SNL Retro: Buck Henry/Sun Ra (5/20/78) – Plus Year-End Awards!

Posted: October 29, 2011 by Brendan Wahl in SNL Retro Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by Brendan Wahl

(Season 3, Episode 20)

Here it is, the season finale. It’s been quite an awesome ride with this season with only one small misfire (Kahn/Mahal) and a huge number of very strong episodes and near-classics. Even ones that were not great like Chevy Chase/Billy Joel or Jill Clayburgh/Eddie Money were still fairly good. It’s pretty telling of a season’s quality when some of the worst episodes average at probably about *** 1/2.

Of course, we close out the season as we always did from seasons 2-5: with lovable reliable ol’ Buck Henry, a very easy host to work with for the Not Ready For Primetime Players and one who was willing to go places with the sketches that many other hosts would’ve shied away from doing.

 

The Show:

“The Boy in the Plastic Pants Suit” will not be seen tonight.

1. Cold Opening: Nixon’s Book (2:59)

Former President Richard Nixon (Aykroyd) urges people to buy his book and says that even if you don’t believe him and you don’t want to read it, you can just buy it and then kick it around. That’ll show him!

- Great use of Danny’s Nixon impression and it was also pretty funny to see after Aykroyd’s blatant attack on Tricky Dick during the goodnights last week.
- Aykroyd’s solution to buy the book just to kick it around was hilarious and I liked him attributing it to his famous quote, “You don’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.” His comment that Pat was already on her fourth copy was also pretty amusing.
- Garrett Morris gets a role here that any extra could’ve played.
Rating: *** 1/2

2. Monologue (3:29)

Buck professes his love for hosting the show and being a part of this great experience all the while some scrolling text proclaims Buck’s career to be over and that he is clinging onto his last shred of fame.

- Hilarious monologue. I loved the text that scrolled by during Buck’s serious speech about the dignity he has, his loving family, and the fact that NBC being in third place can’t really afford to be sentimental by thrusting a sad-sack like Buck onto the stage as the host of the season finale. The whole thing was just timed perfectly too.
Rating: **** 1/2

3. Nerd Prom (7:50)

Todd DiLaMuca (Murray) gets ready to escort Lisa Loopner (Radner) to the prom along with Todd’s dad Marshall (Henry), who drives them there. They eventually convince Mrs. Loopner (Curtin) to join them as well.

- Nice callback to the previous Nerds sketch with Lisa playing the same piano tune at the beginning.
- Another terrific sketch featuring the Nerds. Buck Henry was a great addition as Marshall DiLaMuca (still DiLaBounta at the time), but of course everyone worked really hard in making this great sketch work well again.
- My favourite parts were Gilda saying she knows the facts of life (she DID get an A in health), Buck’s lame John Travolta joke, pretty much all the interaction between Billy and Gilda, and the quick moment with Buck picking his nose.
- I like how with every sketch, the death of “the late Mr. Loopner” gets more gruesome and mysterious.
Rating: *****

4. Samurai T.V. Repairman (3:27)

Mr. Dantley (Henry) visits the electronic repair shop to have Samurai Futaba (Belushi) take a look and repair his television.

- Of course, nothing will ever top the classic Samurai Delicatessen sketch but I’ve never really disliked any of these sketches.
- I particularly liked the inspector tag on the TV from Japan being revealed to be the Samurai’s mother’s ID number.
- The ending with Belushi striking it with the sword and fixing it and then using his swords for antennas was also brilliant.
Rating: ****

5. Sodom Chamber of Commerce (4:17)

The ancient ciity of Sodom holds a council in which its members (Henry, Aykroyd, Belushi, Morris, & Murray) attempt to come up with a positive spin on their city that will do away with the whole imagery of sodomy and human sacrifice.

- Very funny and creative sketch. They could never get away with something like this today for the subject matter alone. I mean, an entire sketch about anal sex? The censors would pass out.
- Great performance from Buck here as the sturdy straightman. His deadpan delivery on some ridiculous and dark lines made them even more effective. He even had some fairly cheesy lines here but because of Buck’s wonderful performance, he made them work too.
- Murray was hilarious too, especially his delivery while reading their slogan: “You have to be crazy to live in Sodom. Crazy about sodomy.”
- The ending with Jane, Laraine, and Gilda was great.
Rating: **** 1/2

6. UPDATE TEASER w/Jane Curtin (:06)

Donny Osmond consummates his marriage while his wife, Debbie, watches.

