Archive for August, 2010

Time Flies!

Posted: August 26, 2010 by Matthew Casey in Uncategorized

Boy time sure does go by fast when you’re having fun! Today was my last day interning at The Weather Network and I just can’t believe that it is over!!

I had one of the best summers of my life interning there and I really learned a lot. As sad as it is that I won’t be going back there for a while, I just keep it in mind that it’s not the end because I know that I will one day be employed there.

So, now that I am done working a full time job and interning, I should be able to post a little more regularly on the site.

Cheers!

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by Brendan Wahl

(Season 2, Episode 13)

Every show has its milestones. Last week we had the oldest host to-date in SNL history. This week, however, another accomplishment of the show is reached. This episode marks the first ever athlete to take over the reigns of the venerable comedic institution. I say that though not with eager anticipation but with a sense of dread for this episode’s sake. It’s no secret that athlete hosts are usually terrible at emoting and amazing at making the world pay attention to their cue-card reading. I don’t know the reason for Lorne Michaels deciding that getting an athlete in the first place would be a good idea, but here you have it.

The sports star in question is former Minnesota Viking Fran Tarkenton, who had either just been inducted or was about to be inducted into the Hall of Fame that very same year. Fran, unfortunately, has just lost his father the previous year to a heart attack right in the middle of one of his most humiliating losses. Tarkenton is regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history so that definitely translates into being a fantastic comedian, right? I think so.

Joining Tarkenton is the king of the falsetto (or queen?) Leo Sayer. Equipped with a giant afro and dance moves that induce vomit all over the country, Leo would thankfully not be the only guest this week. Also joining Sayer is Donny Harper and the Voices of Tomorrow. Now normally I would say a few words about them, their style of music, a little background, etc. There is a problem though. I have no idea who they are and apparently most of the internet is unaware as well.  So let’s just move on.

The Show:

1. Locker Room (4:47)

A football sketch? What?! John Belushi plays coach to the entire team of SNL castmembers plus their star, Tarkenton, of course. The whole thing acts as a comedy lesson for Tarkenton and he turns to the coach, who then turns to the teammates, so that they may offer him some sound advice. It’s a decent way to open the show, but nothing spectacular. B

2. Monologue (3:47)

Running down to a stage with a football field painted on it, Fran mentions an embarrassing Superbowl loss he endured in the past week, but says that the Vikings WILL return to the Superbowl next year as well. Seemingly not worried about embarrassment anymore, Tarkenton grabs a microphone and proceeds to sing “Feelings,” much to the disgust of Belushi and the befuddlement of a play-by-play commentator (Murray). Garrett interrupts under the disguise of helping out the team, but once he throws Fran to the sidelines, he decides to finish the song himself. Not a bad monologue, if a little bloated. B-

3. Swiss Army Gun (1:46)

A motormouth spokesman (Aykroyd, of course) introduces Rovco’s Swiss Army Gun! With a fish scaler, hunting knife, nail file, and yes, a .38 calliber revolver. There are more ridiculous parts to this device and Aykroyd completely sells it. B+

4. Amy Carter in School (3:21)

A pair of secret service men (Aykroyd & Murray) stand by while Amy Carter (Newman) completes a test on American History. When the president’s daughter has trouble with her answers and one girl (Radner) accuses her of using the secret service to help her cheat, the two men almost snuff her out with a desk before being stopped by the teacher (Curtin). It doesn’t sound great, but it is a pretty funny sketch that makes a couple of statements about the government at the time. B+

5. Sports Injury (1:47)

Belushi pulls a player (Aykroyd) off the field to scold him and after it’s revealed that his arm has been torn off, Murray tapes it on and sends him back out. Tarkenton is briefly in this as well only to get sent to the stage to announce the musical guest. This was essentially some filler material before introducing the musical guest. C+

6. Leo Sayer sings “When I Need You” (4:02)

Toning it down a notch, Sayer does an decent job with this song. I bet he was singing it about a man though. Hah. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. B

7. Black Perspective (2:56)

In the best piece of the night, Garrett Morris hosts a show on race relations and Fran Tarkenton plays himself (again) to comment on his effort to help these relations within the NFL. When questioning Fran about the myth that black people don’t have the mindpower to call defenses, Fran responds that those myths are absolutely factual. This sketch really pushes the envelope (even for 1977) as Fran says that all they can do is dance in the endzone for the most part. A-

