Posts Tagged ‘buck henry’


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 3, Episode 20)

Here it is, the season finale. It’s been quite an awesome ride with this season with only one small misfire (Kahn/Mahal) and a huge number of very strong episodes and near-classics. Even ones that were not great like Chevy Chase/Billy Joel or Jill Clayburgh/Eddie Money were still fairly good. It’s pretty telling of a season’s quality when some of the worst episodes average at probably about *** 1/2.

Of course, we close out the season as we always did from seasons 2-5: with lovable reliable ol’ Buck Henry, a very easy host to work with for the Not Ready For Primetime Players and one who was willing to go places with the sketches that many other hosts would’ve shied away from doing.

 

The Show:

“The Boy in the Plastic Pants Suit” will not be seen tonight.

1. Cold Opening: Nixon’s Book (2:59)

Former President Richard Nixon (Aykroyd) urges people to buy his book and says that even if you don’t believe him and you don’t want to read it, you can just buy it and then kick it around. That’ll show him!

– Great use of Danny’s Nixon impression and it was also pretty funny to see after Aykroyd’s blatant attack on Tricky Dick during the goodnights last week.
– Aykroyd’s solution to buy the book just to kick it around was hilarious and I liked him attributing it to his famous quote, “You don’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.” His comment that Pat was already on her fourth copy was also pretty amusing.
– Garrett Morris gets a role here that any extra could’ve played.
Rating: *** 1/2

2. Monologue (3:29)

Buck professes his love for hosting the show and being a part of this great experience all the while some scrolling text proclaims Buck’s career to be over and that he is clinging onto his last shred of fame.

– Hilarious monologue. I loved the text that scrolled by during Buck’s serious speech about the dignity he has, his loving family, and the fact that NBC being in third place can’t really afford to be sentimental by thrusting a sad-sack like Buck onto the stage as the host of the season finale. The whole thing was just timed perfectly too.
Rating: **** 1/2

3. Nerd Prom (7:50)

Todd DiLaMuca (Murray) gets ready to escort Lisa Loopner (Radner) to the prom along with Todd’s dad Marshall (Henry), who drives them there. They eventually convince Mrs. Loopner (Curtin) to join them as well.

– Nice callback to the previous Nerds sketch with Lisa playing the same piano tune at the beginning.
– Another terrific sketch featuring the Nerds. Buck Henry was a great addition as Marshall DiLaMuca (still DiLaBounta at the time), but of course everyone worked really hard in making this great sketch work well again.
– My favourite parts were Gilda saying she knows the facts of life (she DID get an A in health), Buck’s lame John Travolta joke, pretty much all the interaction between Billy and Gilda, and the quick moment with Buck picking his nose.
– I like how with every sketch, the death of “the late Mr. Loopner” gets more gruesome and mysterious.
Rating: *****

4. Samurai T.V. Repairman (3:27)

Mr. Dantley (Henry) visits the electronic repair shop to have Samurai Futaba (Belushi) take a look and repair his television.

– Of course, nothing will ever top the classic Samurai Delicatessen sketch but I’ve never really disliked any of these sketches.
– I particularly liked the inspector tag on the TV from Japan being revealed to be the Samurai’s mother’s ID number.
– The ending with Belushi striking it with the sword and fixing it and then using his swords for antennas was also brilliant.
Rating: ****

5. Sodom Chamber of Commerce (4:17)

The ancient ciity of Sodom holds a council in which its members (Henry, Aykroyd, Belushi, Morris, & Murray) attempt to come up with a positive spin on their city that will do away with the whole imagery of sodomy and human sacrifice.

– Very funny and creative sketch. They could never get away with something like this today for the subject matter alone. I mean, an entire sketch about anal sex? The censors would pass out.
– Great performance from Buck here as the sturdy straightman. His deadpan delivery on some ridiculous and dark lines made them even more effective. He even had some fairly cheesy lines here but because of Buck’s wonderful performance, he made them work too.
– Murray was hilarious too, especially his delivery while reading their slogan: “You have to be crazy to live in Sodom. Crazy about sodomy.”
– The ending with Jane, Laraine, and Gilda was great.
Rating: **** 1/2

6. UPDATE TEASER w/Jane Curtin (:06)

Donny Osmond consummates his marriage while his wife, Debbie, watches.

7. WEEKEND UPDATE w/Dan Aykroyd & Jane Curtin (9:32)
Guest: Laraine Newman and Bill Murray

Best Jokes: hamburgers; fanfare expression; Charlie Chaplin’s body; Italy/abortions






– Yet ANOTHER great sponsor bit.
– The fanfare bit really worked due to Aykroyd’s terrific delivery.
– The first piece is Laraine Newman reporting from the Son of Sam trial via an artist’s rendering because there were no cameras allowed in the courthouse. Pretty funny stuff here, actually, with the crappy drawing and the reporting giving us absolutely no real information on the case.
– Bill Murray comes by to review The Greek Tycoon based on a quick clip he is shown at the last second. His best bit was accusing one of the actors for saying “excuse me” and stealing Steve Martin’s line in the process. His attempt at calling Jackie Onassis (to inform her that the movie ripped off her life) was also hilarious, especially him saying John Belushi’s name after his own name doesn’t get him anywhere. Terrific segment.
– Aykroyd’s commentary on Betty Ford’s alcoholism was pretty funny devolving into a reference to other first ladies’ problems with the juice. It died with the audience though.
– The Point/Counterpoint segment deals with Dan and Jane arguing in a courteous way about which side they will take, but then they soon devolve into a sharp-tongued debate about the merits of jogging. I like the minor changes they made to this and it made for another classic point/counterpoint.
– Perfect edition of Update this week.
Rating: *****

8. The Olympia Cafe (5:05)

Life continues at the Chicago-based restaurant where a representative (Henry) from Rent-a-Doberman comes in to talk with Pete (Belushi) about getting a guard dog in the restaurant to protect it from burglary.

– Very funny edition of this recurring sketch. I really liked Belushi haggling the price of the doberman rental and his consrant firing and rehiring of Murray’s character was a hoot as well. It really says something for Bill’s acting when I actually felt really bad for him everytime he got mistreated in this sketch.
– Belushi grabbing an axe to take care of “that lamb in the basement” was a great little moment.
Rating: ****

9. Mr. Mike’s Least-Loved Music (2:56)

Mr. Mike sings a tune called “Baby Ghouls” while a vampire (Newman) provides backup and eventually bites his neck.

– An example of Mr. Mike’s strange warped sense of humour. This wasn’t so much laugh-out-loud funny as much as it was an insane, strange, and dark conceptual piece with some great stuff from a singing Mr. Mike and Laraine.
– I loved Laraine’s sign-language bit at the beginning.
Rating: *** 1/2

10. More Insects to Worry About (4:41)

Joan Face (Curtin) interviews Dr. Russell Bedanza (Henry) about other various forms of insects that are making their way to the United States.

– The first time they did this sketch, I thought it was okay but I don’t really see the merit in repeating it again in the same season. This was actually quite a bit better than the first edition though and Buck and Jane had great chemistry together.
– The part that made me laugh the most is Jane quickly mentioning that part of Buck’s research included living with the insects as one of their kind. My favourite insect that Buck mentions is the one that enters through any opening on the body and brings in everday items to the brain like car keys, a paperback novel, and other such ridiculous items.
Rating: ****

11. Stunt Puppy (4:54)

Middle-aged actor Howard (Henry) is directed to inflict abuse on a puppy during a film shoot, but the director (Murray) makes sure to bring in a stunt puppy for the scenes.

