13. 'SCTV' (1976-1984)
"Del Close first came up with the idea that SCTV should be a programming day for a small television station," cast member Dave Thomas claims, remembering the day that the cream of Second City's Canadian crop were brainstorming about a small-screen endeavor. "Everyone missed Del's comment except [producer] Sheldon [Patinkin], who picked up on it immediately." The improv guru's high-concept was nothing short of genius: You had a structure to follow and the license to riff on anything from cooking shows to commercials. Plus it gave a crack comic ensemble the chance to do dead-on impressions (Thomas' Bob Hope, Catherine O'Hara's Liz Taylor, Eugene Levy's Henry Kissinger, John Candy's Divine) and develop a stable of recurring characters — where would Canadian pop culture be without supreme hosers Bob and Doug McKenzie? No less than Harold Ramis helped launch the first few seasons; later, after NBC picked up the show, Martin Short joined the cast. A final season on Cinemax with barely half the original cast sounded the death knell, but during its glory years, no television show offered a funnier metacommentary about the medium. "We were the children of TV," Thomas says. "We were champing at the bit to satirize these programs and celebrities."