Classic SNL Review: October 20, 1984: Rev. Jesse Jackson / Andrae Crouch, Wintley Phipps (S10E03)

Classic SNL Review: October 20, 1984: Rev. Jesse Jackson / Andrae Crouch, Wintley Phipps (S10E03)

Sketches include "Advice", "Do You Know What I Hate?", "The Question Is Moot!", "Refrigerator Magnet Safety Advisory Board", "Just Kidding", "First Class", "Tippi Turtle", "Wrong Voice, Right Face", "Funny Black People", "Jeane", "Rich Hall's Election Report", "Fashion Report" and "Rainbow Coalition". Andrae Crouch performs "Right Now" and Wintley Phipps performs "Tell Me Again".

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Classic SNL Review: October 13, 1984: Bob Uecker / Peter Wolf (S10E02)

Classic SNL Review: October 13, 1984: Bob Uecker / Peter Wolf (S10E02)

Sketches include "Password", "Snap, Crackle & Pop", "An American Portrait", "Little League Trade", "Brokaw's Complaint", "The Mamie Eisenhower Center for the Dull", "7x4", "Ballplayers", "Lost & Found", "Tippi Turtle", "SNL Mailbag", "Fresh Squeezed", and "NBC Sports Update". Peter Wolf and the House of Hits All-Stars perform "Lights Out" and "I Need You Tonight".

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Classic SNL Review: October 6, 1984: (no host) / Thompson Twins (S10E01)

Classic SNL Review: October 6, 1984: (no host) / Thompson Twins (S10E01)

Sketches include: "Lifestyles of the Relatives of the Rich & Famous", "Return of the Torch", "Rich Hall's Election Report", "Wheel of Fortune Interview", "Grandpa Howard", "Synchronized Swimming", "Mondale & Ferraro", "The Bulge", "First Draft Theater", and "Book Beat". Thompson Twins perform "Hold Me Now" and "The Gap".

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SNL Up Close: 1984-85

Saturday Night Live executive producer Dick Ebersol and producer Bob Tischler had more or less righted the ship by 1984, but Eddie Murphy’s departure that February meant the show had lost its biggest star and a crucial factor in the show’s survival to that point. Despite this loss, the show made it to the end of the season, but SNL’s future was uncertain; the season finale featuring five hosts could have would up being the last show, but was successful enough to earn the show another season and its first Emmy nomination since 1980.

Breaking with the show’s tradition of breaking undiscovered talent, Ebersol and Tischler signed a number of established comedy performers, many to higher-priced one-season contracts: Billy Crystal, already a two-time host the previous season; Martin Short from the just-ended SCTV; Christopher Guest and one-time SNL regular Harry Shearer, fresh off acclaim (and an SNL musical guest gig) for This Is Spinal Tap; Rich Hall from Fridays and Not Necessarily The News, and Pamela Stephenson from NNTN’s British progenitor Not The Nine O’Clock News. All but Stephenson were also credited as writers.  

To make room for the new group, Ebersol and Tischler cleaned house: Joe Piscopo, whose impact on the show slowly waned over the course of the previous season, was out, as were Tim Kazurinsky, Robin Duke and Brad Hall.  In the writers’ room, rookies Adam Green and Michael McCarthy were gone; Pam Norris, Margaret Oberman and head writer Andrew Smith had also departed as full-time writers, though the latter two would still occasionally contribute to SNL on a freelance basis over the coming year. Joining the writing staff that year were Fridays regular Larry David, Second City alum Rob Riley, and returning SNL writer Jim Downey, as well as a number of guest writers over the course of the season.

Despite these big changes, returning players Jim Belushi, Mary Gross, Gary Kroeger and Julia Louis-Dreyfus helped lend the show some continuity. Many key writers from the previous seasons also remained: Andy Breckman and Kevin Kelton returned for their second year, Andrew Kurtzman his third, Bob Tischler, Eliot Wald and Nate Herman their fourth; original SNL writer Herb Sargent also remained on board. Like in previous years, Ebersol and Tischler prioritized sketches featuring the bigger stars, leaving the remaining cast and writers to compete for the remaining airtime; beside the new group of writer-performers, Breckman and the team of Kelton, Kurtzman and Wald contributed a lot of this year’s scripts.

SNL in 1984-85 featured a growing reliance on pre-taped sketches (most directed by Guest, Breckman, Claude Kerven or John Fox), and an even stronger reliance on recurring characters: on any given show, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest and Martin Short usually dominated the first half hour with immediately recognizable characters. Crystal in particular thrived this year, owing much to his professionalism and willingness to collaborate with the other writers, while Harry Shearer’s relationship with the show soured almost immediately. A talented but exacting writer and performer, Shearer’s strengths were less compatible with Dick Ebersol’s more commercial direction for the show, and backstage tensions grew so toxic that Ebersol cut him loose mid-season.