– This was essentially a carbon-copy of Stunt Baby, but it was still hilarious nonetheless. Murray turns in another great smarmy performance as the director and Buck’s scene of violence against the puppy was almost as good as the one he had with the baby in his previous episode.
Rating: ****

12. Bad Conceptual Art (2:58)

Leonard Pinth-Garnell (Aykroyd) presents a piece on bad conceptual art named “Pavlov Video Chicken I” featuring three performers (Morris, Newman, & Radner).

– Yet ANOTHER recurring sketch tonight. And yet, with all of the recurring pieces tonight, it’s still looking like another excellent episode is in the books tonight.
– This was an okay edition of the sketch but overall it was not quite as good as most of these pieces were. It felt like they were just being weird and thought it would translate into great material but it didn’t really work as well as it was planned.
Rating: **

13. The Franken and Davis Show (4:20)

Al and Tom prepare to do their “famous” sumo wrestling piece but Davis can no longer take the pressure of hiding his secret. After Al reveals his “wife” and “son,” Tom yells out that they are in fact gay lovers and have been living a lie. This causes Al’s family to walk out on him.

– This was excellent and one of my favourite Franken and Davis pieces that these guys ever did. The audience jeering when Tom asks if they have respect for Al now was the cherry on the cake.
– I especially liked Al’s son’s outburst about how much he hates him now.
– The ending was so dark with Franken committing suicide but the two of them waving after the title card made it even funnier with Tom declaring that Al “didn’t really shoot himself.”
Rating: *****

14. Sun Ra performs “Space is the Place” and “Space-Loneliness” (6:03)

– Hands-down, one of the strangest performances in the history of the show. There’s been some odd acts on the show like the I’m The Slime performance by Frank Zappa, David Bowie singing Boys Keep Swinging with a super-imposed puppet body, and Devo in general, but this was one of the most oddly compelling ones that also doubled as one of the more creative performances I’ve seen in some time.
– I also find it very interesting that this was pushed to the very end of the show. Perhaps Lorne knew they would lose a lot of people at this point and didn’t want to take that risk. Or maybe it was the network’s suggestion not to take it. Either way, it was probably a wise business move because I’m sure a lot of SNL‘s audience was pretty weirded out by this segment.
– They keep playing long after the bumper has shown up.

15. Goodnights

– Buck mentions “they’ll all be back in the fall… or not.”

 

OVERALL: A very, very strong season finale with only one lowpoint (Bad Conceptual Art) and many classic sketches to choose from. It’s always nice to have a reliable host like Buck Henry close out the season and the show always benefitted from having him as the host. There was A LOT of recurring material tonight (the only things that weren’t recurring was the cold open, monologue, and the sodomy sketch. It didn’t really bug me though because 90% of it was great to begin with and warranted some additional follow-ups to the sketches.

I’ve said all I can say about the season in general so let’s just say that it ended on a high note to what was an INCREDIBLE string of episodes with VERY minor blips on the radar.

APPEARANCES:

HOST: BUCK HENRY – 7 segments (Monologue; Nerd Prom; Samurai T.V. Repairman; Sodom Chamber of Commerce; The Olympia Cafe; More Insects to Worry About; Stunt Puppy)

DAN AYKROYD – 5 segments (Nixon’s Book; Sodom Chamber of Commerce; Weekend Update; The Olympia Cafe; Bad Conceptual Art)
JOHN BELUSHI – 3 segments (Samurai T.V. Repairman; Sodom Chamber of Commerce; The Olympia Cafe)
JANE CURTIN – 6 segments (Nerd Prom; Sodom Chamber of Commerce; Weekend Update; The Olympia Cafe; More Insects to Worry About; Stunt Puppy)
GARRETT MORRIS – 5 segments (Nixon’s Book; Sodom Chamber of Commerce; The Olympia Cafe; Stunt Puppy; Bad Conceptual Art)
BILL MURRAY – 5 segments (Nerd Prom; Sodom Chamber of Commerce; Weekend Update; The Olympia Cafe; Stunt Puppy)
LARAINE NEWMAN – 5 segments (Sodom Chamber of Commerce; Weekend Update; The Olympia Cafe; Mr. Mike’s Least-Loved Music; Bad Conceptual Art)
GILDA RADNER – 5 segments (Nerd Prom; Sodom Chamber of Commerce; The Olympia Cafe; Stunt Puppy; Bad Conceptual Art)

TOM DAVIS – 1 segment (The Franken and Davis Show)
AL FRANKEN – 1 segment (The Franken and Davis Show)

 

AND NOW…

MY END-OF-THE-SEASON AWARDS:

Best Shows:

1. Steve Martin/Blues Brothers (4/22/78)
2. Robert Klein/Bonnie Raitt (1/28/78)
3. Buck Henry/Sun Ra (5/20/78)

Worst Shows:

1. Madeline Kahn/Taj Mahal (10/8/77)
2. Chevy Chase/Billy Joel (2/18/78)
3. Jill Clayburgh/Eddie Money (3/18/78)

Best Hosts:

1. Steve Martin
2. Buck Henry
3. Michael Palin

Worst Hosts:

1. Hugh Hefner
2. Michael Sarrazin
3. Art Garfunkel

Best Musical Guests:

1. Elvis Costello
2. Ray Charles
3. The Blues Brothers

Worst Musical Guests:

1. Keith Jarrett
2. Libby Titus
3. Ashford & Simpson

This was a really tough list to make and a lot of the ‘worst’ categories are just the weakest by default.

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by Brendan Wahl

(Season 3, Episode 8 )

You probably read the title of this post and thought, “Who in the hell is that?!” I can almost guarantee that if you do not remember the Anyone Can Host contest way back in 1977 than you would be totally unfamiliar with this episode’s guest star. That’s right. I am, of course, referring to the one and only… Elvis Costello.

But I jest.

In all seriousness, Miskel Spillman was the winner of the Anyone Can Host contest a couple of weeks previous to this episode and would be the one selected as the host for the Christmas edition of Saturday Night Live. She would also remain the program’s oldest host for thirty-two years (damn you, Betty White!) and the only non-celebrity to ever host (that includes Pamela Sue Martin). If SNL has taught us anything over the years it’s that the statement “anyone can host” is CERTAINLY not true.

Joining Miskel is Elvis Costello, who was in his angry youth days at this point in his career. Elvis was actually a last-minute replacement for the original musical guests, the Sex Pistols, who simply couldn’t get visas in time because of their criminal records and related legal problems in the US. Elvis, who was touring North America at the time, agreed to do the show but there was quite a bit of argument over what songs he was to perform on this week’s episode. That will become important later.

Anyway, let’s start this THANG!

