by Brendan Wahl
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?
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+