8. Home Restaurant (6:58)

In a conceptual bit, the proprietors (Aykroyd & Radner) of a restaurant located directly in their home play host and hostess to their two customers (Curtin & Murray). Their daughter’s (Newman) playing of the recorder is an attempt to cover up noises made by the domestic abuse going on in the kitchen, but it is still clearly audible. The sketch starts out funny but it is way too long and the same joke just keeps getting hammered into the viewer’s head. A big misfire. C-

9. Sugar-Frosted Anabolic Steroids (1:35)

Fran advertises a new cereal chock-full of delicious steroids that are “slightly sweetened and mixed with marshmellow magnesium bits.” Fran blew a couple of lines in this sketch and cracked up, but can you imagine any athlete-host doing this sketch today? For what it’s worth, Jane Curtin’s beard was really the highlight. C+

10. Weekend Update with Jane Curtin (Part I) (total: 6:08)

Before the jokes start, Curtin addresses some criticism directed towards her for Update not being as good as it was when the “sexy Chevy Chase was on.” Therefore, Jane rips her shirt off, exposing her bra and screams out some empty threats towards Connie Chung. In an amusing bit, Jane shows “footage” of a cruise missile test set to some old-timey footage. It works better than any of those “artist’s rendering” pieces that Chevy did.

11. Community Appeal (1:17)

Tarkenton makes another appearance tonight to ask for support for John Belushi, who is so warped by drugs now that he can only name three countries (“Belgium, Belgium, and Kansas City”). It’s a pretty funny piece, if not made slightly darker now due to the obvious circumstances surrounding John’s death in 1982. B+

12. Weekend Update (Part II)

“I believe in the one-president system.” One after another, each joke kills especially a take on Roots and Alex Haley’s greed following its success. Curtin does a funny “Update Correction” piece as well and then reports on sixteen people freezing to death after taking a dip into a lake. Good stuff this week. B+

13. One-Night Stand (4:50)

Once again, Fran plays himself in another sketch and this time, he arrives to a hotel with a chick (Newman) he picked up after the Superbowl. The only problem is that she just won’t stop talking while all Fran wants to do is just get down to bidness. The football team recurring gag is repeated here with Tarkenton calling a time-out to consult with Coach Belushi and Danny, while Murray calls the action. C

14. Wrigley’s (:32)

A repeat from the first season. B

15. Grand Stand (4:14)

Lee Whitehead (Murray), the commentator that’s been providing us with insight throughout the whole episode joins Brian Gumbo (Morris) for an interview with Fran Tarkenton, but unfortunately he can not hear them the whole time and so they have to waste time by showing a musical playing on ABC followed by Howard Shore and his band doing a bit of marching. They show some footage from earlier in the show of Tarkenton performing in sketches but fail to mention how wooden and boring he was. C

16. Leo Sayer sings “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” (3:43)

Wow. Not nearly as painful as I was anticipating. Despite his horrible dancing, the performance is still somewhat enjoyable and I didn’t vomit once! B

17. Film: Small Worlds (2:29)

Gary Weis’ slice of life comes out of a pet store this time located somewhere in New York. It’s actually a fairly amusing one this time, as animals can provide some pretty solid entertainment. The frog at the beginning is my personal favourite. B+

18. French Liquid (:56)

Mr. Mike himself narrates a commercial piece involving a perfume that smells different on every single woman. A throwaway piece, but it was still funny to hear O’Donoghue say “on her, it smells like warm rabbit pellets.” B

19. Donny Harper and the Voices of Tomorrow sing “Sing a Song” (3:07)

After a botched introduction from Tarkenton where he announces them as the Voices of America, the band more than holds their own with a really good performance. It’s not a brilliant song or anything, but it’s a well-written and very well-sung performance. B+

20. Credit Card Counseling (4:40)

Rhonda Weis (Radner) makes her second appearance on the show in a piece to highlight the quirks of a pair of typical New Yawk gals. The plot is fairly simple; one woman (Curtin) is evaluating Rhonda’s credit card history and informs her that the card has to be suspended because of her ridiculous spending. The laughs come out of the chit-chat between the two as they try to one-up each other with talk of sales that they’ve taken advantage of. B

Fran doesn’t have time to say goodnight because the show is running long so some of the cast just carry him above thier shoulders and then they all stand around for the little bit remaining in the show while the credits roll.

Well, that was a step in the right direction at least. While this wasn’t a very strong episode, it was definitely better than last week’s thanks to a willing cast to work around their host’s weaknesses and a couple of decent musical performances, particularly from Donny Harper. The cast was in full-force this week and they pulled out the best show anyone could possibly pull out with an athlete-host like Fran Tarkenton. Setting the bar for future athlete-hosts, Tarkenton was stiff, stumbly, and just appeared very awkward for the entire broadcast. He also had his eyes glued to the cue cards, of course.