Saturday Night News continued to limp along with guest anchors until Christopher Guest was installed as permanent anchor in December, with mixed results; Guest’s versatility made him a valuable addition to sketches, but on-camera as himself, his aloof demeanor tended to cross over into outright dullness. An SNL staple since the first show, the news parody had de-emphasized political satire in favor of guest commentary pieces by this point, and several shows this season dispensed with the news segment altogether.

A writers’ strike briefly interrupted the season in March, but the show returned for a final three-episode stretch, ending the year a month earlier than normal on April 13. By that point, Ebersol had grown tired of SNL’s grueling production schedule, and opted to focus his energies on Friday Night Videos and Saturday Night’s Main Event, a series of wrestling specials that ran in the SNL timeslot.

As usual, I will be posting sketch-by-sketch reviews, with new posts uploaded every weekend. Any information regarding the sketches (such as sketch authorship) and shows is certainly welcome, and will be incorporated into my reviews with acknowledgement

The episodes (with links to episode summaries in the SNL Archives):

SNL 1983-84: Final thoughts

In summary:

I wasn't expecting this to be as strong as it was; I always remembered this as the season where Eddie Murphy was half-on, half-off the show, and that the show struggled with his absence and the departures of his regular collaborators Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield. While there were a number of mediocre shows this season, on the whole, I found it to be a bit better than the previous year, and that the weak-to-good show ratio didn't necessarily coincide with Murphy's presence in Studio 8H. The second half of the season was a bit stronger than the first, which I attribute to a few things: the use of the show's film unit (something that would pay off even more the next year), a better integration of the guest hosts into the show, and the writing branching away from showcases for Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo and heading into odder, more conceptual territory. 

As important as Eddie Murphy was to the show's survival over the previous seasons, his absence from a number of the shows and departure before the year's end seemed to open up a few opportunities and forced the writing staff to take a few more chances than in the previous season. Murphy was missed earlier in the season, but there were a few weeks where he seemed to coast through the show, contributing mostly his star power and charisma. Joe Piscopo had a stronger start to this season and had one of his all-time best nights when Don Rickles hosted, but by the end of the year, he seemed more out of place; part of this was due to Murphy's departure, but the writing had also shifted by this point. 

Jim Belushi was a positive addition to the cast, though a better utility player than a featured star; his performing style seemed to fit the writing a little better than Piscopo's at this point. He seemed to do best with slightly put-upon types (the host of "Hello Trudy", his half of the Siamese Twins with Robin Williams) and somewhat shifty characters (the shoplifter, the job applicant in "Lie Detector"). Gary Kroeger continued to be the show's secret weapon, developing new characters like grumpy old man Walter and deceptively unsuave El Dorko, while ending the season with one of his best-remembered pieces ("Needleman"). Tim Kazurinsky also contributed solid utility work, though his stable of recurring characters was beginning to show wear at this point. When utilized, Mary Gross and Julia Louis-Dreyfus delivered; it may be hindsight, but Louis-Dreyfus seemed to show some flashes of her future as one of the premiere comic performers of our age.

The two performers that were lost in this shuffle were Brad Hall and Robin Duke. Hall suffered the blow of losing the Saturday Night News anchor post mid-season; while the segment had its issues, Hall wasn't the problem (in Live From New York, he expresses regret at the lack of political humor on the show). He also didn't seem to have as many chances to shine this year (his violently emotional Pete Best is an exception). As for Duke, many of her pieces were either cut after dress rehearsal (a number of Saturday Night News bits in November and December) or truncated when the show ran long ("Jacoby Escort Service"), and some of the little airtime she got was in weaker sketches ("Body Guard", "Misfits"). I'm curious if either would have fared better under Lorne Michaels' regime, though he's seen his share of performers who didn't reach their potential while on the show.

Strongest shows:

  1. Don Rickles / Billy Idol (Average sketch rating: 3.4/5)
  2. Edwin Newman / Kool & The Gang (Average sketch rating: 3.38/5)
  3. Barry Bostwick / Spinal Tap (Average sketch rating: 3.33/5)

Weakest shows:

  1. Danny DeVito & Rhea Perlman / Eddy Grant (Average sketch rating: 2.68/5)
  2. Michael Douglas / Deniece Williams (Average sketch rating: 2.69/5)
  3. The Smothers Brothers / Big Country (Average sketch rating: 2.7/5)

Best sketches:

  1. Witness Protection (January 28, 1984)
  2. James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party (taped September 21, 1983, aired November 5, 1983)
  3. Larry's Corner (October 8, 1983)

Worst sketches:

  1. House of Mutton (January 21, 1984)
  2. MTV News (February 11, 1984)
  3. TV's Foul-Ups, Bleeps, Blunders, Bloopers, Practical Jokes and Political Debates (April 7, 1984)

Best musical guests:

  1. Stevie Nicks
  2. Spinal Tap
  3. Huey Lewis & The News

Worst musical guests:

  1. Madness
  2. Adam Ant
  3. Big Country

Writer tally and turnover:

(*) indicates the writer remained credited on-staff next season, (**) indicates a writer who was credited as a guest only the next year, and (~) indicates a returning writer from previous seasons.

