When he was a teenager, Ritchie Velthuis was a big fan of SCTV. And there was something he recognized when comedians Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas put on their tuques and raised their stubbies as Bob and Doug McKenzie.
What Velthuis realized was that these two fictional back-bacon loving, bickering brothers reminded him a lot of … people he saw around Edmonton.
“They were two people that you’d find anywhere in Alberta,” Velthuis says.
When Bob and Doug made their first appearance, SCTV was being taped in Edmonton. So, it was fitting that an eight-year mission to build an SCTV monument downtown would result in full-colour statues of the duo at the corner of 103rd Street and 103rd Avenue, in the heart of the ICE District.
“It’s surreal to see it done,” says Velthuis, whose snow sculptures you may have seen over the years at the Silver Skate Festival. “But I am truly honoured to have been a part of this. Many of my commissions I’ve had take months to do, but this was a five-year project.”
Eight-year mission? Five-year project? Well, let’s back things up to 2012. In January, Avenue ran a cover feature on SCTV — how the show really caught fire in the years that it was produced in Edmonton, out of the old ITV studios. Dr. Charles Allard, who owned ITV, made the offer to bring a show in danger of cancellation to Edmonton.
The cast flourished here. They weren’t in Toronto or New York, so they didn’t have network execs breathing down their necks. And their work soon became staples on both NBC and CBC. As an answer to CBC, which wanted more “Canadian” content on a show that was being aired on both sides of the border, Thomas and Moranis had the brainchild to create the most stereotypical Canadians they could think of. Bob and Doug.
Well, enough with the SCTV history lesson. As part of Avenue’s 2012 package on SCTV, we asked, should there be a monument to the show in Edmonton?
And it was our publisher, Orville Chubb, who wanted us to take ownership of the cause. We launched an online petition. Later that year, we held an event, with the support of SCTV’s creators, a retrospective at Metro Cinema. I did a Pecha Kucha talk about why Edmonton needed an SCTV monument.
The Allard family supported our vision, and together we struck a committee with the sole purpose of making the monument a reality. We selected Velthuis from a series of applicants.
But it takes a lot of time — and paperwork (oh, the paperwork) — to make public art a reality. Where would the statue go? How would it be secured? Who would clean the pigeon droppings off of it? Who would touch it up in the future? All of these hurdles needed to be crossed.
In the Oilers and the ICE District, we found an enthusiastic partner. A big launch event was planned for late March of this year. Cast members confirmed their attendance. And then, COVID-19 scuttled those plans, though there will be an official launch party in the future.
But the statue was installed, quietly. Except, as soon as it went in, social media exploded with the news. Orville, who passed away in 2018, was about as big an Edmonton booster as I’ve ever met, and I’m sure he would have been thrilled to see the city’s reaction.
“We are truly honoured to have a Bob and Doug McKenzie Monument in the City of Edmonton,” said Moranis in a statement. “It’s hard to believe it was 40 years ago that we recorded the very first episode of SCTV’s The Great White North at ITV Studios. Despite the time that has passed, we hold dear the memories of working with the people of Edmonton. We look forward to returning very soon to see our old friends who worked on the show and take a look at our new bronze brothers in the flesh.”
And we’ll be looking forward to having Moranis and Thomas here for an official launch. We’ll keep the beer cold and the bacon crispy.
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This article appears in the May 2020 issue of Avenue Edmonton.