Like I mentioned, the cast held their own this week and Jane Curtin was especially good, appearing in more sketches than she usually does and doing a pretty damn good job with her roles as well. Granted, she appeared as the “straight” character in one of them, but she was one of the best at playing those roles and did so with aplomb. You might say Belushi was a major player tonight and while he was, he mainly played one role all night. Congrats, Janey.

Notes:

It’s funny that Belushi mentioned that their last ‘play’ was sloppy in the football cold open, almost as if he is referring to last week’s mess of an episode.

There aren’t too many hosts who played themselves in every single sketch, but there you have it. Fran Tarkenton had a rough time playing Fran Tarkenton tonight, I guess.

Jane Curtin was in quite a bit tonight. More than normal. That bra-flash makes her this episode’s MVP by far.

So does ANYONE know who Donny Harper and the Voices of Tomorrow/America are?

Host Rating: C

Musical Guest Rating: Leo Sayer – B-

Musical Guest Rating: Donny Harper – B+

Show Rating: B-


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 2, Episode 12)

We have reached a milestone. Or at least what used to be a milestone. Because you see, until the episode hosted by Betty White at the end of the most recent season, our host this week was the oldest host in Saturday Night Live history (although some might contest that Anyone Can Host contest winner Miskel Spillman held that record). A true comedy veteran, Ruth Gordon, at 80 years old, takes the reigns of the comedy juggernaut this week despite being in a completely different age bracket. For God sakes, she’s Garrett Morris’ (the oldest castmember) senior by 43 years! Whether it’s Harold and Maude or even thrillers like Rosemary’s Baby, Gordon had found her footing in the acting world long before SNL was around and it must have been surprising that she accepted the hosting invitation.

Joining Ruth is another legend, albeit from the music world. Chuck Berry was best known for such hits as “Johnny B. Goode,” “Maybellene,” and “Roll Over Beethoven.” After his fame throughout the 1950s and 60s, he began to fade a little bit during this decade and during his tours and live performances, he was notorious for the way he dealt with the local bands that would back him up. Without giving them a set list, Berry would expect them to be able to follow his lead after his guitar intro and thus, his performances became more and sloppy and erratic as time went on. Is this going to be the case on this week’s episode?

With two legendary performers taking the helm, what kind of show will unfold?

Start it up!

The Show:

1. Injured John (1:19)

After last week’s injury, Belushi’s doctor pleads with Lorne Michaels to put John on the episode in the opening, despite being in a vegitative state. Belushi was the worst of the cast as far as drugs go, but he was known to be able to snap completely out of it when it came down to show time. This real-life scenario is mocked here when his doctor threatens to cut off John’s drug supply and Bluto himself perks up to open the show. B

2. Monologue (:45)

Well, I guess you could call this a monologue technically speaking. All Ruth says is that she is happy to be there (you could’ve fooled me!) and that the show is going to be great. Well, thanks for wasting 45 seconds of my time. C-

3. The Marines (:50)

A repeat from Cavett/Cooder. C

4. Me (3:56)

The love of Linda Richman’s life, Barbara Streisand (Newman) sings about herself and in particular, the film A Star is Born. Though she starts with an attack on the critics, Babs then turns the attention to herself and sings about how she is well off no matter what the jealous plebians have to say. A powerhouse performance from Newman and some good writing. B+

5. The Litella Sisters At Home (4:09)

While Emily Litella has been cute and funny in small doses, especially during Jane Curtin’s tenure on Weekend Update, this is the tipping point for me. Emily (Radner) and her sister, Essie (Gordon), discuss the possble topics for Emily’s editorial on Update this week and in the process of doing so, make a lot of “cute” misconceptions about what the other is trying to say. The one high point in this sketch is when Emily corrected Essie but in an incorrect manner. Otherwise, the sketch was bogged down by Gordon’s over-the-top performance and the weak concept. D

6. Tomorrow (6:29)

Whenever Aykroyd got to do his Tom Snyder impression, it was a marvel to behold. This time is no exception. This week, Tom welcomes King Kong producer Dino De Laurentiis (Belushi) to wax philisophical about his newest opus: the dreaded King Kong remake with Jeff Bridges. Belushi’s caricature of Dino reminds me somewhat of the director of Troll 2 in that he absolutely believes in the quality of his own film despite what the critics have to say. This was an entertaining segment, but it was slightly long in the tooth. It should be noted that this is Belushi’s only other sketch appearance of the night and he is also confined to a wheelchair. Clearly, the injury was still there. B

7. Chuck Berry sings “Johnny B. Goode” (2:50)

Well, the coordination is slightly off between Berry and the band, but Chuckie himself still does an admirable job and he definitely has some amazing moves for a fifty-year old man. B

8. Weekend Update  with Jane Curtin (Part I) (Total: 5:50)

Unfortunately, this segment starts off slow because of Ruth Gordon invading as Lillian Carter being interviewed by Laraine Newman. It’s not brutal or anything, but not as funny as it could have been with someone else in the role. Curtin takes a funny, but crude shot at Billy Carter and then a much funnier bit involving Indira Gandhi’s claim that the election in India will not be fixed.