  • Andrew Smith**~ (head writer)
  • Jim Belushi* (Thomas; Lewis through 5 Hosts)
  • Andy Breckman*
  • Robin Duke~
  • Adam Green
  • Mary Gross
  • Nate Herman*~
  • Tim Kazurinsky~
  • Kevin Kelton*
  • Andy Kurtzman*~
  • Michael McCarthy (Thomas through 5 Hosts)
  • Eddie Murphy~
  • Pamela Norris~
  • Margaret Oberman**~(Tartikoff through Newman; 5 Hosts)
  • Joe Piscopo~
  • Herb Sargent*~
  • Bob Tischler*~
  • Eliot Wald*~

Special thanks to Kevin Kelton, Nate Herman and Gary Kroeger for their valuable background information on their work this season.

I consider this blog a living document, so any new information that comes to light will be added to the reviews as it becomes available. If any SNL writers, performers, or crew members from this timeframe have information they would like to contribute or correct, I welcome your insight and encourage you to get in contact with me.

In two weeks, I will post my introduction to the 1984-85 season reviews, with the reviews themselves beginning on October 1, and will attempt to keep to a weekly schedule for the most part thereafter. 

I am interested in continuing on to the 1985-86 season afterward, but due to the amount of post-production work done on that year's repeat airings, I would prefer to have access to as many original broadcasts as possible so I can better track what was altered in each show.

As per my want list:

Season 11: 1985-86
missing original airings:

11/16/85 Chevy Chase / Sheila E.*
12/21/85 Teri Garr / The Dream Academy, The Cult
01/18/86 Harry Dean Stanton / The Replacements
02/08/86 Ron Reagan / The Nelsons*
03/15/86 Griffin Dunne / Rosanne Cash
03/22/86 George Wendt & Francis Ford Coppola / Philip Glass*
04/12/86 Oprah Winfrey / Joe Jackson
04/19/86 Tony Danza / Laurie Anderson*
05/17/86 Jimmy Breslin / Level 42, E.G. Daily*
upgrades welcome
11/23/85 Pee-Wee Herman / Queen Ida* (looking for copy w/o/c with music intact)

Shows with asterisks (*) are higher priority; the shows without asterisks were not repeated by NBC that summer and later airings (Comedy Central, Comedy Network, NBC All Night) did not have the extensive post-production editing the rest of the season had.

Classic SNL Review: May 5, 1984: Barry Bostwick / Spinal Tap (S09E18)

Classic SNL Review: May 5, 1984: Barry Bostwick / Spinal Tap (S09E18)

Sketches include "Simulated Cat Fight", "Lie Detector", "Iceman", "2 On the Town", "Spinal Tap Interview", "The Turkey Lady", "La Cage aux Folles", "Unanswered Questions of the Universe", and "Dog Day P.M." Spinal Tap performs "Christmas With The Devil" and "Big Bottom". Comedian A. Whitney Brown also appears.

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Classic SNL Review: April 14, 1984: George McGovern / Madness

Classic SNL Review: April 14, 1984: George McGovern / Madness

Sketches include "60 Minutes", "Midtown Open", "White House Foods", "Trampoline", "Direct Hits", "I Didn't Realize", "Cosmos", "Book Beat", and "Brother in Law". Madness performs "Our House" and "Keep Moving". Clara "Where's The Beef?" Peller and comedian Frankie Pace also appear. 

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Classic SNL Review: April 7, 1984: Michael Douglas / Deniece Williams (S09E16)

Classic SNL Review: April 7, 1984: Michael Douglas / Deniece Williams (S09E16)

Sketches include "Lost Script", "MTV News (two parts)", "Foldger's Crystals", "Price Waterhouse", "4 Minutes To Live", "Audition", "Footless", "Soundtrack", "TV's Foul-Ups, Bleeps, Blunders, Bloopers, Practical Jokes and Political Debates", and "Sugar or Plain". Deniece Williams performs "Let's Hear It For The Boy" and "Wrapped Up".

