by Brendan Wahl
As we start to near the end of the second season of Saturday Night Live, it allows us to ponder a few things. Will the season slowly peter out to a finish due to the exhaustion by a cast that had been through so many things during the span of the 1976-1977 season? Would there be a sudden surge of energy (of course, that would definitely not be a chemically-enhanced form of energy…) for the last four episodes? Will Bill Murray finally show off his talent that ultimately made him one of the great castmembers on the show? Well before we find out the answers to those questions, let’s take a look at a more direct one: will this episode deliver?
After the relatively left-field hosting choices involving Julian Bond, Jack Burns, and Broderick Crawford in the last three weeks, this time Lorne decided to settle with a much safer choice. That of Elliott Gould. By this point, Elliott had already hosted two stellar episodes (one in particular was the best episode of the first season, in my opinion) and had proved himself a willing ringmaster to hang with the cast and crew. While his first show featured a romantic running joke involving Gilda and himself, the second episode he took over had classics like Shirley Temple making world peace between an American and a dictator and of course the fantastic, epic Star Trek sketch with Gould playing network executive Herb Goodman.
Joining Elliott are the McGarrigle Sisters (I know…who?) and Roslyn Kind (the apparent aunt to Elliott’s son). Real star power this week in terms of musical guests, huh? While I don’t have too much to say about these obscure guests, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by obscure choices on this show before (Jack Burns notwithstanding).
Here we go with the fourth last episode of the season!
1. Brezhnev Deal (3:19)
Herb Goodman (Gould) and his associate (Murray) meet with Leonid Brezhnev (Belushi) and his associates (Aykroyd & Radner) in an attempt to get an NBC deal inked for the Soviet Communist to appear on television. At first, it appears that Mr. Brezhnev’s demands are met with NBC allowing the Moscow Olympics to be controlled but then he also wants to be on The Tonight Show (no guest hosts, he doesn’t want to be in the last fifiteen minutes of the show, and Clint Eastwood must be another guest). Very funny opening. A
2. Monologue (2:59)
Keeping with his tradition of a song-and-dance monologue, Elliott brings us the classic from A Gypsy Priest emanating from the main stage entitled “The Castration Walk.” Joining Elliott is John Belushi and Bill Murray and they perform a wonderful bit complete with some fantastic dancing and some great lyrics (“Officer, I’d like to report a jewel heist!”) One of the most un-monologuey monologues, but still lots of fun. A
3. The Coneheads At Home (7:10)
This time, our beloved pylon-shaped chrome domes are having 35 phones installed much to the confusion of the repairman (Gould). There’s lots of fun to be had here with the usual great performances by Aykroyd, Curtin, and Newman as the family. Elliott also provides a great turn as the straight man to all the ludicrous events going on around him. This Coneheads sketch also introduces Merkon (Morris), a commander from the home planet, who inquires as to why the family hasn’t warned the earth about its imminent destruction. Garrett is more than willing to act like a conehead to the best of his abilities. Elliott discovering the senso-rings and using them on Connie (Newman) is pretty hysterical too. A-
4. The McGarrigle Sisters sing “Kiss & Say Goodbye” (2:38)
Wow, pretty early for the first musical performance. Despite having no idea who these two are, they made a huge impression on me with this performance, which is a soulful and heart-wrenching ballad that is the best argument for folk rock being absolutely wonderful. Yeah, this performance blew me away. A+
5. You’ve Come A Long Way, Buddy (6:51)
With a title spoofing the slogan from Virginia Slim’s, a host (Gould) of a roundtable discussion show asks his guests to talk about their various men-inspired areas of expertise. Ted Meyers (Aykroyd) deals in art and music done completely by men, Bob Lewis (Morris) runs a community center for young African-American men (a triple negative, according to Lewis, because they’re all three things that get discriminated against), Roy Matthews (Murray) operates a bar that offers free drinks to women, and finally Sam Montgomery (Belushi) who offers a 24-hour rape hotline… for rapists. You see, rapists need the opportunity to talk to professionals because of their fear to go to the police and approach social stigmas. This is a delightful and extremely well-written sketch that flips the gender bias on its head. A+
6. Weekend Update with Jane Curtin (10:40)
After a glitch and amusing ad-lib at the beginning, Jane talks about Phillip Wrigley’s remains being stuck to the bottom of a luncheonette counter and then laughs to herself about a Ford joke (“Ha-ha! He doesn’t even wear a hat…”). Bill Murray stops by to comment on the porn infestation in Times Square and in the process of his commentary, the descriptive words get more and more sexual in nature, causing Murray to have to stay put and read a few stories before he can get up and leave. Jane introduces a new cigarette model with a mouse at the end of it to capture all the cancer-causing agents before ingesting the smoke. The suicide of Howdy Doody leads into an interview with his widow Debbie (Radner) conducted by Laraine Newman. Debbie is upset but her activity would seem to indicate otherwise as she aimlessly moves around on strings. Finally, John Belushi stops by for a report on the weather, which soon develops into a crazy, rambling commentary on everything from tornados to monsoons to Indians’ refusal to eat cows. A
7. Nick Summers (5:39)