9. Crazy Frank (1:20)

Playing a motormouth pitchman, Aykroyd talks about some insane prices for stereo equipment, televisions, and other various electronics. The twist of the sketch is that the actual owner, Crazy Ernie, ran off with Crazy Frank’s girl and in a bitter plot of revenge, Frank is selling off Ernie’s supplies for ridiculously low prices. Fun conceptual sketch with a great performance from Aykroyd. B+

10. Weekend Update with Jane Curtin (Part II)

As if the earlier sketch didn’t already make me tired of Emily Litella (Radner), she shows up again this week on Update and this time, she has nothing to report on. The banter between Jane and Gilda is still good and at least this was better than the Litella Sisters piece. A truncated Update this week with few highlights. C+

11. Film: Night Moves (3:03)

After a stumbly-bumbly introduction from Garrett Morris, he presents this week’s film by Gary Weis. Essentially a music video for the aforementioned Bob Seger tune, the video focuses on a very attractive “ex-girlfriend” of Garrett’s. Aesthetically, this is a well-made video but it didn’t feel like there was too much substance found within. B-

12. Little Old Ladies Of The Night (4:50)

Dan Aykroyd plays a police captain in the geriatric division on the prowl for elderly street hustlers and together with his partner (Murray in his first appearance), they proceed to catch one unfortunate octogenarian (Gordon) directly after her employment begins. The sole highlight here is Danny’s exaggerated yelling that starts out soft and sympathetic but eventually gets ridiculously over-the-top and hilarious. C+

13. Chuck Berry sings “Memphis Tennessee” & “Carol” (5:07)

Instead of a couple of surefire classics, Berry sings an enjoyable song about the city of Elvis Presley and then a second one about some chick named Carol that is not quite as good. Berry seems to like to riff and the backup band doesn’t seem like they’re quite ready for it. B-

14. Sex Talk (3:16)

A young girl (Radner) watches television with her elderly babysitter (Gordon), who switches it off before a dirty show is able to start. Irate by this decision, the girl has her babysitter tell her about the birds and the bees but her interpretation mixed with Radner’s curiosity makes for some interesting misconceptions. I am really not liking Gordon as the host this week; she drags down everything around her. B-

15. Home Movie: The Mr. Bill Show (2:31)

The third appearance of Mr. Bill sees Mr. Sluggo eating Bill’s dog, injuring Bill in a series of intentionally mangled magic tricks, and then Mr. Hand catapults him into oblivion. It’s funny still but this segment would eventually get a bit tiresome. B-

16. Ricky Jay (5:18)

Entertaining magician/character actor Ricky Jay performs a quick montage of card tricks before calling on two volunteers so that he may read their minds. Very good talent showcase for Ricky Jay as well as a hilarious performance. A-

17. The Last Days Of Howard Hughes (4:39)

During the final days of Howard’s (Newman) life, a repairman (Morris) comes by to fix the projector while Howard’s two Mormon assistants (Aykroyd & Murray) assist with his nutrition and exercise. This is a brutally unfunny sketch despite the best efforts of all involved. D

18. World of Adventure (1:55)

The first appearance of E. Buzz Miller (Aykroyd) sees him interviewing an elderly lady (Gordon), who shows footage of her exploits over in Africa. The proverbial poop really hits the fan though as Miller has cut the footage together himself to only highlight the native tribes in their various forms of undress without actually highlighting any of the social issues that his guest tried to bring to the forefront. Miller isn’t as good here as he would get in future appearances, but he really tries to save this segment and almost succeeds. C

19. Mr. Mike’s Least-Loved Bedtime Tales (2:06)

After petting a stuffed flamingo, Mr. Mike calls on his maid, Fifi (Radner). This time, Mike tells the story of Willie the Worm, who was mashed by a large truck and could no longer crawl. Despite learning how to crawl again, Willie got mashed by a second truck and died. Oh, Michael O’Donoghue. Your cheery anecdotes have brightened my day again. Although this one felt a little weaker than his other ones. B

Ruth talks about “the bare-ass changes” she was making behind the scenes between sketches, but thankfully the cast joins her on stage and interrupts that before it got too graphic or descriptive.