The Show:

1. Stoned (1:59)
-Buck Henry, Belushi, Newman

Since he was the one that essentially guided America through the Anyone Can Host contest and introduced the participants, it’s only fitting that Buck Henry make an appearance at the top of the show. In this opening, he finds John and Laraine in the locker room discussing how well their novice host will do. Buck reveals that Miskel is in a sort-of haze in her dressing room and it turns out that it’s all because of Belushi and his monster-powered joints (that “your joints overwhelm even an experienced drug user like myself,” says Henry). Quick, amusing way to start the show. B+

2. Monologue (2:03)
-Spillman, Buck Henry

Sure enough, Miskel makes her way out with fruit basket in hand and Buck Henry alongside her. She looks absolutely elated to be there and of course she’s not a performer, so she’s given very few lines to work with. Every time Buck tries to take the basket, Spillman pulls away and makes glassy-eyed expressions directed towards the audience. When she finally does have some lines, it is so plainly obvious that she is reading directly off the cue cards and her delivery is piss-poor. But I mean that’s to be expected, right? C

3. Meat Wagon Action Track Set (:52)

This amusing commercial parody cleverly mimics those children’s toys commercials with this one being exactly what it sounds like. Includes the scene of an accident, miniature body bag, and the ambulance to take the body to the morgue. Funny enough, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a real toy. B+

4. American Date The Self-Conscious Association (4:01)
-Belushi, Murray, Newman, Radner

A spokesperson (Newman) presents a dating service for the self-conscious as we see a potential couple (Murray & Radner) attempt to get through a date without being too self-deprecating. When it turns out that the spokesperson herself is not totally cured of her own self-consciousness and that her guest (Belushi) is the complete opposite (he is ridiculously obnoxious!), the sketch really kicks it into high gear. Dan Aykroyd also shows up as a representative for the Really Stupid People’s Amalgamation in a hilarious bit. The sketch also had a Monty Python-like vibe to it and the performances by all involved were pretty terrific. A

5. The Gift of the Magi (6:10)
-Spillman, Aykroyd, Belushi, Curtin, Newman, Radner

We get the first sketch appearance of our host here as she sits next to Jane Curtin, while the Update anchor reads the story of the poor couple who were facing a failing kidney on the part of the wife (Radner). The husband (Belushi) loves her hair and despite the couple’s faith, they could not afford to exchange gifts. This is obviously a comic take on a popular Christmas tale where the husband and wife each sell their prized possessions to be able to give each other gifts, but the only difference is that this has a much darker ending. This was a funny piece and a clever use of Miskel without having to get her to act or anything. I did like her last line, too. B+

6. Elvis Costello sings “Watching the Detectives” (3:56)

Staring intently into the camera, Costello & the Attractions are in top form here as he sings a haunting rendition of one of his big hits at the time. He looks visibly angry here at the song that his label told him to sing. Again, this will become important later on. A

7. Weekend Update with Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin (13:33)
-Also: Garrett Morris, Bill Murray, & Gilda Radner

We get the second appearance of a teaser before Update starts and it’s a pretty funny one with President Carter and the First Lady dressing up for the Broadway musical, Cats. More great Carter-related news items includes a pregnant magazine cover and a discussion involving Menachim Begin that leads into a telephone conversation between Jane and the President himself (Aykroyd). Since it is obviously Danny doing the voice, the reveal of Aykroyd on the phone at the other side of the newsdesk following the call is made that much funnier. Garrett’s commentary was pretty funny as he started by defending an African-American basketball player who supposedly punched a white player during a game, but after showing footage that proves the opposite of his point, he backs up and rescinds his story. Bill Murray stops by with his smarmy self to do a review of Miracle on 34th Street, which he finds a total cop-out because the movie never says whether there is a Santa Claus or not. It’s another example of Murray’s expertise at playing these types of Hollywood phony characters and I love how this commentary reveals that he still believes in jolly old St. Nick. Directly after Bill takes off, the Dancing N returns and wants to be revealed. Danny finally takes the N off and it’s Emily Litella, who makes her first appearance since last season. She does a commentary on the “sssst landing” and it’s the same ol’ thing she usually does, but Jane’s subsequent freak-out afterwards is hilarious. After capping it off with a funny bit regarding Idi Amin being chummy with the Son of Sam killer, we close out on a pretty strong edition of Update. A

8. Sartresky & Hutch (6:52)
-Spillman, Buck Henry, Aykroyd, Belushi, Curtin, Morris, Murray, Newman

Well, here’s a pretty conceptual piece. Spoofing the 70s cop drama (which would’ve been on the air still at this point), this piece finds Hutch (Belushi) teamed up with the philosophizing Sartresky (Aykroyd), named after Jean-Paul of course. I’m sure this would go over the heads of tons of viewers today and probably did at the time as well. This “episode” sees the twosome trying to stop a suicidal criminal (Murray) from blowing himself up as well as his wife (Curtin) and his mother (Spillman). Not to mention there is also an amusing piece with Buck making a proposal towards a hooker informant (Newman). This doesn’t work as well as it should have, but it is still funny and is highlighted by Aykroyd’s fantastic comic performance as an existentialist cop. Belushi also comes perilously close to cracking up due to Danny’s antics. B

9. The Franken and Davis Show (4:12)

What starts off as a special visit from Al’s parents (the real deal!) soon degenerates into an insane family ordeal after his mother reveals an embarrassing story involving Al and urination. These bits are usually among the highlights of the episodes they appear in and this one was no exception. While Franken and Davis were great writers, their performance skills were also pretty impressive. Al does dishevelled well and Davis is the man who attempts to calm the storm. A+

10. E. Buzz Miller’s Art Classics (3:43)
-Aykroyd, Newman

We get the debut of two semi-popular characters here as E. Buzz Miller (Aykroyd), sleazebag extraordinaire, introduces some classic paintings involving nudes so that he can point out the breasts on the women. Christy Christina (Newman) joins him and through her giggling and ditzy mannerisms, she doesn’t lend too much to the discussion. Laraine is an absolute delight here though and I loved Christy! Come to think of it, this is Buzz’s second appearance (his first being in Gordon/Berry in Year 2), but the character has evolved a bit since then. B+

11. Elderly Girlfriend (3:30)
-Spillman, Aykroyd, Belushi, Curtin

For the first time all night, Miskel gets her first real opportunity to act as a young college man (Belushi) comes home with his new girlfriend (Spillman). The parents (Aykroyd & Curtin) are more than a little surprised by the age difference between the new couple, but they still don’t react with cartoonish behaviour like you’d expect. A good, calming sketch and Miskel does the best she could possibly do with this role. It was kind of adorable here that Jane pretty much guided her through their conversation too. B

12. Wino Santa (2:38)
-Murray, Radner

A department store Santa (Murray) relentlessly taunts a poor young girl (Radner), who asks for tons of different gifts. Jolly old St. Nick is all too willing to mercilessly torture her by dropping her off his lap and continues to revel in her misery. This was just an example of the chemistry between these two, which would only improve in the years to come. A-

13. The Soiled Kimono (4:04)
-Newman

One of the all-time classic Mr. Mike bits. Laraine stops by Mr. Mike’s Coral Waters Cafe to beg for a least-loved bedtime tale, but he makes her sing the aria from Madame Butterfly while some words scroll over the screen telling of the ingredients of the drink and of the story behind its origins. Reportedly, Laraine was none too happy about being forced to sing this difficult Madame Butterfly tune, but it results in a terrific sketch. A+

14. Elvis Costello sings “Less Than Zero”… err, “Radio Radio” (2:57)

After playing his hit, “Less Than Zero” for about fifteen seconds, Costello halts his band and launches into a harsh criticism of mainstream radio and television with “Radio Radio.” An infamous moment in SNL history and one of the all-time great musical performances on the show. Apparently, Costello did this after being sent over the edge due to a prank by Aykroyd. A+

Miskel, adorn in an adorable Christmas outfit, thanks everyone for giving her the most wonderful time in her life and brings everyone on stage (including Mr. Mike, papa and mama Franken, and Buck Henry, but of course not including Elvis Costello) to join in on the adulation. Interesting to note here is that the cameras focus on the crew more than the cast on-stage in a way of giving everyone screentime before the Christmas break, I guess. I also noticed here that a set was constructed for a sketch with Dan Aykroyd’s Joseph Franklin character, but it must’ve been cut for time.

