. With The New Show canceled, Thomas took Pross and Gammill up North to Canada, and from there, into space with Rocket Boy.
Rocket Boy began its life in 1984, produced by Nelvana and Orion Television as a parody of the Flash Gordon–Buck Rogers space serials of the ’50s, just in time to cash in on the crest of first-wave Star Wars mania. Thomas played the titular Rocket Boy and was joined by veteran actor James Hong as Mr. Wong, the owner of the video store; Mork and Mindy’s Robert Donner as the villainous Hawkhead; and the occasional guest appearance from SCTV alumni John Candy and Rick Moranis, as well as dozens and dozens of Canadian stars.
The show itself is strange in that it simultaneously feels completely of its time but also strangely contemporary. It doesn’t move at a modern pace, but it does cram in an awful lot of ideas for a TV show that’s nearly 35 years old. It is marred, however, by a constant laugh track that reacts to anything and everything that could be vaguely interpreted as a joke. There are some legitimately good jokes throughout the series, but they become hard to spot when a viewer trains their brain to write off anything the prerecorded laughter reacts to. The Orion press materials state that the show would “not only deliver the kids, but the all important teen and adult demos too,” and it was clear that the show was written with that intention. There’s nothing too adult about Rocket Boy’s humor, but it does carry a bit of the SCTV and Pross–Gammill cynicism. It lightly skewers the science-fiction genre while still seeming to relish the opportunity to play with those very same sci-fi tropes.
Guest Appearances on TV Shows
The Dave Thomas Show aired on CBS in 1990
I left a lucrative job as a copywriter at McCann Erickson Advertising to join the cast of Toronto's Second City stage show. This led to my first television roles: one was a guest star role on CBC TV’s The King of Kensington - a sitcom starring Al Waxman and Fiona Reed that aired on the CBC. The other was a CBC pilot for a series entitled Rimshots. I co-starred in that with Catherine O’Hara, Andrea Martin, and Saul Rubinek. Anf finally, I was a recurring regular on CTV's The David Steinberg Show in 1975.
But during this time, I continued performing on stage at the Second City, six nights a week, two shows on Fridays and Saturdays.
In 1976, realizing Lorne Michaels had pirated their stage casts for SNL, the owners of Second City – Bernie Sahlins and Andrew Alexander - felt that they had better start their own sketch comedy TV show before Lorne stole any more cast members from the Second City. This is where SCTV was born. That show launched my career as it also did for fellow SCTV cast members Eugene Levy, John Candy, Catherine O'Hara, Andrea Martin, Joe Flaherty, Harold Ramis, Martin Short and Rick Moranis. SCTV went on for five seasons, winning several Emmy Awards along the way. I wrote a entire book on SCTV, documenting the birth and evolution of the show. It’s out of print now but you can still find copies for sale on Amazon.