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Thoughts on Bringing It All Back Home

Thoughts on Bringing It All Back Home

I bought Bringing It All Back Home at the Regent Mall in Fredericton, NB in April 2000. This was before HMV made inroads into New Brunswick; Radioland and Sam the Record Man were the big chains out here at the time. I was just starting to dive deeper into music, beyond what I had been exposed to through radio and greatest hits collections. 

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Classic SNL (sorta-)review: March 24, 1984: The Best of Saturday Night Live

Classic SNL (sorta-)review: March 24, 1984: The Best of Saturday Night Live

Sketches include "Mister Robinson's Neighborhood", "News Bar", "Buckwheat Jeans", "Larry's Corner", "Buckwheat Buys The Farm", "The Real Story", "Mr. & Mrs. T Bloody Mary Mix", "Stevie Experience", "Firing Line", "Swan Break", "Dr. Jack Badofsky", "What's New", "Buckwheat Dead", "Caribbean Vacation", "Michael's Message", "Good Morning America", "The Forum", "Singing In The Stall", and "James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party".

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Classic SNL Review: March 17, 1984: Billy Crystal / Al Jarreau (S09E15)

Classic SNL Review: March 17, 1984: Billy Crystal / Al Jarreau (S09E15)

Sketches include "St. Patrick's Day Wrap-Up", "Hung Like Me", "Winston University", "Family in the Attic", "Sammy & Reagan", "Unanswered Questions of the Universe", "Bad Career Moves", "God's Place", "The Womb", and "The First Show". Al Jarreau performs "Mornin'" and "Trouble In Paradise".

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Classic SNL Review: February 11, 1984: Robin Williams / Adam Ant (S09E12)

Classic SNL Review: February 11, 1984: Robin Williams / Adam Ant (S09E12)

Sketches include "Winter Olympics", "Buddweiser Light", "Rock & Roll and then some", "Wild Kingdom of Heaven", "Gandhi and the Bandit", "Mime Roommate", "New Bad Babies", "MTV News", "Siamese Twins", and "Patty's Place". Adam Ant performs "Strip" and "Goody Two Shoes". Paula Poundstone also appears.

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Classic SNL Review: January 28, 1984: Don Rickles / Billy Idol (S09E11)

Classic SNL Review: January 28, 1984: Don Rickles / Billy Idol (S09E11)

Sketches include "TV President", "I Married A Monkey", "The Hamlisch Maneuver", "Fascinating People and Their Friends", "Witness Protection", "Saint Don of Verona", "Sympathy Date", "This Is Your Afterlife", and "Anniversary Special". Billy Idol performs "White Wedding" and "Rebel Yell".

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S.O.S.N.L.

I'm going to be resuming my reviews starting this weekend, but in the meantime, I thought I would let you know about series of individual sketch reviews being posted this summer.

It's called S.O.S.N.L., short for Summer of Saturday Night Live, and it's being posted by Justin of Usefully Useless Information. Every day from June 21st to September 21st, he will highlight a random Saturday Night Live sketch from throughout the show's 41 year history and offer his take on it. It looks like there will be a good mix of sketches over the next 90 days, from the greatest hits to the deep cuts, from the greats to the infamously bad. I hope you check it out along with me.

Looking for original SNL airings

I've posted my SNL want list before, but figured this format would be much easier to read and navigate.

Shows marked as "missing shows" would be my first preference; anything marked with an asterisk (*) is highest priority. Shows marked as "upgrades welcome" are lower priority but would be nice to get for better quality transfers, more complete recordings, US airings if my recording is from Canada, or with commercials intact. Unless specified, I want original NBC airings only; specific repeat versions are listed, mainly to help track edits on my reviews.

If you have something on my list, send me an e-mail through the contact page or the e-mail icon in the corner of the screen.