So how was the episode? A lot better than you would think. For an episode of a show featuring a guest star with no acting experience whatsoever, this made for a pretty entertaining time and a number of classic bits to be found throughout. With a host who obviously didn’t give a tour-de-force performance, the episode basically became a cast-focused one. There were lots of highlights in that department too. From Laraine’s amazing singing voice to Gilda’s childlike abandon to Danny and John’s solid showings in several sketches again, this was a top notch showing from all involved.

Elvis Costello brought the musical goods here as well, particularly with his second rebellious song and his stares of utter terror that he made in the direction of the camera. Watch out, Dan Aykroyd!

Host Rating: B
Musical Guest Rating: A+
Show Rating: A-


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 3, Episode 6)

Good ol’ reliable Buck Henry. Marking his then-unprecedented fifth appearance hosting the show, this would pretty much be the last stop to hype up the Anyone Can Host contest. The five finalists were set to appear, so who better than Buck Henry to show up and guide them through the show that he knows so well? I’ve probably said this before, but Buck Henry is one of those consummate professional types that was just a ridiculously easy person to work with and even though he never had a single thing to promote, he was chosen as the host for two episodes every season during the first five years (and aside from Year 1, he hosted all the season finales as well). The network probably wouldn’t have strived to get Buck, but Lorne and the cast knew that they could get a dependable performance out of him and put on a stellar show most times.

Joining Buck is another favourite of the SNL cast and crew, that of Leon Redbone. Making his third appearance on the show, Redbone was something of an interesting character. For years and years, no one really knew too much about him like his date of birth or even who he truly was. According to a long-standing rumour at the time, many thought he was just Andy Kaufman in disguise or some even thought it could be Frank Zappa. I think its fairly obvious now that he was neither man, but it’s an interesting rumour.

Yep.

The Show:

1. Anyone Can Host Finalists (2:45)
-Henry, Anyone Can Host Finalists, Morris, Radner

We are finally introduced to the five Anyone Can Host finalists: Deb Blair, a mother from Peoria, Illinois; Connie Crawford, a Vassar co-ed; Richard Kneip, the governor of South Dakota; David Lewis, an unemployed guy from Oregon; and Miskel Spillman, an octogenarian grandmother. They all quickly introduce themselves to Mr. Henry himself along with Garrett and Gilda in the locker room. Each of them have their quirks and I think its fairly obvious that Mrs. Spillman is already the most popular of the quintet. Funny way to incorporate the finalists into a sketch and it was a unique way to get the show started. B+

2. Monologue (7:03)
-Henry, Anyone Can Host Finalists

Instead of the traditional monologue, Buck trots out the five finalists to the stage and gives each of them a chance to make their case as to why they want to host the popular comedic institution. Connie is pretty cute and David Lewis’ bit falls flat and gets no reaction, but Miskel charms the audience once again. It’s another good segment; nothing outstanding, but it works well due to Buck’s charisma and the concept of the whole contest. B+

3. Little Chocolate Donuts (:57)
-Belushi

Spoofing the Bruce Jenner ads for Wheaties, Belushi’s Olympic career is highlighted before he shills for the breakfast of champions, Little Chocolate Donuts. John’s deadpan makes this Franken and Davis-penned parody a real winner. A

4. Samurai Psychiatrist (5:36)
-Henry, Belushi

Like any other appearance by Buck Henry (except for Year 5, when Belushi was no longer a castmember), the Samurai appears again with another random occupation that he has taken up. This time, Futaba (Belushi) plays Freud to Mr. Dantley’s (Henry) stories of his inadequacies. These sketches are based mostly on the interplay between Buck and John, but most of them depend on some great visual gags as well. For some reason, despite a reliance on several of the same gags, this character never grew old. The twist on the traditional ending of these sketches was pretty terrific as well. A

5. Stunt Baby (4:31)
-Henry, Curtin, Murray, Newman (voice), Radner

While filming a scene for a movie involving a psychopathic father (Henry), the director (Murray) shmoozes his cast like a typical Hollywood phony. But then the greatest thing ever happens: Buck is just about to get violent with the baby and Murray yells for the stunt baby to be brought in. After some humourous instructions, Buck starts beating on the baby in over-the-top and ridiculous ways. At the time, this sketch was attacked by many censorship groups for its violence and disturbing content, but the way its handled here is so funny and it is the best sketch of the night. A+

6. A.M.O.A. Sanitized Motel (1:56)
-Aykroyd

A spokesman (Aykroyd) for sanitized motel glasses and toilets explains how these things actually get sanitized (with the assistance of some helpful pictures). This was funny enough, but why did Garrett dress up like a female just for the pictures? B

7. Leon Redbone sings “Champagne Charlie” (2:45)

Accompanied by a few other musicians, Leon sits center-stage and sings a ditty about a fella named Charlie, a song that originated way back in 1867. Leon’s unique voice and cadence makes for a very entertaining musical number and it doesn’t hurt that his guitar-picking is tremendous as well. A-

8. Weekend Update with Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin (6:45)
-Also: Anyone Can Host Finalists, Laraine Newman, & Gilda Radner

Lillian Carter gets quite an electric shock in a funny story by Jane but Dan also gets some chuckles with his artist’s rendering of how a baby becomes a male or female. Unlike most of the renderings during Chevy’s reign at the desk, this is a pretty amusing little bit and culminates in the two anchors lighting up a couple of cigars afterwards. Jane brings up the Anyone Can Host contest again and this time, sends it over to Laraine Newman to get some more words from the finalists. Laraine stumbles over her words a bit here, but we do get another great bit from Miskel (“You’re old. How do you feel?” “Tired.”). Finally, Baba Wawa (Radner) reports from Jerusalem and instead of concentrating on the story concerning some dignitaries in Egypt, Baba focuses on herself and talks about the security and her lunch date with Omar Shariff. Not much in the way of actual stories this week, but still a solid edition of Update. B+

9. Reunion In Kiev (4:48)
-Henry, Belushi, Newman, Radner

Reminiscing about her upcoming visit to her sister, a young Russian woman (Radner) has constant flashbacks of her time on the train, some memories more succinct than others. We also get a flashback from the waiter (Henry) as well as some musician (Belushi) that sits with her. Eventually, she is joined by her sister (Newman) and the confusion starts to pile on with the ridiculous amount of flashbacks. Whoever wrote this was pretty clever. A-

