By Dexter Brown
We’ve set our time machine back to 1985 and switch on CTV, Howard Bannister and the gang is on. This week on Rewind, we check out Check It Out!
Watching supermarket sitcom Check It Out! (CTV 1985-1988) in 2012 is a wild mind trip to television’s past. The show is complete with the typical 80s sitcom antics right down to the decade’s signature massive hairdos. Unabashedly retro, Check It Out! appears to be completely oblivious to the fact that it was setting itself up to look very dated very quickly.
At first glance, Check It Out! may simply seem to be a vehicle for Get Smart’s Don Adams. This time instead of playing a spy, Adams takes the role of the store manager of a large supermarket chain. In a typical episode of Check It Out! you’ll get to see Adams’ character Howard Bannister interact with various fellow dim-witted employees and some difficult patrons. Despite its ho-hum premise and the predictable writing (compared to today’s television), it lasted a solid three seasons on CTV and even made it onto the USA network and syndication in the States.
Personally, I found it a bit jarring seeing Adams staring in a little Canadian show like Check It Out! but it was the 80s; Bea Arthur, then star of the popular series The Golden Girls was even doing commercials for Shoppers Drug Mart back then. To have American stars show up so prominently in the Canadian homegrown scripted TV business seems to be a less common phenomenon now. It’s rare to see a big-name American celebrity staring or guest starring on Canadian TV. Exceptions to the rule include Felicity and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ Amy Jo Johnson who now stars in CTV’s Flashpoint and Ed Asner of Mary Tyler Moore and Lou Grant fame who made a few guest appearances on Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The series shares some similarities to TBS’ 10 Items or Less which was canceled way back in 2009. 10 Items felt much like a remake of Check It Out! done in a similar style to NBC’s The Office and also added the improvisational style of Curb Your Enthusiasm. It too lasted three seasons on American cable. Neither 10 Items nor Check It Out! seemed to click with their audiences. My theory is that supermarkets aren’t the most exciting eventful places in the world and they often don’t produce the most exciting characters. But then again, CTV’s Corner Gas was set virtually in the middle of nowhere with some average middle-of-the-road characters and it turned out to be one of Canadian television’s greatest hits.
If you’d like to catch up with Check It Out! you’ll find it over on Comedy Gold.