by Brendan Wahl
How many firsts have we come across so far since these past two SNL seasons have begun? The first season saw the very first female host in Candice Bergen, the first time a host was banned (Louise Lasser), and the first ratings hit for the show (Pryor/Heron). Now here we have 14-year old Jodie Foster, fresh off her amazing performance in Taxi Driver as the youngest (at the time) host that SNL had ever had. Now at this time in history, having someone this young around these maniacs seems like perhaps not the wisest move, but it was one that Jodie and the cast were willing to take a risk on.
Joining Ms. Foster is a member of one of the greatest bands of all-time (in my opinion, anyway). Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys joins Jodie as the musical guest and having a huge name like that at this stage of infancy for the show must have been a true honour for all involved. Brian, unfortunately, was going through some really intense turmoil (mostly involving his introduction to cocaine which caused some mental instability and a huge change in his voice) at the time. Will that affect his performances? We’ll see.
1. Phasing Gilda Out (1:58)
We start things off with the “oppressively adorable” (as Nathan Rabin likes to call her) Gilda Radner standing center-stage and explaining that she isn’t in much of the show tonight, but the producers told her she could do the opening. All the while during this, a screen crawl reveals that Gilda is actually being phased out of the show. The joke combined with Gilda’s infectious energy makes this a winning opener. B+
2. Monologue (1:39)
Jodie is a ball of nervous energy as she stumbles through her jokes regarding her age and her duties as a host before reading off a written note from her mother regarding the show starting late. Uncomfortable to watch. D
3. Pilson’s Feedbag Dinners (2:45)
The third cameo in a row from Chevy Chase, who is there to shill for a meal-in-a-bag that you can just strap to your face and dig in. It’s one-note, but slightly better than the Mobile Shrink piece. C+
4. Peter Pan Bees (4:53)
A strung-out young rocker (Foster) is interrupted in her bedroom by a pair of bees (Belushi & Newman), but of course the girl is a skeptic and doesn’t believe for one second that either one of them is a bee. Aside from the audience participation bit, the crowd is fairly dead for this one (especially Jodie’s lines) and yes, the sketch is pretty much DOA aside from Belushi’s charm. C
5. Brian Wilson sings “Back Home” (2:37)
Ah, moment of truth. Well, Brian’s voice is definitely very different here and a lot more gravelly. Does it hinder the song and his performance? Well, kind of. While disappointing, it’s still a decent little performance. B-
6. Puberty Helper (1:46)
Jodie advertises (with the help of a spokesperson (Aykroyd)) Puberty Helper, which is essentially a paper-bag like covering over the entire body. Dan completely sells this piece and makes it another one of his amusing commercial parodies. B+
7. Metal Detector (3:23)
What starts off seemingly like another Newman-playing-a-ditzy-character sketch turns into something much more original and amusing as one man (Aykroyd) keeps removing his metal objects to the point where it gets ridiculous in a hilarious pour-it-on sight gag. All the while, Brian Wilson stands uncomfortably in the background as a security guard. Another piece that Danny sells beautifully and it’s actually my favourite of the night. The ending was kind of stupid though. A-
8. Weekend Update with Jane Curtin (Part I) (total: 9:02)
After a cruel joke about Dwight D. Eisenhower, Curtin does a good job selling some decent material this week including an amusing joke about speed (that the audience didn’t really seem to dig, but screw ’em). In an amusing piece, Curtin calls President-Elect Carter himself (Aykroyd’s voice) and even though he answers a question incorrectly, she gives him a consolation prize. I love when they mock Carter’s down-home attitude. A mudfight between “Jackie Onassis” and “Tina Onassis” falls flat, but the aerosol cap-off to the story is pretty cute.