7. WEEKEND UPDATE w/Dan Aykroyd & Jane Curtin (9:32)
Guest: Laraine Newman and Bill Murray

Best Jokes: hamburgers; fanfare expression; Charlie Chaplin’s body; Italy/abortions






- Yet ANOTHER great sponsor bit.
- The fanfare bit really worked due to Aykroyd’s terrific delivery.
- The first piece is Laraine Newman reporting from the Son of Sam trial via an artist’s rendering because there were no cameras allowed in the courthouse. Pretty funny stuff here, actually, with the crappy drawing and the reporting giving us absolutely no real information on the case.
- Bill Murray comes by to review The Greek Tycoon based on a quick clip he is shown at the last second. His best bit was accusing one of the actors for saying “excuse me” and stealing Steve Martin’s line in the process. His attempt at calling Jackie Onassis (to inform her that the movie ripped off her life) was also hilarious, especially him saying John Belushi’s name after his own name doesn’t get him anywhere. Terrific segment.
- Aykroyd’s commentary on Betty Ford’s alcoholism was pretty funny devolving into a reference to other first ladies’ problems with the juice. It died with the audience though.
- The Point/Counterpoint segment deals with Dan and Jane arguing in a courteous way about which side they will take, but then they soon devolve into a sharp-tongued debate about the merits of jogging. I like the minor changes they made to this and it made for another classic point/counterpoint.
- Perfect edition of Update this week.
Rating: *****

8. The Olympia Cafe (5:05)

Life continues at the Chicago-based restaurant where a representative (Henry) from Rent-a-Doberman comes in to talk with Pete (Belushi) about getting a guard dog in the restaurant to protect it from burglary.

- Very funny edition of this recurring sketch. I really liked Belushi haggling the price of the doberman rental and his consrant firing and rehiring of Murray’s character was a hoot as well. It really says something for Bill’s acting when I actually felt really bad for him everytime he got mistreated in this sketch.
- Belushi grabbing an axe to take care of “that lamb in the basement” was a great little moment.
Rating: ****

9. Mr. Mike’s Least-Loved Music (2:56)

Mr. Mike sings a tune called “Baby Ghouls” while a vampire (Newman) provides backup and eventually bites his neck.

- An example of Mr. Mike’s strange warped sense of humour. This wasn’t so much laugh-out-loud funny as much as it was an insane, strange, and dark conceptual piece with some great stuff from a singing Mr. Mike and Laraine.
- I loved Laraine’s sign-language bit at the beginning.
Rating: *** 1/2

10. More Insects to Worry About (4:41)

Joan Face (Curtin) interviews Dr. Russell Bedanza (Henry) about other various forms of insects that are making their way to the United States.

- The first time they did this sketch, I thought it was okay but I don’t really see the merit in repeating it again in the same season. This was actually quite a bit better than the first edition though and Buck and Jane had great chemistry together.
- The part that made me laugh the most is Jane quickly mentioning that part of Buck’s research included living with the insects as one of their kind. My favourite insect that Buck mentions is the one that enters through any opening on the body and brings in everday items to the brain like car keys, a paperback novel, and other such ridiculous items.
Rating: ****

11. Stunt Puppy (4:54)

Middle-aged actor Howard (Henry) is directed to inflict abuse on a puppy during a film shoot, but the director (Murray) makes sure to bring in a stunt puppy for the scenes.

- This was essentially a carbon-copy of Stunt Baby, but it was still hilarious nonetheless. Murray turns in another great smarmy performance as the director and Buck’s scene of violence against the puppy was almost as good as the one he had with the baby in his previous episode.
Rating: ****

12. Bad Conceptual Art (2:58)

Leonard Pinth-Garnell (Aykroyd) presents a piece on bad conceptual art named “Pavlov Video Chicken I” featuring three performers (Morris, Newman, & Radner).

- Yet ANOTHER recurring sketch tonight. And yet, with all of the recurring pieces tonight, it’s still looking like another excellent episode is in the books tonight.
- This was an okay edition of the sketch but overall it was not quite as good as most of these pieces were. It felt like they were just being weird and thought it would translate into great material but it didn’t really work as well as it was planned.
Rating: **

13. The Franken and Davis Show (4:20)

Al and Tom prepare to do their “famous” sumo wrestling piece but Davis can no longer take the pressure of hiding his secret. After Al reveals his “wife” and “son,” Tom yells out that they are in fact gay lovers and have been living a lie. This causes Al’s family to walk out on him.