Updated: June 5, 2016

Seasons 1-5:
Due to the unlikelihood of most recordings from this era surviving beyond official Broadway Video copies, anything not already circulating in the trading circuit would be welcome (for bumpers, alternate versions compared to what was circulated for Warner VHS, rebroadcasts on CN/Classic, DVD release, etc.).
Specific live broadcasts of interest:
12/20/75 Candice Bergen / The Stylistics, Martha Reeves
04/17/76 Ron Nessen / Patti Smith Group
04/24/76 Raquel Welch / Phoebe Snow, John Sebastian
05/08/76 Madeline Kahn / Carly Simon (bumpers)
05/22/76 Buck Henry / Gordon Lightfoot (Jane Curtin apparently does a promo for the Superstars special that Pardo announces during the closing)
05/29/76 Elliott Gould / Leon Redbone, Harlan Collins & Joyce Everson
10/16/76 Karen Black / John Prine
09/24/77 Steve Martin / Jackson Browne (DVD uses rerun but adds commercial parodies and live goodnights)
02/25/78 O.J Simpson / Ashford & Simpson (with unedited Mandingo II)
Upgrades welcome:
08/22/81: Desi Arnaz (better quality recording)
Specific rerun versions of interest:
08/23/80: Madeline Kahn / Taj Mahal (has unaired "First Love" short film starring Gilda Radner)
Most NBC rebroadcasts w/o/c of any "original cast" show aired prior to fall 1981, with the following exceptions
06/12/76 Robert Klein / ABBA, Loudon Wainwright III
07/30/77 Ralph Nader / George Benson
07/28/79 Richard Benjamin / Rickie Lee Jones
08/04/79 Rick Nelson / Judy Collins
08/25/79 Peter Cook & Dudley Moore / Neil Sedaka
06/07/80 Martin Sheen / David Bowie
09/29/80 Peter Cook & Dudley Moore / Neil Sedaka
11/08/80 George Carlin / Billy Preston, Janis Ian
03/28/81 Steve Martin / The Blues Brothers
04/04/81 Rick Nelson / Judy Collins
04/18/81 Sissy Spacek / Richard Baskin
04/25/81 Strother Martin / The Specials
05/16/81 Jill Clayburgh / Leon Redbone, The Singing Idlers

Season 6: 1980-81
missing shows:

12/13/80 Jamie Lee Curtis / James Brown, Ellen Shipley
12/20/80 David Carradine / Linda Ronstadt, Rex Smith, George Rose & the cast of "The Pirates of Penzance"
01/24/81 Robert Hays / Joe "King" Carrasco & the Crown
03/07/81 Bill Murray / Delbert McClinton
upgrades welcome:
01/10/81 Ray Sharkey / Jack Bruce & Friends (looking for 1st gen with ads)
02/21/81 Charlene Tilton / Todd Rudgren, Prince (copy starts partway through monologue)
repeat versions of interest:
01/03/81 Elliott Gould / Kid Creole & The Coconuts
01/31/81 Ellen Burstyn / Aretha Franklin, Keith Sykes
02/28/81 David Carradine / Linda Ronstadt, Rex Smith, George Rose & the cast of "The Pirates of Penzance"

Season 7: 1981-82
missing original airings
:
10/10/81 Susan Saint James / The Kinks
11/07/81 Lauren Hutton / Rick James & the Stone City Band
11/14/81 Bernadette Peters / Billy Joel, The Go-Gos
12/05/81 Tim Curry / Meat Loaf & the Neverland Express*
12/12/81 Bill Murray / The Spinners, Yale Whiffenpoofs*
01/23/82 Robert Conrad / The Allman Brothers Band*
04/17/82 Johnny Cash / Elton John
04/24/82 Robert Culp / The Charlie Daniels Band
05/22/82 Olivia Newton-John
upgrades welcome:
10/03/81 (no host) / Rod Stewart (missing cold opening)
10/17/81 George Kennedy / Miles Davis (copy starts partway through Spray On Laetril)
10/31/81 Donald Pleasance / Fear (looking for complete copy w/o/c)
04/10/82 Daniel J. Travanti / John Cougar (next week segment partially missing)
repeat versions of interest:
11/21/82 or 07/17/82 Susan Saint James / The Kinks
06/26/82 Blythe Danner / Rickie Lee Jones
08/28/82 Johnny Cash / Elton John

Season 8: 1982-83
missing original airings
:
10/23/82 Howard Hesseman / Men At Work
10/30/82 Michael Keaton / The New Joe Jackson Band
11/13/82 Robert Blake / Kenny Loggins*
12/11/82 Eddie Murphy / Lionel Richie*
02/26/83 Jeff & Beau Bridges / Randy Newman
upgrades welcome:
10/02/82 Louis Gossett Jr. / George Thorogood & The Destroyers (starts partway through opening)
repeat versions of interest:
12/18/82 or 08/13/83 Howard Hesseman / Men At Work
06/04/83 Howard Hesseman / Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Season 9: 1983-84
missing original airings:

11/12/83 Teri Garr / Mick Fleetwood's Zoo*
12/10/83 Flip Wilson / Stevie Nicks*
01/14/84 Father Guido Sarducci / Huey Lewis & the News*
02/25/84 Edwin Newman / Kool & The Gang
03/17/84 Billy Crystal / Al Jarreau
03/24/84 The Best of Saturday Night Live
05/05/84 Barry Bostwick / Spinal Tap*
upgrades welcome:
04/07/84 Michael Douglas / Deniece Williams (starts partway through MTV News)
repeat versions of interest:
09/08/84 or 06/29/85 Billy Crystal / Al Jarreau