Well now, that wasn’t so good, was it?

Ruth proved herself to be quite the mismatch for this sort of comedy forum as her eyes were glued to cue cards, she made Carrot Top look subtle and nuanced in his performances, and she was just clearly not enjoying herself throughout the entire episode. What could have been a wonderful blend of the old and new generation meshing together and benefitting off each other’s talents turned into quite a mess of the new generation trying to remind the old generation that the times, they are a-changin’.

On the other side of the coin, Chuck Berry held up rather well in his performances despite some obvious miscommunications between members of his back-up band. Berry still had some pretty nifty moves for a (then) fifty-year old man and he clearly seemed to be enjoying his nostalgic appearance.

The cast tried their best this week, but Gordon was just not cooperative and it didn’t help that she ruined nearly every damn thing she was a part of in this episode. Aykroyd and Radner stand out this week as the home-run hitters, but they could not save this show from being a bit of a stinker.

Host Rating: D

Musical Guest Rating: B-

Show Rating: C-

Notes:

Garrett Morris sure did flub his line something fierce in that “Little Old Ladies Of The Night” sketch.

Holy crap! Was that O.J. Simpson in the crowd?

I’m pretty sure Ricky Jay was an extra in that “Little Old Ladies Of The Night” bit. I wonder why they bothered putting him there instead of a writer or something.

Gilda Radner was so hot in that maid outfit. Wow.

I still have yet to see Harold and Maude. I’m told I must.

Next week’s show doesn’t look too promising either.


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 2, Episode 11)

Well, we’ve seen quite a slew of hosts so far this season. We’ve seen some bonafide stand-up comedians (Steve Martin), witty quipsters (Dick Cavett), and even show creators (Norman Lear), but one thing we haven’t had yet is a consumer advocate. Yes folks, before Ralph Nader was thwarting the Democratic and Republican parties, he was working for the people to save them from the greed of evil corporate giants and the dangerous ingredients of various foods and chemicals used in hair dye and other similar products.

Joining the bastion saviour is musician George Benson, who I know very little about besides the fact that he is a jazz musician from the 1970s, who happened to be the musical guest on this edition of Saturday Night Live.

Well, let’s get goin’!

The Show:

1. Ralph’s New Image (3:02)

Ralphie arrives to the show a minute late and is greeted with some trepidation, but the consumer advocate is quick to inform one and all that he is there for one reason — to have fun! Of course, he can’t shut off the alert Ralph Nader and he criticizes the makeup for containing cancer-causing agents and Garrett’s hot dog for containing “rat excrement and rodent hairs.” With an amusing botched visual gag at the end of the sketch, this is a really fun way to open the show. It already gives me hope for Ralph as a host. A-

2. Monologue (1:09)

Of course, Ralph quickly attacks the RCA building that houses the show and NBC as well, so of course the network does their best to censor him. A decent, if thoroughly predictable monologue. B-

3. Long Distance (2:28)

Bill Murray! Yes, it’s the first appearance of Bill Murray (in old man get-up) as he awaits a phone call from his grandson so that they can play chess. It’s a funny play off the old phone company commercials and the dark turn that the sketch (and Murray in particular) take at the end puts it over the top. Terrific debut from Billy. A

4. Televised Execution Rehearsal (4:26)

In a role meant for John Belushi (but he suffered a broken leg, so he is absent for the show), Tom Schiller plays a death row inmate, Dean Slydell. The beauty of this sketch is that this whole thing is a rehearsal for the man’s execution and Bill Murray plays the director of this execution with the appropriate amount of Hollywood smarm. It is a role that Murray excels in and one that he would do many times on the show. A

5. Baba Wawa Talks To Herself (1:31)

Baba (Radner) herself is tired of interviewing boring celebrities so she has decided to interview someone she most respects…herself. In this piece, Baba hypes her interview special by promising “cwever rebawations and wepartee” and that she will make up for her last “cwummy” special. Gilda is wonderful, of course. B+

6. George Benson sings “Masquerade” (3:20)

Nader announces that Benson has just been nominated for five Grammys before George starts crooning. It’s a slow-moving beat with a jazzy tempo to it. Very smooth listen. A-