Bill Murray finally gets his first huge hit with the long-lasting recurring character, Nick the Lounge Singer. Paul Shaffer accompanies Nick on piano and almost makes the instrument a character of its own. In the first edition of Nick’s lounge act, he wishes an unwilling couple (Belushi & Radner) a happy anniversary, attempts to speak to a woman (Newman) in the audience with his good friend Skeeter (Gould), and then welcomes his Native American accomplice, Jimmy Joe Red Sky (Aykroyd) with the Catch of the Day. Nick really hammers home Murray’s smarmy personality that he would utilize in plenty of future sketches and commentaries as well as most of his comedy flicks. This was shorter than his lounge singer sketches would usually be, but it was a pretty fun introduction to this great character. A-
8. United Face Bank (2:15)
Joan Crawford (Curtin) acts as spokesperson for the United Face Bank, a place where people born without faces can acquire one that is closest to the one they desire. One client (Morris) humourously has the face of an 11-year old white girl and then continues to look through the fridge for a better face. A very absurd concept for a sketch but it was amusing, especially Curtin’s Crawford impression. B+
9. Gary Weis Film: Sports Fights (1:13)
So did Gary Weis attempt to ruin another episode again? Actually this time, this film is fairly entertaining and kept short. As Ray Charles sings the national anthem, footage is shown from some particularly brutal sports fights made to show that some athletes are still passionate about the sport. B
10. The McGarrigle Sisters sing “Heart Like a Wheel” (2:46)
Another tune from the Sisters, another wonderful performance. This time, it’s a quieter song where each girl takes their turn with the verses. All this results in another soulful folk song that manages to entertain and bring a tear to one’s eye. I can’t re-iterate enough how effective these girls are as the musical guests. A+
11. ATM Security Test (3:11)
Two men (Morris and Murray) go to a 24-hour bank machine to collect Garrett’s funds but first must pass an IQ Quiz and a driving exam before receiving the money from the dispenser. The twist at the end is really bizarre but it pays off in this trippy, entertaining quick sketch. A-
12. Natural Causes Restaurant (4:37)
Jason (Aykroyd) and Chloe (Newman) return after their hilarious sketch from Boyle/Jarreau in Year 1 to operate a restaurant that only serves animals that have died of natural causes. Again, Elliott plays straight man in this sketch along with Gilda but the man does it so damn well. The menu suggestions from J&C are quite hilarious (“there’s a sheep in the kitchen dying from anthrax”) and nearing the end of the sketch, it almost causes Elliott to crack up. The majority of the sketch is pretty hilarious, but the ending was a bit weak. B+
13. Roslyn Kind sings “I’m Not Anyone” (3:26)
Delivering a rather throaty performance, Roslyn doesn’t measure up to the McGarrigle Sisters but still delivers a decently entertaining performance worthy of this episode. B
14. Home Movie: Puppet Affair (1:26)
A man returns home to find his wife cheating on him with a puppet and thus, he dukes it out with the little guy and they have a fight scene that would make Steven Seagal blush. Just kidding. But seriously, it’s probably one of the best and one of the most well-made home movies. A-
15. Pilson’s Feedbag Dinners (2:45)
Repeat from 11/27/76. C+
Elliott doesn’t realize they’re back right away and paces back and forth for a bit before learning that they have about sixty seconds to kill. Aykroyd does so by making a plea for some tanks he needs for his motorcycle while Belushi sings Elliott’s praises as “the best host [they’ve] ever had.”
What a phenomenal episode. Elliott, despite not having as much to do comedically this time, delivered in all of the sketches he appeared in while also delivering one of the funniest monologues of the season doing “The Castration Walk.” It is no surprise that Gould was constantly invited back to do the show a number of times and that he ended up being one of the more consistent hosts during the show’s early years as well.
On the musical side of things, the McGarrigle Sisters were top-notch. With absolutely no expectations, the sisters sung their hearts out and complimented each other perfectly in two of the most awesome performances from the entire season. It’s almost a guarantee that these two will place in my year-end awards somewhere in the Top 3. The secondary musical guest, Roslyn Kind, also provided some dulcet tones and while she came nowhere near the sisters quality-wise, she still managed to deliver an entertaining performance of her own.
What’s most interesting about the cast this week is Garrett Morris’ appearances. With last week’s Julian Bond-helmed episode, it seemed obvious why Garrett was involved in a lot of stuff but this week with Elliott Gould, it seemed like things would go back to the norm. However, Garrett was in a lot of sketches this week (probably even more than last week) and did a pretty good job of it too. Bill Murray though is starting to get more recognition and the debut of one of his most beloved characters probably didn’t hurt either.
This was a terrific episode from top to bottom.
Some might argue Elliott played mostly straight-man characters and was underused, but honestly, I think that’s what he excels at. He was the calm center for many sketches that killed this week.
Hmm, what exactly is a Protoid-Bowl?
This is one of those episodes where pretty much everything clicked. The repeat of the Pilson’s Feedbag Dinners commercial wasn’t all that, but that’s a moot point.
“You’ve Come A Long Way, Buddy” is one of the best sketches the original cast ever put together in my opinion.
Elliott not noticing that they were back from commercial right away when the goodnights began was pretty funny and spontaneous. I love little moments like that in the show. Also, Dan Aykroyd asking for motorcycle parts. That sounded legitimate.
Host Rating: A-
Musical Guest Rating – The McGarrigle Sisters: A+
Musical Guest Rating – Roslyn Kind: B
Show Rating: A