Season 10: 1984-85
missing original airings:

01/12/85: Kathleen Turner / John Waite
03/30/85: Mr. T & Hulk Hogan / The Commodores
04/13/85; Howard Cosell / Greg Kihn
upgrades welcome:
03/02/85: SNL Film Festival (looking for copy w/o/c)
repeat versions of interest:
08/10/85: Christopher Reeve / Santana
09/28/85 or 08/02/86 SNL Film Festival

Season 11: 1985-86
missing original airings:

11/16/85 Chevy Chase / Sheila E.*
12/21/85 Teri Garr / The Dream Academy, The Cult
01/18/86 Harry Dean Stanton / The Replacements
02/08/86 Ron Reagan / The Nelsons*
03/15/86 Griffin Dunne / Rosanne Cash
03/22/86 George Wendt & Francis Ford Coppola / Philip Glass*
04/12/86 Oprah Winfrey / Joe Jackson
04/19/86 Tony Danza / Laurie Anderson*
05/17/86 Jimmy Breslin / Level 42, E.G. Daily*
upgrades welcome
11/23/85 Pee-Wee Herman / Queen Ida (looking for copy w/o/c with music intact)

Season 12: 1986-87
missing original airings:

11/15/86 Sam Kinison / Lou Reed
12/13/86 Steve Guttenberg / The Pretenders
upgrades welcome
10/18/86 Malcolm-Jamal Warner / Run-DMC (looking for copy w/o/c)
02/28/87 Valerie Bertinelli / Robert Cray Band (starts partway through opening)
04/18/87 John Larroquette / Timbuk 3 (looking for copy w/o/c)
05/09/87 Mark Harmon / Suzanne Vega (looking for copy w/o/c)
05/16/87 Garry Shandling / Los Lobos (looking for copy w/o/c)

Season 13: 1987-88
missing original airings: 

12/05/87 Danny DeVito / Bryan Ferry*
12/12/87 Angie Dickinson / Buster Poindexter, David Gilmour*
01/30/88 Carl Weathers / Robbie Robertson*
02/13/88 Justine Bateman / Terrence Trent D'Arby*
04/16/88 Decision 88 (compilation assembled to air during Writers' Strike)
upgrades welcome:
10/17/87 Steve Martin / Sting (looking for copy w/o/c)
10/24/87 Sean Penn / LL Cool J, The Pull (looking for copy w/o/c)
10/31/87 Dabney Coleman / The Cars (looking for copy w/o/c)
11/14/87 Robert Mitchum / Simply Red (looking for copy w/o/c)
11/21/87 Candice Bergen / Cher (looking for copy w/o/c - with all commercials intact)
02/20/88 Tom Hanks / Randy Travis (looking for better quality recording)

Season 14: 1988-89
missing original airings:

05/13/89 Wayne Gretzky / Fine Young Cannibals*
05/20/89 Steve Martin / Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers*
upgrades welcome:
11/05/88 Matthew Modine / Edie Brickell & New Bohemians (looking for copy w/o/c)
11/12/88 Demi Moore / Johnny Clegg & Savuka (looking for copy w/o/c)

Season 15: 1989-90
missing original airings:

10/21/89 Kathleen Turner / Billy Joel

Season 16: 1990-91
upgrades welcome:

02/23/91 Alec Baldwin (looking for complete copy w/o/c, mine has first 57 minutes only)

Season 17: 1991-92
upgrades welcome:

10/12/91 Kirstie Alley / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (looking for East Coast airing w/o/c)
11/02/91 Kiefer Sutherland / Skid Row (looking for w/o/c)
03/14/92 John Goodman / Garth Brooks (looking for complete w/o/c with goodnights intact)
03/21/92 Mary Stuart Masterson / En Vogue (looking for complete w/o/c)
05/16/92 Woody Harrelson / Vanessa Williams (looking for w/o/c)

Season 18: 1992-93
missing original airings (w/o/c preferred):

01/16/93: Harvey Keitel / Madonna
05/08/93 Christina Applegate / Midnight Oil
05/15/93 Kevin Kline / Paul Simon & Willie Nelson
upgrades welcome:
09/26/92 Nicolas Cage / Bobby Brown (looking for complete w/o/c)
10/10/92 Joe Pesci / Spin Doctors (looking for w/o/c)
10/24/92 Christopher Walken / Arrested Development (looking for complete w/o/c)
10/31/92 Catherine O'Hara / 10,000 Maniacs (looking for complete w/o/c)
12/05/92 Tom Arnold / Neil Young (looking for complete w/o/c)
12/12/92 Glenn Close / The Black Crowes (looking for w/o/c)
01/09/93 Danny DeVito / Bon Jovi (looking for complete w/o/c)
02/06/93 Luke Perry / Mick Jagger (looking for complete w/o/c)
02/20/93 Bill Murray / Sting (looking for w/o/c)
03/13/93 John Goodman / Mary J. Blige (looking for w/o/c)
03/20/93 Miranda Richardson / Soul Asylum (looking for w/o/c)
04/10/93 Jason Alexander / Peter Gabriel (looking for w/o/c)
04/17/93 Kirstie Alley / Lenny Kravitz (looking for w/o/c)

