SNL Retro: Buck Henry/Jennifer Warnes, Kenny Vance (5/21/77)

Posted: November 3, 2010 by Brendan Wahl in SNL Retro Reviews
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by Brendan Wahl

(Season 2, Episode 22)

Well, this is it. After an exciting season filled with highs and some lows, we come to the end of it with another reliable host in Buck Henry. What can be said about the second season? While it was definitely more consistent than the debut year for Saturday Night Live, it still wasn’t at its peak for this cast yet. The second season was filled with many memorable moments/sketches/musical guests and the cast was more than up for it despite some brief downtime after losing Chevy Chase. Bill Murray’s time on the show had a shaky beginning but it was just starting to gain some momentum at this point and this is his last shot before the season ends to really make his impact.

Going with a reliable go-to host, Lorne hired Buck Henry for this episode (and would do so for every other season finale during the first five years). Buck was a man who was game for pretty much anything and that was pretty evident when looking at his past hosting appearances earlier in Year 2 and his two appearances in Year 1. However, his willingness to participate would become even more evident in future episodes, but that’s another story. Anyway, I digress. Buck is one of the great hosts on the show and one of the easiest to work with so its plain to see why they would want him back again and again.

Joining Mr. Henry are two musical guests, although performing as a duo. Jennifer Warnes, who would be best known for her duet with Joe Cocker of “Up Where We Belong,” joins Kenny Vance on the show. Vance, who is somewhat of an unknown to me, would return to the show during the infamous Doumanian era to become musical director and managed to acquire acts like Aretha Franklin, Prince, and James Brown. Not too shabby. Warnes has a heck of a voice but having no knowledge of Vance, I have no idea what to expect from this guy.

For the final time this season, START!

The Show:

1. A Fireside Chat (3:06)

The energy shortage was a major issue during President Carter’s regime and this sketch highlights that fact in a humourous fashion as members of the Presidential family must keep pedaling a bike that is powering the White House energy. Jimmy (Aykroyd) and Rosalyn (Newman) have no problem switching off between manually running the generator, but when poor Lillian (Radner)  has her turn, it’s an entirely different story. It’s a clever sight gag and one that makes this brief opening a classic. A

2. Monologue (3:11)

Buck announces that he wanted to do something different this time and so, having the clout and being cleared to do anything by NBC, he invites a lady on-stage to perform a live sex act. Unfortunately, a rather burly man somehow misinterprets Buck’s invite and manhandles the host onto the bed he has carefully set up. Buck’s monologues are usually wonderful and this was funny as well. B+

3. Samurai B.M.O.C. (7:04)

After discussing semantics with a black revolutionary leader (Morris), the Dean (Henry) of the university meets with Samurai Futaba (Belushi), who is being halted from graduating. Like always, Henry has terrific chemistry with Belushi’s Samurai and they switch it up enough every time to keep the recurring character from becoming stale.  The sketch is like poetry and though the Samurai works with Buck-less sketches as well, Mr. Henry always brings out the best in him. A-

4. Jennifer Warnes sings “Right Time of the Night” (2:50)

Sporting some glasses that immediately give away the decade she’s from, Warnes belts out a tune that manages to entertain and have some pretty good lyrics as well. Warnes looks high, though, by her body language that she exudes during this performance. Either way, it’s solid. B+

5. In The Shower (3:42)

Spastic and entertaining Richard Herkiman (Murray) turns a shower with his wife (Radner) into a variety-style show with songs and guests including the man she’s cheating on him with. As her secret lover (Henry) enters the shower, he and Richie’s wife are all hugs and kisses while he talks about how hurt he is in a very off-putting smarmy way. Much like Nick the Lounge Singer, this character plays to Murray’s strengths and is another breakout moment for him during the second season. B+

6. Return Of The Coneheads (9:49)

This time, Beldar (Aykroyd) and Prymaat (Curtin) welcome Dr. Ray Bondish (Henry), who brings a large pyramid with strange writing on it. It is interpreted as an urgent message from Remulak and the family finally explains their origins much to the delight of their visitor. After ejecting him, the Coneheads plan to drive away so they can return home in a hilarious filmed portion of the sketch. There, we get to meet another Conehead (Morris) and the High Master of Remulak (Belushi) who is set to have an arranged marriage with Connie (Newman). Unfortunately, she is not the virgin bride he expected. This sketch really pushes the absurdity of these characters, but it’s fantastic and the best of their appearances so far. A+