7. Confederate Takeover (4:48)

Ralphie straps himself securely to his chair before falling asleep and dreaming of an encounter with President-Elect Carter (Aykroyd) where he is allowed to let his suggestions be heard. The tables are turned, however, when Carter dons a confederacy outfit and swears that “the flagrant rape of the confederates by the Yankee war dogs is gonna be avenged.” Carter outlines his plan to punish the Yankees much to the shock of a shaken Nader. I loved the little details of this sketch like Carter offering peanuts, Nader using a seatbelt in his chair, and I especially loved Carter’s war cry. B+

8. Weekend Update with Jane Curtin (10:26)

Before Jane can get started, Belushi calls her up and says that despite his injury, he will be back next week. They discuss the new castmember Bill Murray and Jane hangs up before John can get violently angry. Bill Murray provides a commentary on Rosalynn Carter and talks about her attractiveness with some creepy undertones as he promises the next commentary will be on Amy Carter. Jane does a very funny story on the “Flying Fords” (the picture alone is worth it) and then a similar piece on the actress who played the flying nun. Laraine Newman interviews the Texxon chairman, Mr. Rigg (Nader), who gives three ridiculous demands for his company in an amusing bit. In a callback to Gary Gilmore, Jane announces that he will not attend the post-execution ball. Finally, Emily Litella (Radner) stops by again with an official correspondent job and discusses the notion of President Ford “making Puerto Rico a steak.” Great edition this week. A-

9. Andy Kaufman (8:15)

Frequent special guest Andy Kaufman does his “Foreign Man” character (a precursor to Latka on Taxi) and then delves into a number of very similar impressions. Of course, the icing on the cake is when Andy goes all-out and imitates Elvis Presley and performs a couple of songs. It should be noted that Elvis was still alive at the time. Another great Andy Kaufman appearance. A

10. Doll Testing (3:46)

During an interview with Ralph Nader, the interviewer (Morris) is somewhat creeped out by all the inflatable party dolls strewn about his apartment. Though Nader claims that they are all merely for experiments and research, it is clear that his deep connection to the dolls is harbouring a sick sort of fascination. It’s an enjoyable sketch if only for Ralph putting his image on the line. B+

11. Film: Garbage (3:40)

It’s a repeat from the Ron Nessen/Patti Smith Group episode with a bunch of garbagemen talking about the strange things they find in the trash. It’s actually one of the better Weis films as his subjects here prove to be more interesting than usual. B+

12. The Coneheads At Home (6:50)

Ahh, it’s the first appearance of the Coneheads! Beldar (Aykroyd) and Prymaat (Curtin) deal with their daughter’s (Newman) insecurities with the shape of her head and her general awkwardness at school. In this first edition, Connie waits for her date, Ronnie Getsetter (Murray). The majority of the sketch is some exposition from Beldar but it also contained some great straight-man work from Murray and the “mass consumption” scene is worth it alone. Wonderful. A+

13. George Benson sings “Gonna Love You More” (2:43)

The second tune from Benson is more of a bouncy, peppy song with some nice lyrics and another soulful performance from the singer himself. B+

14. Youth Asks The Questions (3:29)

Ralph opens himself up to questions from some young Americans, Sherry (Newman), Gerard Aldini (Murray), and Rhonda Weiss (Radner). This has drawbacks though as their questions pertain to asking where they can get great stereo equipment or if he’s ever met Ricardo Montalban. The performances from the three questioners are fun, while Nader does a good job of playing straight man to the lunacy. B+

15. Ambassador Training Institute (1:43)

They must’ve ran short on time because this is a repeat from Candice Bergen/Esther Phillips with Andrew Duncan advertising a program that allows anyone to become an ambassador for a foreign country. It’s a mildly amusing ad parody. C+

Ralph and the gang throw out some peanuts to the audience that are left over from the Carter sketch and then wish everyone a good night, bringing the show to a close.

While I was expecting a somewhat lackluster show following the Christmas break, what we got instead was a very fun show with a definite non-actor at the helm and despite that fact, he still managed to be entertaining (despite playing himself in all but one sketch) and was limited to what he could easily do. Nader brought a goofy charm to his performance on this week’s episode and didn’t mind putting his own image on the line in a couple of sketches, particularly the one involving inflatable party dolls. Overall, he was an effective host.

Despite my lack of knowledge about George Benson, he proved to be quite entertaining with his two musical numbers and they differed enough from each other to prove that the man had some versatility in his repertoire. As far as other guests go, you can’t go wrong with Andy Kaufman coming back for the fifth time and finally unleashing his pitch-perfect Elvis Presley impression among the SNL fanbase.

Even with John Belushi out for the week, the cast pulled through and put together a slew of great performances but special mention should go to Bill Murray, who proved in his first episode that he was going to be a force to be reckoned with on the show. Unfortunately, this would sizzle for a while after this episode but he would still become a great castmember in seasons to come.

