SNL Retro: Buck Henry/The Band (10/30/76)

Posted: July 1, 2010 by Brendan Wahl in SNL Retro Reviews
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by Brendan Wahl

(Season 2, Episode 6)

Marking his then-record of three times taking center stage, Buck Henry makes his next hosting stint on a most joyous occasion, that being Halloween of course. After last week’s enjoyable, but slightly disappointing episode, Buck comes in to hopefully land another classic much like the other two that he hosted.

It’s easy to see why Buck would get to host so often. He’s just so damn reliable, he’s naturally funny, he would normally write his own monologues, and to top it all off he absolutely loved Michael O’Donoghue’s writing style. This is evidenced in several sketches like Citizen Kane 2 and Mr. Mike’s “impressions” that occurred in the previous two episodes.

Joining Buck for this special holiday-themed episode is The Band. Yes, it’s the last appearance of The Band before their final concert that would see them split up and go their separate ways in each member’s musical career. The Band were known for so many great songs throughout their career and it must’ve been a huge coo for the show to get them as the musical guests.

It’s also a nice counterweight to someone like Buck Henry, who most of the public was fairly unaware of besides his appearances on Saturday Night Live and they might be VAGUELY aware that he co-wrote The Graduate. Having a world-renowned musical guest would have certainly helped with TV ratings anyway.

One final note about this broadcast: this is Chevy Chase’s last episode as a castmember. Oh sure, he would go on to host a number of times and make a few memorable cameos. But this is the episode where he officially left the cast and then waited TWO years to finally make a film.

Let’s see if he goes out in style…

The Show:

1. The Land Shark on Halloween (1:11)

Exactly as it sounds. Think about the two Land Shark sketches from the first season and take one of the death scenes and you’ve got our cold open. Gilda plays victim to the shark (Chase) this time and even though it’s a real basic concept, it’s a fun way to start the show. B+

2. Monologue (2:57)

Buck comes out to sing the praises of the Not Ready For Primetime Players and talks about their many quirks that people in the media seem to make such a big deal out of. Buck’s comic timing and wit are second-to-none and I think my favourite castmember quirk is the closeness between Gilda Radner and her brother. Although Garrett Morris and cannibalism is pretty damn funny too. A

3. Samurai Stockbroker (4:38)

This time, Mr. Dantley (Henry) makes a stop at his stockbroker’s office to complain to Futaba (Belushi) about his terrible stock market advice. The rhythm and pacing here is awesome along with the Buck/Belushi chemistry. It should be noted that Buck gets accidentally cut on the forehead with Belushi’s sword at the end of the sketch. Much like “Samurai Delicatessen”, this is a classic. A+

4. Not For First Ladies Only (3:35)

Baba Wawa (Radner) speaks to Betty Ford (Curtin) and Rosalynn Carter (Newman) about why they would make a great First Lady, but then quickly shifts the attention to herself and thinks that Baba herself would make an even better candidate. The performances here are quite funny and the political satire still works. A

5. Roots (4:05)

“I’m Garrett Morris and I’m a black person.” Taking a page out of Alex Haley’s playbook, Garrett takes a look back at his own roots and realizes that, for one, one of his ancestors was “gang-raped by all the signers of the Declaration of Independence.” This was a pretty clever piece from Garrett. A-

6. Debate ’76 (7:59)

Sporting a large bandage on his head, Buck plays moderator to the final debate between President Ford (Chase) and Governor Carter (Aykroyd). However, this debate calls for the swimsuit competition and the special talent segment. The whole thing is essentially a parody of those overdone beauty pageants and it’s a very enjoyable piece. I especially love when Ford points out Buck’s bandage. A

7. Weekend Update with Chevy Chase (Part I)

Now with an even larger bandage on his head, Chevy mentions that the Buck Henry incident occurred as a result of a crazed Belushi. There’s plenty more great stories this week too including Bob Dole wanting to change “Pearl Harbour” to “Surprise City” so as to not offend Japan. We also get a pair of untelevised campaign videos, one for Ford that simply shows Carter talk about being lustful. The Carter one however just shows Gerald Ford pardoning Richard Nixon. That video was so brilliant that many claim that it really helped Carter win the election as it reminded millions of viewers that President Ford was the one who saved Nixon’s ass.

