Remembering CCCP 1

Last week’s 10-minute interruption by a state-run Russian television network of the CSPAN 1 television feed of Rep. Maxine Waters speaking from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives reminded me of SCTV’s prescient programming back in 1981.

First, here is what happened a week ago (Thursday, January 12).

And now some background: SCTV was about a low-budget local television station that, thanks to satellite distribution to cable systems, underwent an unlikely transformation to first a “superstation” and later a network (inspired, I sure, by Ted Turner’s WCTG Channel 17 superstation). Located in the fictitious Canadian town of Melonville, SCTV spoofs everything from Canadian Broadcasting rules requiring a certain percentage of Canadian-originated content (hence Bob and Doug McKenzie’s “Great White North,” a comically rambling show about beer and sibling resentments) to cheesy local TV programming, current events, and popular culture in general.

It’s hard to pick a favorite SCTV storyline or episode. This was one of my favorite television series ever, a show that gave us great actors like John Candy, Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Martin Short, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, and Joe Flaherty. But if I had to choose just one, it would be CCCP 1 (or as they say it on the show: Three C P One).

The CCCP 1 station is SCTV’s Soviet counterpart, a decidedly low-budget Russian television station featuring 1950s-era technology like huge microphones hanging from cords around people’s necks and giant cameras requiring operators with brute strength to dolly forward and back. Somehow CCCP 1  knocks out SCTV’s satellite (portrayed by a vintage lunch counter broiler with those rotating rows of hot dogs)

and takes over the SCTV feed, treating us to an incomprehensible Scrabble-like game show and a series called “Hey Giorgi!” about a happy guy who walks around his rural Russian town and solves everyone’s problems. (Again, the show demonstrates its smarts by incorporating local prejudices into the “Giorgi!” narrative: Car won’t start? Giorgi raises the hood to discover a cluster of straws in one corner. Hmm, looks like Uzbeks have been drinking your battery fluid again.)

So here is the CCCP 1 episode in its entirety. It opens with an ad for Perry Como’s concert (in which the singer’s famously “relaxed” style is taken to an extreme) and features most of my favorite characters.

The first CCCP 1 interception appears shortly after the 15-minute mark. With today’s uncertainty over Russia and possible election hacking and now this unexplained interruption of the CSPAN 1 feed, it seems an ideal time to look back—both to laugh at and reflect upon the clunky reality of everyday Soviet life versus the frightening spectre of our Cold War enemy.

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. My blog is a space for playing with ideas about creativity, innovation, lifelong learning, and the nature of "insight."
This entry was posted in News, Political Analysis, Popular culture, Television and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Remembering CCCP 1

  1. MELewis says:

    Wow, this is a real blast from the past! I remember watching SCTV back in the early 80s – it was totally cult in Toronto. Very curious about how you got to see it though. Did you spend time in the Great Whit North or was the show broadcast in the US?

    • SCTV was also broadcast in the U.S., where it ran (at least in my town) right after “Saturday Night Live.” OMG I so LOVED that show! Maybe it was a cult thing here, too, and I just didn’t realize it. Yeah, it probably was. Because it ran so late at night, who would be up watching it? Or home and not out at a bar? (Or given the era, a disco?) But my friends and I thought it was incredibly smart and funny.

  2. mworfolk says:

    Thank you for this nostalgia trip! I loved SCTV as a kid! So many fantastic characters. I’m sure I didn’t understand a lot of the cultural references, but I still found it hilarious.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s