Host Rating: B

Musical Guest Rating: A-

Show Rating: A-

EDIT: I just noticed Dan Aykroyd is not in the goodnights here. Anyone know if there’s a particular reason for that?

SNL Retro: Candice Bergen/Frank Zappa (12/11/76)

Posted: August 4, 2010 by Brendan Wahl in SNL Retro Reviews

by Brendan Wahl

(Season 2, Episode 10)

The post-Chevy/pre-Murray era of SNL has been a dicey one thus far. First, we got the mildly amusing Cavett/Cooder episode, the pretty good (although musically-inclined) Paul Simon show, and then the mild disaster that was the Foster/Wilson mess. Although one will notice that every show usually has at least one highlight and we indeed got that from the great Nixon sketch in the first episode to the fun Tomorrow Show parody in Simon’s to the hysterical Metal Detector sketch from Jodie Foster’s episode. What we have now is another repeat host from the first season and (so far) the most frequent host on the show tied with Buck Henry.

The lovely Candice Bergen gave us a really enjoyable episode early on in the first season and then the Christmas show kind of fell flat, but it was no fault of hers. Her peppy, enjoyable energy radiates through the cast and gives them the boost they need to bring on the yuk-yuks and provide a solid 90 minutes of entertainment. The first episode she hosted was the first episode of the show that most closely resembles what the program is today while the Christmas episode held the records for most segments in an entire episode (at a staggering 28) and was just jam-packed with a lot of filler.

They decided to give her another go at the Christmas episode and this time, she is joined by Frank Zappa, a decidedly un-Christmas like guest unlike Martha Reeves in her first Christmas episode. Zappa is anything but boring, usually bringing a new, creative flair to his songs and besides being a talented singer/songwriter, he is also an excellent composer and his own back-up band often brings the goods as well.

Are we in for a repeat of last year or a solid show?

The Show:

1. Patty Hearst at Home (3:18)

Patty (Radner) is allowed to return home from jail for the holidays but everything they try to do reminds her of the terrorist group that ruined her life. Even Scrabble and television don’t seem to lighten the mood. Despite a left-field ending, this was a silly fun sketch to open the show. B+

2. Monologue (5:37)

Candice doesn’t show up to the stage and so, upon receiving instructions from the stage manager, Jane heads backstage to attempt to lure the host out of her dressing room. Through the conversation, it’s revealed that the only reason that Candice does SNL is to be closer to her love, John Belushi. Eventually, Belushi sweet-talks Candy out of the room while channeling Humphrey Bogart from Casablanca. Even Garrett gets to play Sam. All in all, one of the more entertaining monologues in recent memory. A-

3. Carter’s Promises (1:37)

President Carter (Aykroyd) thanks everyone for electing him the new president but announces that now that he is privy to all the information a president knows, he won’t be able to keep any of the promises he made the people. This is kind of eerily prescient, though Carter did make a strong attempt. B+

4. Santi-Wrap (2:05)

Introducing the new sanitary seat cover used for when you decide to sit on a department store Santa Claus’ lap. Belushi is quite funny in the background as Santa and steals the show just by drunkenly mumbling “Ho ho ho” in the background. Amusing commercial piece. B+

5. Frank Zappa sings “I’m The Slime” (3:14)

It’s one of the most bizarre musical performances that has been done on the show. Zappa sings about the vile Slime and then Don Pardo performs a spoken-word rap during the song. Not to mention that actual slime starts coming out of the monitors during the song. It’s so engrossing and one can’t look away. A+

6. Consumer Probe (4:41)

Bergen hosts a show about dangerous toys for children with sleazy toy company conglomerate, Irwin Mainway (Aykroyd). Bag o’ glass is deadly, but it’s nothing compared to Johnny Switchblade Adventure Punk, a doll that is Ken-like in appearance but with knives that stick out of his arms. It’s the debut of one of Aykroyd’s best characters and Bergen plays off him very well in this classic piece. A+

7. K-Put Price-Is-Rite Stamp Gun (:48)

A repeat ad from the first season about a pricing gun to make your groceries whatever price you need them to be. One of my favourites. A

8. Right To Extreme Stupidity League (2:45)

Fern (Bergen) informs her friend Lisa (Radner) of her extreme stupidity in yet another classic segment where Candice makes a mistake and then laughs for almost the entire remainder of the sketch. Gilda is quite adorable throughout the entire sketch as well and it’s hard to criticize Bergen for laughing at Gilda’s performance. A

9. Weekend Update with Jane Curtin (Part I)

After arguing with her husband (writer Tom Schiller), Jane once again delivers on the news, reading a story about Amy Carter having her hand epoxied to her mouth so she can not reveal any presidential inside information. There’s also a very funny runner where Jane reacts every now and then to something going on under the table where her husband is hiding. Ray Basalt (Aykroyd) delivers the nuclear fallout forecast for the Christmas season in a very funny segment, especially because of the fact that Curtin announces it as a special Christmas segment.