10. Mr. Mike’s Rickey Rat Club (6:10)
-Henry, Aykroyd, Belushi, Curtin, Morris, Murray, Newman, Radner

In an obvious spoof of the Disney ode to the eponymous mouse, Mr. Mike presents a tribute to the rickiest of rats, Rickey Rat. Bucky plays ringleader to the proceedings and guides the entire cast in a discussion about several of the experiments that they’ve conducted with their little furry friend. When Rickey himself is brought out, the Ratketeers recognize that it is not the correct rat, but Bucky explains that Rickey is busy helping science and now enjoying his stay in the hospital. It’s a decidedly dark criticism of animal testing and is another classic Mr. Mike piece. A

11. The Franken and Davis Show (5:41)
-Radner, Davis, Franken

Intermittent featured players during seasons 3-5, Franken and Davis were two of the sharpest young writers on the show and were finally able to showcase their performing skills on this recurring variety-show piece. Starting off by showing highlights of their careers, Franken and Davis then introduce Jackie Onassis (Radner) to perform a sketch with them where Tom Davis chokes at the dinner table. There’s some clever stuff here and although this wasn’t one of their stronger bits, it was still good. B+

12. Gary Weis Film: The Five Finalists (3:29)
-Henry, Anyone Can Host Finalists

Buck introduces a short film showing each finalist in the Anyone Can Host contest meeting up with our host in a hotel room and trying to find another way to guarantee their hosting stint on the Christmas episode of SNL. Connie comes on to Buck, Lewis explains how he likes to squeeze chipmunk heads, Deb tells Buck she’s not going to be able to afford Christmas this year, the governor tries to buy his way in, and Miskel says that she’s “going to kick” around New Year’s. More fun. B+

13. Leon Redbone sings “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone” (3:28)

Leon slows things down for a second number, begging people not to reminisce about him when the day comes that he finally passes from this world. Sorry, Mr. Redbone, but you are too legendary to not reminisce about. It’s another terrific performance here, of course. A

14. Schiller’s Reel: Life After Death (2:14)

The second film by Tom Schiller sees a number of people claim to have experienced near-death situations and some having even died completely and then came back when resuscitated. The best part is that the patients lament that they had to wait in line and take a number, but the whole film was good if a little short. B+

Bucky reminds everyone of the December 17th show that the Anyone Can Host contest winner will host and lets all the finalists make thier last stand and then the cast joins in to wave goodnight to everyone.

A super fun show. Buck proved that once again, he was one of the great hosts of the day and one that wouldn’t necessarily hog the spotlight either like some future hosts. Buck was entirely comfortable in playing straight man to the cast’s antics but he was often given some funny stuff to do because he was so beloved by all of the cast. Bucky clearly had fun with the Anyone Can Host contest aspect of the show as well and the finalists themselves must have had an absolute blast being involved in this episode.

Meanwhile, Leon Redbone provided some really solid musical accompaniment and proved to be one of the favourites of the first five years.

Overall, it was a really solid show that keeps the good episode streak going strong.

Host Rating: A
Musical Guest Rating: A-
Show Rating: A-


by Brendan Wahl

NOTE: Sorry for the late posting.

(Season 3, Episode 5)

Cue cards. Without these helpful items, most live shows would be completely lost. Even some taped shows would be lost. They are the foundation of many a program and even when it’s not obvious that the performers are glued to the cards or reading directly off them, that is precisely what is going on 90% of the time. Whether you’re Phil Hartman or Rob Schneider, one is always dependant on those cards to make it through a scene without making an ass of one’s self. So, how hard would this be if you were blind?! That question is posed to this week’s host, legendary performer Ray Charles. Of course, Ray had another method and this would involve someone speaking into a device that transmits into his ear to help him along, but think of how this would still probably end up being slightly difficult. Having to repeat someone’s line right after they deliver it on top of having to react appropriately to the other performer seems like a small accomplishment all on its own.

Usually, I would discuss the musical guest too but in this case, Ray Charles is also the musician for this episode (as one might expect that he would be) and surely has brought along many longtime friends to help him out. However, stand-up comedian Franklin Ajaye is booked as a special guest on the show, a trend that SNL would incorporate in the first few years and many, many times in the Ebersol years and the early years of Lorne Michaels’ return to the show.

I can see clearly now, it’s time to start…

The Show:

1. Godfather on TV (2:19)
-Belushi, Murray

Tired of the violence being shown on television, Don Corleone (Belushi) talks to his consigliere (Murray) about how The Godfather portrayed the family in a negative light. During this discussion, the homogenization of television is spoofed a bit too as Murray announces some spin-offs that have resulted from the popular television airing of the film. Quick and funny opening. B+

2. Monologue (1:40)

Ray sits at his piano and says that he did not want to host this tasteless show unless some of his conditions were met like the show being broadcast live from Carnegie Hall. However, the joke is on the producers as Ray announces that he’s not the real Ray Charles and that the real one is, in fact, at the legendary music hall. B

3. Ray Charles sings “I Can See Clearly Now” (3:49)

With the assistance of the Raelettes, Charles opens the show on a big, bouncy note with a terrific performance of an old classic. Ray seems ecstatic to be there and the backup performances by his many friends are quite entertaining as well. A

4. Carter’s Energy Program (1:45)
-Aykroyd

After a quick introduction by our host, President Carter (Aykroyd) discusses his new energy program and announces that despite his slow, clear, one-syllable explanations, the American public has failed to comprehend the urgency of the energy crisis. Carter adds that because of this, he won’t be able to balance the budget or get re-elected (wow, was he ever right about that one). B+

5. Mamorex (2:23)
-Charles, Morris

The lovely Ella Fitzgerald (Morris) shows off the strength of her vocal chords, which breaks a wine glass. The second time, Ella plays her own voice on Mamorex and this time Ray’s glasses crack. It’s a cute bit, but nothing special. C+

6. The Doody Girls (3:10)
-Murray, Newman, Radner

Following the demise of Howdy Doody (as announced on a previous edition of Weekend Update last season, his widow Debbie (Radner) plans to go on a date so that she can get back in the social environment. Despite the advice of her friend (Newman), Debbie can barely hold it together and everytime the question is posed as to what time it is, she breaks down crying. The performances in the sketch are quite good as they move around effortlessly on strings and just like puppets. Murray also does this perfectly and it results in a pretty dark, but hilarious sketch. A

7. Tomorrow (5:12)
-Charles, Aykroyd

Dan brings back his ridiculously accurate Tom Snyder impression and this time, he interviews legendary musician Ray Charles. Dan’s cadence as Snyder is all over the place, constantly questioning himself and coming up with responses like “Alright, sir” and “fair enough.” His follow-up questions, particularly one in response to Ray’s description of blues music, are pretty damn funny. One would think Charles would be stilted and awkward here but he seems rather comfortable given the circumstances and Aykroyd gives him good foil. A-

8. The Young Caucasians (4:55)
-Charles, Aykroyd, Belushi, Curtin, Morris, Murray, Newman, Radner

The setting is a Memphis rehearsal hall in 1957 and Ray awaits the arrival of a new, young group of white folks preparing to do a version of his hit, “What Did I Say.” Most of the cast portrays this group (except Garrett, of course, who plays Ray’s manager). The real meat and potatoes of the sketch is the group’s whitebread performance of the number and their stilted, awkward body motions as they croon. This was a wonderful sketch and quite possibly my favourite of the entire episode. A+