8. Bat-O-Matic (1:46)

What we get here is a blatant retread of the Super Bass-O-Matic ’76 but just replaced with bats and Aykroyd as a wizard-like spokesman. Despite that, it’s just as clever and the performance by Danny is wonderful. A

9. Weekend Update with Chevy Chase (Part II) (total: 8:54)

Jane (with a bandage on her head) joins Chevy for her segment, “People in the News.” The highlights of this segment are Sammy Davis getting caught up in his own rings and chains and the fake story of Chevy replacing Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. The segment ends with Francisco Franco collect-calling Chevy (we only hear Chevy’s side of the conversation) and then our newsman informing us that he will not take a side in the election despite the pictures behind him showing a fake moustache drawn on Gerald Ford. A+

10. The Band sings “Life is a Carnival”, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, & “Stage Fright” (10:11)

Almost forty minutes into the show and it is finally time for The Band. They make the most of their time though, doing a set of THREE different songs. My favourite is Dixie, but man oh man they give it their all for the entire set and deliver what is one of the best musical performances in Saturday Night Live history. The various photos that are shown of The Band in their heyday are a really nice addition too. A+

11. The OintMENt (7:44)

A spoof of a very popular horror movie that came out the summer previous to this season’s start date. Buck plays the Gregory Peck role (while Curtin plays wife) and ups the clueless factor as crazy shit happens around him revolving around their demon seed, Damian (Belushi). The real highlights here come from the priest (Aykroyd) who is impaled by a lamp and a photographer (Chase with bandage) who gets distracted by a couple of funny pictures of himself while trying to show Buck that the kid is the devil. Laraine is also pitch-perfect as the devilish nanny. Wait a second, does Belushi’s teddy bear have a bandage too? Gold! A-

12. Film: It’s Halloween Tonight (2:37)

Along with some musical accompaniment by Howard Shore, Gary Weis’ film this week focuses on Buck getting made up to look like a woman for Halloween. Much like Weis’ other films, this is played for quirkiness rather than pure laughs. B+

13. Houdini’s Grave (1:07)

Buck interviews Garrett, who hangs out by Houdini’s grave waiting to see if the illusionist will rise from the dead on this the anniversary of his death. Nothing happens, but Buck promises to return to Morris later.

14. Mr. Mike’s Least-Loved Bedtime Tales (2:01)

Here we go with a sketch that probably got on thanks to Buck. Here, Mr. Mike (with a bandage!) tells a story about a little eskimo who makes a wish to have lots of food. The catch however is that everything is made of snow. Therefore, the eskimo dies and the genie robs him. It’s such a dark piece but it’s still very funny. A

15. Houdini’s Grave (Part II) (:27)

Garrett has clearly seen something as his hair is standing on end and he can only speak in tongues. For the whole thing, I’ll give it a B-

16. The Band sings “Georgia On My Mind” (2:50)

Richard Manuel (thanks Stu, didn’t know who it was til I read your review) pours his heart and soul into the cover of “Georgia On My Mind.” They actually did this as a tribute to Jimmy Carter as this episode only aired three days prior to election day. A+

As Buck says goodbye to one and all, Belushi can be seen with a gigantic bandage around his head. Chevy also gets hugged by everyone with it being his last show and all. Eventually they just all fall down on the stage and lay there with each other.

What a wonderful episode. Buck Henry was always willing and hilarious and he made it look easy to guide this broadcast and make it one of the classic episodes in SNL’s history. Of course, Buck isn’t the only one who made this episode one of the best.

The cast was spectacular and the swan song of Chevy Chase was very much in effect although he didn’t hog the spotlight very much at all, as he only appeared in the opening, the debate sketch, Update, and had a small part in The OintMENt. Danny and John did their fair share of sketch work as well and Belushi in particular was quite endearing as Damian. The ladies got their way too though with a wonderful Baba Wawa piece and even Garrett Morris got to shine with a “Roots” sketch.

Then there was the music. My oh my. The Band was everything you would expect them to be and more. After being given thirteen minutes to pour their heart and souls out, that’s exactly what they did. They are easily in the top ten for musical guests on Saturday Night Live.

Host Rating: A+

Musical Guest Rating: A+

Show Rating: A+

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Comments
  1. Kirk G says:

    This appears to be a very important SNL, as it features the multiple bandages to disguise Buck Henry’s injury. This is classic, as live television features the unexpected!

    Wish we could find the video of the entire show!

  2. Brendan Wahl says:

    Not for Canadian customers 😦

  3. Bob Kirke says:

    It’s “huge coup.” As in coup d’etat.

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