Season 19: 1993-94
missing original airings (w/o/c preferred):

09/25/93 Charles Barkley / Nirvana
10/02/93 Shannen Doherty / Cypress Hill
10/30/93 Christian Slater / Smashing Pumpkins
11/13/93 Rosie O'Donnell / James Taylor
upgrades welcome:
10/09/93 Jeff Goldblum / Aerosmith (looking for 1st gen w/o/c)
11/20/93 Nicole Kidman / Stone Temple Pilots (looking for w/o/c)
12/04/93 Charlton Heston / Paul Westerberg (looking for w/o/c)
12/11/93 Sally Field / Tony! Toni! Tone! (looking for complete w/o/c)
01/08/94 Jason Patric / Blind Melon (looking for w/o/c)
01/15/94 Sara Gilbert / Counting Crows (looking for w/o/c)
02/12/94 Alec Baldwin & Kim Basinger / UB40 (looking for w/o/c)
03/12/94 Nancy Kerrigan / Aretha Franklin (looking for NBC airing w/o/c)
05/14/94 Heather Locklear / Janet Jackson (looking for NBC airing w/o/c)

Season 20: 1994-95
upgrades welcome:

11/12/94 Sarah Jessica Parker / REM (looking for NBC airing w/o/c)
11/19/94 John Turturro / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (looking for NBC airing w/o/c)
12/17/94 George Foreman / Hole (looking for w/o/c)
02/18/95 Deion Sanders / Bon Jovi (looking for w/o/c)

Season 21: 1995-96
upgrades welcome:

12/16/95 Madeline Kahn / Bush (looking for w/o/c)
02/17/96 Tom Arnold / Tupac Shakur (looking for w/o/c)
02/24/96 Elle Macpherson / Sting (looking for w/o/c)
03/16/96 John Goodman / Everclear (looking for w/o/c)
03/23/96 Phil Hartman / Gin Blossoms (looking for w/o/c)
04/20/96 Teri Hatcher / Dave Matthews Band (looking for w/o/c)
05/11/96 Christine Baranski (looking for w/o/c)

Season 22: 1996-97
upgrades welcome:

09/28/96 Tom Hanks / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (looking for w/o/c)
10/05/96 Lisa Kudrow / Sheryl Crow (looking for w/o/c)
10/19/96 Bill Pullman / New Edition (looking for 1st gen w/o/c)
10/26/96 Dana Carvey / Dr. Dre (looking for w/o/c)
12/14/96 Rosie O'Donnell / Whitney Houston (looking for w/o/c)
01/11/97 Kevin Spacey / Beck (looking for w/o/c)
01/18/97 David Alan Grier / Snoop Doggy Dogg (looking for 1st gen w/o/c)
02/08/97 Neve Campbell / David Bowie (looking for 1st gen w/o/c)
02/15/97 Chevy Chase / Live (looking for 1st gen w/o/c)
03/15/97 Sting / Veruca Salt (looking for w/o/c)
03/22/97 Mike Myers / Aerosmith (looking for w/o/c)
04/12/97 Rob Lowe / Spice Girls (looking for w/o/c)
04/19/97 Pamela Lee / Rollins Band (looking for w/o/c)

Season 23: 1997-98
upgrades welcome:

09/27/97 Sylvester Stallone / Jamiroquai (looking for w/o/c)
10/04/97 Matthew Perry / Oasis (looking for w/o/c)
10/18/97 Brendan Fraser / Bjork (looking for w/o/c)
10/25/97 Chris Farley / Mighty Mighty Bosstones (looking for w/o/c)
11/08/97 Jon Lovitz / Jane's Addiction (looking for w/o/c)
11/15/97 Claire Danes / Mariah Carey (looking for NBC airing w/o/c)
11/22/97 Mayor Rudolph Giuliani / Sarah McLachlan (looking for w/o/c)
12/06/97 Nathan Lane / Metallica (looking for w/o/c)
12/13/97 Helen Hunt / Hanson (looking for w/o/c)
01/17/98 Sarah Michelle Gellar / Portishead (looking for w/o/c)
02/07/98 John Goodman / Paula Cole (looking for w/o/c)
02/14/98 Roma Downey / Missy Elliott (looking for w/o/c)
02/28/98 Garth Brooks (looking for w/o/c)
03/07/98 Scott Wolf / Natalie Imbruglia (looking for w/o/c)
03/14/98 Julianne Moore / Backstreet Boys (looking for w/o/c)
04/04/98 Steve Buscemi / Third Eye Blind (looking for w/o/c)
04/11/98 Greg Kinnear / All Saints (looking for w/o/c)
05/02/98 Matthew Broderick / Natalie Merchant (looking for w/o/c)