9. What Kinda Guy Watches Saturday Night (1:11)
Another appearance from Belushi’s non-recurring character, Steve Bushakis. As a typical SNL viewer, Steve announces that he’s had gonnorhea five times and that “the more promiscous a girl, the more I respect her.” B
10. Weekend Update with Jane Curtin (Part II)
Update peters out a bit here, but picks back up for another piece on Morris the Cat’s suicide suggestions and some really good ones from the viewing audience are read. B+
11. Brian Wilson sings “Love is a Woman” (2:56)
Eeep. His voice suffers a bit more here. I enjoyed the song, but man Brian is not ready to perform this song as his voice crackles several times and he struggles to get through it. C+
12. Little Known Talents Of The Not Ready For Prime-Time Players (2:29)
Gilda and Laraine stand center-stage and present some unique impressions courtesy of Ms. Newman herself. The devil chicken is my favourite, but she is pretty good at imitating a yelping dog too. However, this whole thing felt like some desperate filler material. C+
13. Don Pardo: The First 50 Years (8:28)
An announcer with a ridiculously-long name (Aykroyd) narrates a story that chronicles Don Pardo’s life from childhood to present time. There’s some intermittently funny stuff here including Dan Aykroyd’s ridiculously fake television laugh to Don being portrayed as an invisible entity with a voice (Don himself). Belushi gives a good performance in a number of roles (Don’s father, a radio exec, an actor) but the whole thing drags for a bit despite being mildly amusing. I did enjoy the audition where Don Pardo meets with Lorne Michaels himself. C+
14. Jodie’s Teacher (4:53)
Jodie spends a few moments at the end of her last day of school chatting it up with her favourite teacher, Mr. Davis (Aykroyd). Despite her teacher’s trepidation, Jodie is relentless in keeping him there and what follows is a funny second city-style sketch about the relationship between a student and teacher. B+
15. Film: Kids’ Dreams (2:08)
Gary Weis gets cutesy on us this week by showing footage of little kids revealing their dreams to their teachers and the camera. This material just does not fit in with the groove of the show at all, making it one of my least favourite Weis films. D
16. The King Kong Dirge (2:49)
Garrett Morris sings/narrates the tale of King Kong while images from the 1933 film are projected in the background. Yeah, I’m not really sure what the point of this was although I know that the remake had come out that year so maybe this was the cast’s way of honouring the original classic. B-
17. White Like Me (3:27)
A couple argue over the wife’s (Curtin) secret that she has trouble revealing to her husband (Morris). After finally revealing that she isn’t black, Garrett is extremely surprised and has trouble coming to terms with the truth. The twist at the end is the cherry on top. B+
18. Mr. Mike’s Least-Loved Bedtime Tales (2:13)
This time, Mr. Mike tells the story of The Little Engine That Could to Jodie Foster, who sits on his knee and listens intently. In Mike’s version of the story, the engine has a heart attack and a school bus full of children (9 and under) are brutally murdered. Plus, a frog gets butchered. A-
19. Brian Wilson sings “Good Vibrations” (2:21)
Wow. Just wow. Brian sings a tune that is definitely meant for all members of the Beach Boys and unfortunately he butchers the song to death. I feel bad for Brian and his troubled personal life, but there is no way in hell I can give this thing anything even close to a passing mark. D
Jodie thanks the cast and the audience before being joined by Brian Wilson, the cast, and Mr. Mike (who actually looks to be fairly kind to her). Brian Wilson dances with Gilda in a heartwarming moment.
A very inconsistent show. Jodie had a lot of energy but unfortunately it was the wrong kind of energy as she went from sketch to sketch like a nervous wreck, constantly jumbling up her lines and missing a couple of cues. She wasn’t the worst host or anything close to that, but she was definitely one of the more awkward ones of the first few years. Thankfully, the cast kept her in a limited amount of bits but even that didn’t stop the show from being painful at points (like the monologue, Brian’s last number, and that godawful Gary Weis film), despite the few high points strewn throughout the show.
Brian Wilson was a severe disappointment despite the knowledge that his performances could be iffy at best. What should’ve been a monumentous moment for SNL ended up resulting in the worst musical guest so far this season. With a not-so-great host/musical guest combination and the bad stuff being pretty damn bad, what we got here is an early candidate for the worst episode of the season.
Host Rating: C
Musical Guest Rating: C-
Show Rating: C