9. Ray Charles sings “What’d I Say” (3:01)

Immediately following that classic bit, Ray and the Raelettes (along with several other backup musicians) perform one of Charles’ biggest hits and do it the proper way. Ray hasn’t lost a step by this point and it results in another terrific performance. A

10. Weekend Update with Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin (6:17)
-Also: Bill Murray

“And now… Weekend Update with CHEVY CHASE!” Following Curtin’s cluelessness as to who Chevy is, Pardo responds… “Sorry, old script.” Whoa, an O.J. joke from 1977! Both anchorpersons are on their game here as Curtin does a funny bit about Lillian Carter and then with the help of Aykroyd’s foaming at the mouth, she discusses a warning from the health board regarding the telltale signs of rabies infections. Bill Murray stops by to initially review “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” but TIME Magazine ruined the movie for him so instead of ignoring it, Murray vomits out a spoiler of the entire film by mistake. The Dancing N makes another appearance this week and this time the bulletin reads “To hell with the bulletin, will you dance with me?” Curtin is all for it, but Aykroyd doesn’t want to discredit their news credibility. Eventually, cooler heads prevail though and the dancing occurs. It’s a shorter-than-average edition of Update but one that is entertaining nonetheless. B+

11. Ray Charles & Friends sing a medley (7:03)

Starting out with a classy introduction of all his musician friends, Ray and the Raelettes leaps into some snippets of some of his most popular songs like “Golddigger,” “I Believe In My Soul,” and “Hit The Road Jack” to name a few. It’s a slam-bang performance and his best one thus far. A+

12. Franklin Ajaye (4:47)

The most whitebread black comedian ever spends his entire time discussing Star Trek and its various quirks and characters. His routine is actually not that great, however, as his material is rather tired and drab. There’s a couple of funny lines here and there, but nothing too amazing. It also looks like he wasn’t sure how much time he had and walks off the stage looking a little pissed (“Hey, are we off?”). C

13. Evelyn Woodski Slow Reading Course (2:03)
-Charles, Aykroyd (voice), Curtin, Morris, Murray

Offering a course for people who are normally speed-readers that gives them the opportunity to enjoy the material that they read. The funniest parts of the whole thing are Bill as a surgeon, who admits that he has been rushing through medical journals and making a lot of mistakes as well as Ray himself complaining about how he used to get blisters on his fingers from speed-reading braille. B+

14. Blackout Burglary (2:26)
-Charles, Aykroyd, Morris

Ray stays in a nice little apartment in the Big Apple, but is interrupted by a couple of guys (Aykroyd & Morris) who attempt to rob it. All of a sudden, the lights go out and when they come back, the baddies are in a heap and Ray is calling room service. It’s a quick bit, but rather harmless. C+

15. Next Week (:27)

Buck Henry makes an appearance to announce that he will host next week along with the five finalists of the Anyone Can Host contest. “America is in a lot of trouble,” sez Buck.

16. Ray Charles sings “Oh! What a Beautiful Morning” (4:28)

Quite a musical episode this week, huh? Marking his fourth musical performance of the night, Ray slows it down a bit for this upbeat tune about a positive day. B+

17. Ray Charles and the cast sing “I Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” (1:12)

The cast (plus Belushi doing a hilarious Ray Charles impression) lead into a one-minute portion of another classic Charles tune. Not really a rating for this, as it was just an amusing little bit.

18. Mr. Mike’s Monet Painting (2:17)
-Charles, Aykroyd, Belushi, Curtin, Morris, Murray, Newman, Radner

Mr. Mike reveals a Monet painting that they are donating to the Lighthouse for the Blind (of course, there’s nothing there) but the joke is on Mr. Mike himself, as Ray announces that at the party, some big black guys are gonna beat on the head writer and break all his bones. B+

Ray announces that there’s a whole minute left, so he gives out an extended thanks to everyone on-stage with him and closes out the show with a big, bouncy lively tune and lets the SNL Band follow along while the credits roll.

Another superb show, making it two in a row so far after last week’s brilliant Grodin episode. The choice of Ray Charles was obviously a risky one but it seemed to have paid off in spades here as he commanded the helm of a very entertaining broadcast, albeit a very musical one, that proved that even without the sense of sight, Ray could still take part in a comedic institution and even poke fun at himself at times.

The cast was also there to support Mr. Charles all the way leading to some good performances and ample time for pretty much everyone tonight. I guess you could say Aykroyd shone the most possibly, but there really wasn’t anyone left in the dark this week.

Host & Musical Guest Rating: B+
Show Rating: A-


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+


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 2, Special Episode)

Saturday Night Live was known for breaking their own format several times throughout the early years of the show. There was the second-ever episode, of course, that essentially served as a concert for Paul Simon & Friends, there was Andy Kaufman doing some groundbreaking stuff in his first few appearances, and even one episode was entirely devoted to how “inept” the host (Charles Grodin) was. Nothing would touch the insanity of the idea behind this SNL special ever again though. Instead of Saturday, this would take place on a Sunday and in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, the party central of the country, instead of the usual stand-by: New York City.

I don’t want to mention too much in the pre-amble here because I will explain most of it in the contents of the sketch-by-sketch review.

Enjoy!

1. Carter at Mardi Gras (2:25)

El Presidente (Aykroyd) addresses the state of the nation atop a statue of a horse, of which Rosalynn (Newman) warns him to get off. And after bellowing out a battle cry, Carter obliges. C+

2. Randy Newman & The New Leviathan Orchestra sing “Louisiana 1927” (2:54)

Newman opens the show strongly with a stirring rendition of a New Orleans favourite on an absolutely amazing-looking stage. He also gets quite the ample support from a very capable orchestra in the background. A

3. Bacchus Parade (2:32)

Buck Henry appears out of nowhere to join Jane Curtin to discuss the upcoming parade about to pass through before showing some footage from the “Hit Al Hirt In The Mouth With A Brick” contest. Hirt (Belushi) manages to play some sax and avoid of the few bricks, but eventually is sent on his way. Throwaway bit. C

4. Quarry (1:57)

A repeat from 11/20/76. B+

5. The Wild Bees Motorcycle Club (3:58)

Starting off with an awkward moment from Penny Marshall (“I can’t see the cards!”), Sherry (Newman) and Rhonda Weiss (Radner) join her in waiting to see when the guys will show up. Eventually, the bees (Aykroyd, Belushi, & Murray) show up with hogs in tow and pick the girls up, driving away with them. (Edit: It seems like it was actually Gilda (in character) who said “I can’t see the cards!” before the sketch began) B

6. Fats Domino As Sung By Garrett Morris (1:30)

Just like it sounds. Garrett points out the similarity of all of Domino’s songs by playing the same chords for every single song. Not a bad little piece. B

7. Randy Newman & The New Leviathan Orchestra sing “Marie” (2:57)

Randy Newman is and was an absolute powerhouse of a singer and this is another song that is no exception. I only wish he didn’t devote most/all of his time to Pixar films now, as good as those songs are. A-

8. Film: Cemeteries (1:46)

AHHH! Gary Weis invades New Orleans! This time, a rambling old man paints tombstones and talks about whatever in one of the more pointless Weis films to date. I understood maybe two words he said. Seriously. C-