10. FX-70 Cheese Slicer (:42)

Mocking the Kodak commercials that Candice did in the 70’s, she introduces a camera that merely ejects slices of cheese. Belushi joins in on the fun in this silly, quick sketch that cost Candice her Kodak gig. B

11. Weekend Update with Jane Curtin (Part II) (total: 8:16)

After a dark piece about Rudolph getting shot and being replaced with Jim Nabors, Jane does a funny piece about horses wearing shoes. Emily Litella shows up for the first time during Jane’s tenure at the desk to comment on “United Nations collecting money for unisex.” These two actually have a better chemistry than Litella did with Chevy especially with the added “…bitch!” at the end. A

12. Frank Zappa performs “Lagoon” (3:56)

I say the word “performs” because this is an entirely instrumental piece and it’s quite wonderful. The inclusion of Samurai Futaba (Belushi) joining in on the fun late in the game is also quite hilarious and is a pretty iconic moment in television history. A+

13. The Killer Trees (8:37)

What starts out looking like another foreign song performance by Garrett Morris is turned on its head as he is immediately murdered by a Christmas tree. Two detectives (Aykroyd & Belushi) are on the case and find out that when someone sings the song “O Tanenbaum,” the trees attack and it results in a “perced thorax.” This is a winning ensemble sketch from Gilda’s scheming maid character to Bergen being used as a patsy to the absolute highlight of the sketch being Frank Zappa in a hilarious cameo. A-

14. Film: Diana Nyad (2:57)

This week’s Gary Weis film focuses on marathon swimmer Diana Nyad, who talks about her diet, heartrate, and her disciplined workout and demands of others. This was good enough for government work. B-

15. Adopt Belushi For Christmas (2:31)

Candice talks about how the cast is going home for Christmas (“Garrett is going home to Africa, I guess”) and then mentions how John Belushi will need a home to go to. Ol’ Bluto himself declares that all he needs is some “candied yams, a roast goose stuffed with drugs” and of course a nice, young girl for him to have sex with. This works on the charm of Belushi and the chemistry between him and our host. A-

16. Let’s Kill Gary Gilmore For Christmas (3:29)

Candice describes the backstory of Gary Gilmore killing a service station attendant and a 25-year old student, followed by requesting his death to be via a firing squad. Thus, the cast sings a lovely song dedicated to this, entitled “Let’s Kill Gary Gilmore For Christmas.” It’s a delightfully dark ode to a rather awful criminal that deserved any kind of punishment he were to receive. It’s worth checking out the lyrics: http://snltranscripts.jt.org/76/76jgilmore.phtml. A+

17. Frank Zappa performs “Peaches & Regalia” (3:26)

It’s time for another wonderful musical number from Zappa and his orchestra. Much like the other two performances, I have to go the full monty on the rating for this one as it’s quite an enjoyable musical piece that doesn’t outstay its welcome and entertains. Also, that was a kick-ass drum solo at the end. A+

Candice is told she has almost five minutes to kill as she stands outside on the Rockefeller ice rink with the cast skating around her. She doesn’t know what to do and looks pretty lost for a while before she is finally allowed to start skating around with the rest of the folks. Even O’Donoghue is skating around. It should be noted too that everyone is decked out in Victorian garb. Nice moment to end the show.

Well, that was easily the best show in the post-Chevy/pre-Murray era. Candice was reliable as usual and looked like she had a lot of fun with the cast doing her various sketches and parts. She displays a certain sexiness and charm that many hosts could not match, despite her not being the most versatile host in the show’s history. Frank Zappa was one of the best musical guests so far as he joins The Band in the running for early candidates for best musical guests so far. His unique collaboration with Don Pardo to his enjoyable orchestral numbers made him a winning musical guest and it was obvious why they invited him back.

As for the cast, Aykroyd had some stand-out performances here but I believe John Belushi to be the star of this broadcast from his Bogart-inspired opening to his public outcry for someone to adopt him for Christmas, Belushi shined in the episode and started to take over Chevy’s gap that he left.

Host Rating: B+

Musical Guest Rating: A+

Show Rating: A+