We’re now halfway through the Kids In The Hall’s big television comeback, a murder mystery narrative, and it’s one of the best new comedies I’ve seen in a long time. While they’ve freely admitted to the influence of The League of Gentlemen on the format, it actually has more in common with Psychoville. This is at its most obvious in the opening episode where it similarly suffers on the laugh front from having to introduce so many characters and plot elements. Though unlike Psychoville however, KITH aren’t so in love with horror movies that it gets in the way of the funny. I always got the feeling from Psychoville that Pemberton and Sheersmith were actually those “How Many Kills?” teenagers from The League of Gentlemen when they were younger. And possibly hadn’t grown up all that much.
In fact Death Comes To Town is very light and whimsical in its handling of material that could have easily been made spooky and creepy. As grotesque as some of the characters are, there’s a degree of sympathy in their portrayals. While it’s shed the sketch show element of their earlier work, the actual performances of the older Kids are far beyond their old work. This is reflected in the characters who, by and large, are new creations.
Of the main characters, only Bruce McCulloch & Mark McKinney cop characters have been imported from original KITH show intact, though others appear as cameos (The Chicken Lady showed up briefly in episode 4) and other characters are extensions of types they’ve portrayed before. McKinney’s Death character feels like a deadbeat version of his Satan and Kevin McDonald’s public defence lawyer is a variation of the multitude of twitchy neurotics he’s portrayed over the years.
Another big difference is that there are plenty of non-KITH performers showing up too, from original (pre-TV) KITH member Luciano Casimiri as The Prabbi (Half Priest-Half Rabbi) to Colin Mochrie as an exploitative vet who has kept McDonald’s lawyer characters cat alive for 30+ years.
The greatest thing about it though is that as well as having great gags and great performances, it also legitimately works as a mystery. Not only is it slowly revealing more about the murder the show hinges around, there’s also a secondary set of mysteries surrounding Death. Like a lot of the characters he started off one-note, but as we get more and more glimpses of his past, he becomes a lot more complex and more questions are raised.
You’ll have to be Canadian to watch it at the moment, or do a decent impression of one on the internet, and as much as I’d hope we’d get this over in the UK, the fact we only got 13 episodes of KITH in the first place doesn’t exactly bode well. It’ll be a shame as it’s one of two recent comedies (both from creators making comebacks of sorts) that really gave me some confidence about TV comedy again.