9. Tomorrow (4:40)

Emanating from Bourbon Street, Tom Snyder (Aykroyd) interviews the proprietor of a top & bottom-less bar (Murray). We also get to meet one of the dancers, Velocity (the lovely Cindy Williams), who Snyder does a humourous back-and-forth interview with as well. Bill holds his own against Aykroyd’s Snyder impression and Cindy Williams has a funny part. B

10. Baba Wawa At Large (4:42)

Baba Wawa (Radner) presents a filmed interview with the Fonz himself, Henry Winkler. What appears to be a grounded, down-to-earth man turns into a deluded schizophrenic who believes that the Fonz is literally a part of his personality. Henry also tries to help Baba appear cooler than she usually does, but to no avail. B+

11. Mussolini Re-enactment (2:53)

After a few clever quips from Curtin & Henry, Ricky Mussolini (Belushi) re-enacts his grandfather’s commencement address and tells everyone to have a good time. What was the point of that? C-

12. Crowd Reaction (3:39)

Wasting more time before the parade arrives, Jane & Buck make some more jokes before sending it over to Eric Idle, who covers the crowd reaction. However, he announces that the cameras are a bit too late because all that’s left is one drunk guy passed out. Idle’s charm and wit kills here. B+

13. Film: Gary Weis Down South (:50)

A SECOND Gary Weis film?! This one was even more pointless than the first, just showing off the Dixie pride in New Orleans. C

14. The New Leviathan Orchestra sing “Rebecca” (2:20)

The wonderful back-up chorus get their own time to shine and sing a tune about some gal named Rebecca. The singer in the group has a pretty unique voice and the instrumental sections only enhance this goofy, enjoyable number. B+

15. Apollo Ball (2:37)

Penny Marshall takes about twenty seconds to realize the camera is on her as she watches on during the Apollo Ball. She clearly seems awkward and nervous around the cross-dressing taking place in the ball and for some reason, Cindy Williams got lost before getting there. This was as close to dead air as you can get. D

16. Stella! (2:08)

Stanley (Belushi), of A Streetcar Named Desire fame, yearns for his Stella, but the resident (Morris) wakes up to tell him that he’s at the wrong house. The police sirens in the background were the only interesting things happening during this brief, silly bit. C

17. Paul Shaffer and Mr. Mike sing “The Antler Dance” (3:28)

In a rehash from the season premiere, “The Antler Dance” (complete with goofy hand motions) is performed but at least this time, they have Paul Shaffer singing it and not botching it like Lily Tomlin did it. Like everything else though, this was pretty suspect and a waste of time. C+

18. Weekend Update with Jane Curtin & Buck Henry (7:25)

Surprisingly, they still run an edition of Update despite a hostile crowd below and a botched parade so far. New Orleans resident Garrett Morris is given the combination to the city by Mayor Moon Landrieu, who promises to change it back shortly after. Laraine Newman interviews one reveler (Belushi), who shows her that one of the new kicks is to tape white mice to one’s face just above the eyelids. Emily Litella (Radner) interviews a “liverboat” captain (Murray), who of course corrects her by telling her that it’s a RIVERboat. The highlight of Update is Jane trying to deliver a story on a possible presidential assassination, which Buck constantly interrupts with matters that are slightly less pressing. A little jumbled, but it had its moments. B

19. Randy Newman & The New Leviathan Orchestra sing “Kingfish” (2:40)

Thanks to Newman’s little pre-amble, I can tell you that this song is all about Huey P. Long. It’s another enjoyable Newman tune, but not as much so as his other two. B

20. A Visit With Jean Lafitte (5:06)

We get a look back at Jean Lafitte (Murray), the ultimate pirate who took exception to being called one by all of those around him. Murray’s performance here is pretty good and he is starting to show signs of improvement in the show. An enjoyable sketch with a good sight gag ending. B+

21. Apollo Ball (1:15)

This time, Cindy Williams joins Penny Marshall and does most of the work. Just as pointless and drab as the first part. D

22. Randy Newman & The New Leviathan Orchestra sing “Sail Away” (2:44)

Due to protests from the crowd (apparently), Randy Newman performs one more song, his classic, “Sail Away.” It’s definitely one of the best songs in his repertoire. Really nice way to close the show as well. A+

For the goodnights, Randy Newman thanks everyone in the audience and then sends it to Jane Curtin and Buck Henry to close out the show. Due to the parade’s no-show, Curtin announces that “Mardi Gras” is simply a french word meaning “no parade.”

What. A. Mess.

This was the very definition of a trainwreck. While not as bad as the debacle that was the Louise Lasser-hosted episode from Year 1 or the upcoming Malcolm McDowell/Capt. Beefheart episode from Year 6, it was one of the more disorganized, sloppy moments in SNL television history. Barely any pieces in the whole episode were fully-concocted sketches and a lot of them featured some very lazy writing and unruly crowds. Weekend Update and the Jean Lafitte sketch held up well enough, but there was an awful lot of underwhelming and just plain boring material. Did we really need the Apollo Ball stuff?

Randy Newman and the New Leviathan Orchestra were the main highlights as they provided some wonderful music throughout the entire episode. Newman acted as an anchor of sorts, but that’s not to take away from Jane Curtin and Buck Henry, who pretty much controlled the reigns of the entire broadcast.

In short, this was not a good idea.

Notes:

Lots of notorious back-story here: Penny Marshall was almost kidnapped by a biker moments before the Bees sketch, Gilda was mauled right after her bit with Bill Murray and still in her Emily Litella costume, people tried to climb to the stage where Jane and Buck were sitting several times, and the parade never arrived because a reveler was crushed and killed by one of the floats earlier in the night. Anyone else care to contribute?

Randy Newman is a pretty funny guy. His little introduction to the entire show and brief interludes throughout the show were naturally funny.

This was the most awkward episode of Saturday Night Live ever. Just sayin’.

Anyone else enjoy the wonderful new opening sequence they put together for this episode only? Only good thing Gary Weis did in this whole episode.

I heard the Meters were cut out of this episode as well as a “Roots” sketch with Garrett Morris. And yet they left the Apollo Ball crap in and the two pointless Weis films that shamelessly pandered to the city.

That character Bill Murray played in the Tomorrow sketch seems like a precursor to his groundskeeper character in Caddyshack.

Show Rating: C-


by Brendan Wahl

(Season 2, Episode 6)

Marking his then-record of three times taking center stage, Buck Henry makes his next hosting stint on a most joyous occasion, that being Halloween of course. After last week’s enjoyable, but slightly disappointing episode, Buck comes in to hopefully land another classic much like the other two that he hosted.

It’s easy to see why Buck would get to host so often. He’s just so damn reliable, he’s naturally funny, he would normally write his own monologues, and to top it all off he absolutely loved Michael O’Donoghue’s writing style. This is evidenced in several sketches like Citizen Kane 2 and Mr. Mike’s “impressions” that occurred in the previous two episodes.

Joining Buck for this special holiday-themed episode is The Band. Yes, it’s the last appearance of The Band before their final concert that would see them split up and go their separate ways in each member’s musical career. The Band were known for so many great songs throughout their career and it must’ve been a huge coo for the show to get them as the musical guests.