- This was excellent and one of my favourite Franken and Davis pieces that these guys ever did. The audience jeering when Tom asks if they have respect for Al now was the cherry on the cake.
- I especially liked Al’s son’s outburst about how much he hates him now.
- The ending was so dark with Franken committing suicide but the two of them waving after the title card made it even funnier with Tom declaring that Al “didn’t really shoot himself.”
Rating: *****

14. Sun Ra performs “Space is the Place” and “Space-Loneliness” (6:03)

- Hands-down, one of the strangest performances in the history of the show. There’s been some odd acts on the show like the I’m The Slime performance by Frank Zappa, David Bowie singing Boys Keep Swinging with a super-imposed puppet body, and Devo in general, but this was one of the most oddly compelling ones that also doubled as one of the more creative performances I’ve seen in some time.
- I also find it very interesting that this was pushed to the very end of the show. Perhaps Lorne knew they would lose a lot of people at this point and didn’t want to take that risk. Or maybe it was the network’s suggestion not to take it. Either way, it was probably a wise business move because I’m sure a lot of SNL‘s audience was pretty weirded out by this segment.
- They keep playing long after the bumper has shown up.

15. Goodnights

- Buck mentions “they’ll all be back in the fall… or not.”

 

OVERALL: A very, very strong season finale with only one lowpoint (Bad Conceptual Art) and many classic sketches to choose from. It’s always nice to have a reliable host like Buck Henry close out the season and the show always benefitted from having him as the host. There was A LOT of recurring material tonight (the only things that weren’t recurring was the cold open, monologue, and the sodomy sketch. It didn’t really bug me though because 90% of it was great to begin with and warranted some additional follow-ups to the sketches.

I’ve said all I can say about the season in general so let’s just say that it ended on a high note to what was an INCREDIBLE string of episodes with VERY minor blips on the radar.

APPEARANCES:

HOST: BUCK HENRY – 7 segments (Monologue; Nerd Prom; Samurai T.V. Repairman; Sodom Chamber of Commerce; The Olympia Cafe; More Insects to Worry About; Stunt Puppy)

DAN AYKROYD – 5 segments (Nixon’s Book; Sodom Chamber of Commerce; Weekend Update; The Olympia Cafe; Bad Conceptual Art)
JOHN BELUSHI – 3 segments (Samurai T.V. Repairman; Sodom Chamber of Commerce; The Olympia Cafe)
JANE CURTIN – 6 segments (Nerd Prom; Sodom Chamber of Commerce; Weekend Update; The Olympia Cafe; More Insects to Worry About; Stunt Puppy)
GARRETT MORRIS – 5 segments (Nixon’s Book; Sodom Chamber of Commerce; The Olympia Cafe; Stunt Puppy; Bad Conceptual Art)
BILL MURRAY – 5 segments (Nerd Prom; Sodom Chamber of Commerce; Weekend Update; The Olympia Cafe; Stunt Puppy)
LARAINE NEWMAN – 5 segments (Sodom Chamber of Commerce; Weekend Update; The Olympia Cafe; Mr. Mike’s Least-Loved Music; Bad Conceptual Art)
GILDA RADNER – 5 segments (Nerd Prom; Sodom Chamber of Commerce; The Olympia Cafe; Stunt Puppy; Bad Conceptual Art)

TOM DAVIS – 1 segment (The Franken and Davis Show)
AL FRANKEN – 1 segment (The Franken and Davis Show)

 

AND NOW…

MY END-OF-THE-SEASON AWARDS:

Best Shows:

1. Steve Martin/Blues Brothers (4/22/78)
2. Robert Klein/Bonnie Raitt (1/28/78)
3. Buck Henry/Sun Ra (5/20/78)

Worst Shows:

1. Madeline Kahn/Taj Mahal (10/8/77)
2. Chevy Chase/Billy Joel (2/18/78)
3. Jill Clayburgh/Eddie Money (3/18/78)

Best Hosts:

1. Steve Martin
2. Buck Henry
3. Michael Palin

Worst Hosts:

1. Hugh Hefner
2. Michael Sarrazin
3. Art Garfunkel

Best Musical Guests:

1. Elvis Costello
2. Ray Charles
3. The Blues Brothers

Worst Musical Guests:

1. Keith Jarrett
2. Libby Titus
3. Ashford & Simpson

This was a really tough list to make and a lot of the ‘worst’ categories are just the weakest by default.

About these ads
Comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s