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: Second City Television (SCTV) was a Toronto-based television show 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 assume, by Ted Turner’s WCTG Channel 17 superstation). Located in the fictitious Canadian town of Melonville, SCTV spoofed 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 for me 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 ongoing storyline, it would be CCCP 1 (or as they say it on the show: Three C P One).
The CCCP 1 “network” 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. (Historic aside: Despite Soviet technological advances in military and space exploration, the USSR domestic sectors affecting ordinary, day-to-day life did not keep pace, so the heavy, outdated television-production equipment was a nod to that sorry fact.) 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. UPDATE: The clip I originally embedded got taken down. For a while I couldn’t find a CCCP 1 episode online, but today (12/23/2020) I found a new one.
Further update: This clip keeps on disappearing, sadly. You can find bits and pieces on YouTube but never the entire episode. This post is getting several hits today (February 28, 2022), most likely due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. So I’ll update here with two clips to give you the gist of the CCCP 1 part of the episode.
First, a clip of the programming immediately prior to the satellite interception, a performance of Julius Caesar starring all your fave SCTV regulars.
Then the first CCCP 1 interception appears, immediately after Julius Caesar is stabbed. (Et tu Brute???)
This is the original text that closed my 2017 post: 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.
And now here are some thoughts on what is happening today, on the last day of February in 2022: I have never seen the type of worldwide response to a geopolitical event that we’ve witnessed in the past several days. I’ve written a few blog posts about Russia and Ukraine since 2014, which you can find by searching for those terms in the search bar of my website or, if you’re on a phone and have pulled up a post that isn’t hosted directly on my blog (which seems to happen on phones unless you go straight to my home page at KatherineWikoff.com), you should just be able to plug my name, Russia, and Ukraine into any search engine to find them.
Anyway, it is astonishing to see multiple independent actors doing their own things to aid Ukraine and apply “sanctions” of various sorts to Russia. Things like Anonymous hacking into government offices and banks in Russia and Belarus, plus renaming Putin’s yacht and changing the tracking manifest info to indicate that it is going to Hell. Social media instruction on how to make Molotov cocktails. An urban warfare expert at West Point sharing tips on Twitter to teach ordinary people how to fight against anyone who invades their city. A tank mechanic from Minnesota sharing info on how to locate tanks’ vulnerabilities and disable them, especially as the soldiers driving tanks rarely know how to repair them. TikTok videos demonstrating how to drive any abandoned tanks or military vehicles one might find. Major movie studios refusing to release films in Russia. Russian sports teams being barred from international competition. Google Wallet and Apple Pay apps ceasing to work.
It’s fascinating to watch this very 21st-century response to a 20th-century style military aggression. I just hope that the horrible weaponry alluded to in Putin’s vague (and insane, IMO) threats can remain firmly consigned to the past. Surely humankind has moved beyond the impulse toward self-annihilation–although I realize, even as I type the words, what a ridiculous and naive thought that is.