It’s also a nice counterweight to someone like Buck Henry, who most of the public was fairly unaware of besides his appearances on Saturday Night Live and they might be VAGUELY aware that he co-wrote The Graduate. Having a world-renowned musical guest would have certainly helped with TV ratings anyway.

One final note about this broadcast: this is Chevy Chase’s last episode as a castmember. Oh sure, he would go on to host a number of times and make a few memorable cameos. But this is the episode where he officially left the cast and then waited TWO years to finally make a film.

Let’s see if he goes out in style…

The Show:

1. The Land Shark on Halloween (1:11)

Exactly as it sounds. Think about the two Land Shark sketches from the first season and take one of the death scenes and you’ve got our cold open. Gilda plays victim to the shark (Chase) this time and even though it’s a real basic concept, it’s a fun way to start the show. B+

2. Monologue (2:57)

Buck comes out to sing the praises of the Not Ready For Primetime Players and talks about their many quirks that people in the media seem to make such a big deal out of. Buck’s comic timing and wit are second-to-none and I think my favourite castmember quirk is the closeness between Gilda Radner and her brother. Although Garrett Morris and cannibalism is pretty damn funny too. A

3. Samurai Stockbroker (4:38)

This time, Mr. Dantley (Henry) makes a stop at his stockbroker’s office to complain to Futaba (Belushi) about his terrible stock market advice. The rhythm and pacing here is awesome along with the Buck/Belushi chemistry. It should be noted that Buck gets accidentally cut on the forehead with Belushi’s sword at the end of the sketch. Much like “Samurai Delicatessen”, this is a classic. A+

4. Not For First Ladies Only (3:35)

Baba Wawa (Radner) speaks to Betty Ford (Curtin) and Rosalynn Carter (Newman) about why they would make a great First Lady, but then quickly shifts the attention to herself and thinks that Baba herself would make an even better candidate. The performances here are quite funny and the political satire still works. A

5. Roots (4:05)

“I’m Garrett Morris and I’m a black person.” Taking a page out of Alex Haley’s playbook, Garrett takes a look back at his own roots and realizes that, for one, one of his ancestors was “gang-raped by all the signers of the Declaration of Independence.” This was a pretty clever piece from Garrett. A-

6. Debate ’76 (7:59)

Sporting a large bandage on his head, Buck plays moderator to the final debate between President Ford (Chase) and Governor Carter (Aykroyd). However, this debate calls for the swimsuit competition and the special talent segment. The whole thing is essentially a parody of those overdone beauty pageants and it’s a very enjoyable piece. I especially love when Ford points out Buck’s bandage. A

7. Weekend Update with Chevy Chase (Part I)

Now with an even larger bandage on his head, Chevy mentions that the Buck Henry incident occurred as a result of a crazed Belushi. There’s plenty more great stories this week too including Bob Dole wanting to change “Pearl Harbour” to “Surprise City” so as to not offend Japan. We also get a pair of untelevised campaign videos, one for Ford that simply shows Carter talk about being lustful. The Carter one however just shows Gerald Ford pardoning Richard Nixon. That video was so brilliant that many claim that it really helped Carter win the election as it reminded millions of viewers that President Ford was the one who saved Nixon’s ass.

8. Bat-O-Matic (1:46)

What we get here is a blatant retread of the Super Bass-O-Matic ’76 but just replaced with bats and Aykroyd as a wizard-like spokesman. Despite that, it’s just as clever and the performance by Danny is wonderful. A

9. Weekend Update with Chevy Chase (Part II) (total: 8:54)

Jane (with a bandage on her head) joins Chevy for her segment, “People in the News.” The highlights of this segment are Sammy Davis getting caught up in his own rings and chains and the fake story of Chevy replacing Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. The segment ends with Francisco Franco collect-calling Chevy (we only hear Chevy’s side of the conversation) and then our newsman informing us that he will not take a side in the election despite the pictures behind him showing a fake moustache drawn on Gerald Ford. A+

10. The Band sings “Life is a Carnival”, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, & “Stage Fright” (10:11)

Almost forty minutes into the show and it is finally time for The Band. They make the most of their time though, doing a set of THREE different songs. My favourite is Dixie, but man oh man they give it their all for the entire set and deliver what is one of the best musical performances in Saturday Night Live history. The various photos that are shown of The Band in their heyday are a really nice addition too. A+

11. The OintMENt (7:44)

A spoof of a very popular horror movie that came out the summer previous to this season’s start date. Buck plays the Gregory Peck role (while Curtin plays wife) and ups the clueless factor as crazy shit happens around him revolving around their demon seed, Damian (Belushi). The real highlights here come from the priest (Aykroyd) who is impaled by a lamp and a photographer (Chase with bandage) who gets distracted by a couple of funny pictures of himself while trying to show Buck that the kid is the devil. Laraine is also pitch-perfect as the devilish nanny. Wait a second, does Belushi’s teddy bear have a bandage too? Gold! A-

12. Film: It’s Halloween Tonight (2:37)

Along with some musical accompaniment by Howard Shore, Gary Weis’ film this week focuses on Buck getting made up to look like a woman for Halloween. Much like Weis’ other films, this is played for quirkiness rather than pure laughs. B+

13. Houdini’s Grave (1:07)

Buck interviews Garrett, who hangs out by Houdini’s grave waiting to see if the illusionist will rise from the dead on this the anniversary of his death. Nothing happens, but Buck promises to return to Morris later.

14. Mr. Mike’s Least-Loved Bedtime Tales (2:01)

Here we go with a sketch that probably got on thanks to Buck. Here, Mr. Mike (with a bandage!) tells a story about a little eskimo who makes a wish to have lots of food. The catch however is that everything is made of snow. Therefore, the eskimo dies and the genie robs him. It’s such a dark piece but it’s still very funny. A

15. Houdini’s Grave (Part II) (:27)

Garrett has clearly seen something as his hair is standing on end and he can only speak in tongues. For the whole thing, I’ll give it a B-

16. The Band sings “Georgia On My Mind” (2:50)

Richard Manuel (thanks Stu, didn’t know who it was til I read your review) pours his heart and soul into the cover of “Georgia On My Mind.” They actually did this as a tribute to Jimmy Carter as this episode only aired three days prior to election day. A+

As Buck says goodbye to one and all, Belushi can be seen with a gigantic bandage around his head. Chevy also gets hugged by everyone with it being his last show and all. Eventually they just all fall down on the stage and lay there with each other.

What a wonderful episode. Buck Henry was always willing and hilarious and he made it look easy to guide this broadcast and make it one of the classic episodes in SNL’s history. Of course, Buck isn’t the only one who made this episode one of the best.

The cast was spectacular and the swan song of Chevy Chase was very much in effect although he didn’t hog the spotlight very much at all, as he only appeared in the opening, the debate sketch, Update, and had a small part in The OintMENt. Danny and John did their fair share of sketch work as well and Belushi in particular was quite endearing as Damian. The ladies got their way too though with a wonderful Baba Wawa piece and even Garrett Morris got to shine with a “Roots” sketch.

Then there was the music. My oh my. The Band was everything you would expect them to be and more. After being given thirteen minutes to pour their heart and souls out, that’s exactly what they did. They are easily in the top ten for musical guests on Saturday Night Live.

Host Rating: A+

Musical Guest Rating: A+

Show Rating: A+