7. Weekend Update with Jane Curtin (7:03)

Commenting on the Frost/Nixon interviews, Curtin announces that Tricky Dick has also committed petty crimes like robbing liquor stores in the Washington area. There’s also an amusing piece involving a microphone being attached to Seattle Slew and his jockey (with the voices done by Chevy Chase!) as they bump along during the race. Emily Litella (Radner) interviews Bella Abzug (the real McCoy), who apparently has a huge announcement to make but Litella fumbles the introduction up so much so Bella just stops the interview with “nevermind.” Even our host stops by to deliver Jane an award for Outstanding Television Journalist for the 1976-77 season, but begins to regret it and take it back after he realizes that Curtin won’t sleep with him for it. B+

8. Rhonda’s Bridal Shower (5:30)

Another appearance by the Jewish New Yawker (Radner) sees her gathering with friends and has the same response for every gift she receives from her friends. The sketch basically consists of a bunch of typical New York gals talking about all things New York. There’s not a whole lot of substance to this sketch and though the performances are fine, the piece is kind of stale. The sketch is a little too long as well and just doesn’t feel like it really has a point. C

9. How Your Children Grow (3:37)

Jane hosts a show featuring a scientist (Henry) showing off his recent experiments of one girl (Radner) who has to enunciate the punctuation in his speech. The second girl (Newman) rings a bell and then Jane gets a cookie. The twist of the sketch is really funny and that’s mainly where the humour comes out of. Don’t get me wrong, though. This is a very cleverly constructed one-joke sketch. A-

10. Film: Dog In Bed (:43)

A film by Bill Wegman rather than the Weis man this week features his dog taking a snooze in bed until the alarm clock wakes him up. That’s literally the entire sketch. I don’t even know how to rate that. So I won’t.

11. Kenny Vance sings “The Performer” (3:58)

A rollicking little tune by Vance, who looks really, really tired. It’s got a bit of a mariachi sound to it as well and that only adds to the enjoyability. Not as great as Warnes’ tune, but still pretty solid. B

12. Lucky Lindy (6:12)

Charles Lindbergh (Henry) attempts his flight from New York to Paris despite the distractions of a narrator (Aykroyd) and his pornographic magazines. Every time he drifts off to sleep or becomes distracted, he gets very close to the Atlantic Ocean and eventually is visited by a certain shark (Chevy Chase!) that can live on land. It’s a pretty big surprise and a funny one at that which is a great way to finish off the sketches for the year. A-

13. The SNL Band performs “Departure Lounge” (3:50)

With a piece written by Howard Shore, the Saturday Night band performs the instrumental piece and despite the fact that Howard freakin’ Shore wrote this and it’s obviously going to be a good ballad, it kind of takes some of the momentum away from the show. Still, it’s a good tune. B

14. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir (2:12)

Mr. Mike makes his return as an impressionist and this time, his big act is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (the cast & writers)… if they had large steel needles shoved into their eyes. It’s essentially a repeat of the last two times he did “needles-in-the-eyes” impressions, but it’s still odd and darkly amusing. B+

Buck thanks the shark, who then promptly “eats” him. Chevy then pops out to say hello and everyone else waves goodbye for the summer.

And that, my friend, is that.

So what can be said about the second season of Saturday Night Live? I think I’ve said everything I’ve really wanted to say about the season already and have nothing too much to add. This episode, while certainly not the best one this season, was a solid one and held up as another fine set of performances from Buck Henry. Buck proved once again that he was a most qualified host and that he doesn’t even need to be the center of attention to be funny. He provided the cast with a shot of adrenaline like he usually did.

Jennifer Warnes proved to be a pretty good musical guest as did Kenny Vance, but both performers really only did one song each so it’s hard to get a good grasp on how either would be were they to be the solo guest. However, judging from this episode, they were both apt and performed well. The SNL Band acted as a sort of unofficial third musical guest and while I’m not a huge fan of that type of music, their performance was fairly good as well.

I will post my year-end awards/demerits for Season 2 in a few days.

Notes:

Pretty clever bit of business was Buck Henry referencing the monologue at the beginning of Samurai B.M.O.C. Speaking of that sketch, why did it have such a long build-up to the Samurai’s entrance?

Buck Henry was still wet from the shower sketch during his brief appearance in the Coneheads bit. Pretty funny to see, but I don’t know why.

I think those people that were in New York during the filmed Coneheads portion did not have a clue what was going on.

How Your Children Grow: “The doctors removed half his colon.” “Semi-colon.”
“As far as we know, she’s just some dumbo who likes to ring a bell and point to her right.”

“Unexpected turbulence suddenly jerked the plane off… course.”

Host Rating: A

Musical Guest Rating – Jennifer Warnes: B+

Musical Guest Rating – Kenny Vance: B

Show Rating: B+

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