The skits were outrageously funny, going way beyond anything you'd see done domestically on North American television for the day. While its world view tended to be left-leaning, the writers had no problem making fun of the aspirations and absurdities on the left. But, it being the age of Thatcher and Reagan, most of the solid body-blows were reserved for the conservatives of the day. The humour tended to focus on hypocrisy and the casual inhumanity of people in power and privilege, and nearly all the skits centred around politicians and celebrities. Oddly enough the show could be surprisingly popular with some British MPs of the day, even those it was lampooning. To this day, I still know the names of the members of Thatcher's cabinet better than I know the names of the current Canadian cabinet of Prime Minister... Prime Minister... oh, yes... Harper. :)
For me, the magic was that it was everything Saturday Night Live wasn't. It wasn't afraid to go for the throat, and it understood that brevity was the soul of wit. Some of the skits lasted as little as four or five seconds; few of them more than a minute or two. They soared in under the radar, dropped their bombs, and tore off. I remember one skit in particular that, for no real reason at all, made fun of The Monkees, the 1960s pre-fab four, sending up their theme song. I saw it 12:30 in the morning (as usual when the CBC ran edgier stuff like this) and it had me laughing so hard I could barely catch my breath, and hoped I wasn't going to wake up my parents.
I still have all that on tape, and all those episodes have long been favourites of mine and my friend Larry. Yesterday I found seasons 1-7—pretty much the cream of the crop, as far as I'm concerned—on DVD for only about $50, and I bit. It's all Region 2, but I have an all-region player and I can re-engineer them to Region 1 using the computer anyway, which I'll probably do just so I can watch them on any player. Really looking forward to seeing the stuff I missed.