Season 24: 1998-99
upgrades welcome:

03/20/99 Drew Barrymore / Garbage (looking for w/o/c)
04/10/99 John Goodman / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (looking for w/o/c)
05/08/99: Cuba Gooding Jr. / Ricky Martin (looking for w/o/c)
05/15/99: Sarah Michelle Gellar / Backstreet Boys (looking for w/o/c)

Season 25: 1999-00 (note: hi-fi stereo recordings only from this point forward)
upgrades welcome

10/23/99 Norm MacDonald / Dr. Dre (looking for NBC airing w/o/c)
11/06/99 Dylan McDermott / Foo Fighters (looking for NBC airing w/o/c)
11/13/99 Garth Brooks / Chris Gaines (looking for NBC airing w/o/c)
11/20/99 Jennifer Aniston / Sting (looking for NBC airing w/o/c)
01/15/00 Freddie Prinze Jr. / Macy Gray (looking for NBC airing w/o/c)
02/05/00 Alan Cumming / Jennifer Lopez (looking for NBC airing w/o/c)
02/12/00 Julianna Margulies / DMX (looking for NBC airing w/o/c)
03/11/00 Joshua Jackson / N'Sync (looking for NBC airing w/o/c)
04/15/00 Tobey Maguire / Sisqo (looking for NBC airing w/o/c)

Season 26: 2000-01
upgrades welcome

11/11/00 Calista Flockhart / Ricky Martin (looking for w/o/c)
repeat versions of interest
04/21/01 Tom Green / David Gray

Season 28: 2002-03
upgrades welcome

01/18/03 Ray Liotta / The Donnas (looking for w/o/c)
01/26/03 Weekend Update Halftime Special (looking for w/o/c)
05/03/03 Ashton Kutcher / 50 Cent (looking for w/o/c)
05/10/03 Adrian Brody / Sean Paul, Wayne Wonder (looking for w/o/c)
05/17/03 Dan Aykroyd / Beyonce (looking for w/o/c)
repeat versions of interest
04/26/03 Queen Latifah / Ms. Dynamite

Season 32: 2006-07 (digital recordings only from this point forward)
upgrades welcome

01/20/07 Jeremy Piven / AFI (looking for East Coast w/o/c)

Season 34: 2008-09
upgrades welcome

02/07/09 Bradley Cooper / TV On The Radio (looking for w/o/c)
03/07/09 Dwayne Johnson / Ray Lamontagne (looking for w/o/c)
03/14/09 Tracy Morgan / Kelly Clarkson (looking for w/o/c)
04/04/09 Seth Rogen / Phoenix (looking for w/o/c)
04/14/09 Zac Efron / Yeah Yeah Yeahs (looking for w/o/c)
05/09/09 Justin Timberlake / Ciara (looking for w/o/c)
05/16/09 Will Ferrell / Green Day (looking for w/o/c)

Season 35: 2009-10
upgrades welcome

10/03/09 Ryan Reynolds / Lady Gaga (looking for w/o/c)

 

SNL season 41: End of the slump?

When SNL started their 41st season last October, I wasn't particularly excited by the lineup for the season premiere; Miley Cyrus doing double-duty as host and musical guest wasn't exactly the worst way to start the year, but her previous show was only two years before, and not a particularly strong one, at least writing-wise. What was more ominous was that there were no cast changes aside from the addition of another white male stand-up as a featured player, and the writing staff turnover fit the same pattern as in previous years (the long-tenured writers stay, the newbies are the first on the chopping block).

I'm not going to pretend this season of SNL was one of the series' greatest years, but what the last twenty-one shows have demonstrated is that the current group of writers and performers is capable of getting the balance right. Letting Donald Trump host the show in November was a mistake (and I suspect there are many at the show who feel the same), but the shows hosted by Tracy Morgan and Larry David were SNL's strongest efforts in years, and even weaker outings by Russell Crowe and Drake felt more like the writing was affected by the host's weaknesses (the former) or that the material just didn't connect (the latter), as opposed to the pandering I criticized the show for doing in seasons 39 and 40.

I won't go too far into detail about the elements that worked and didn't work this season, but I will definitely single out Kate McKinnon, Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider for their continued excellent take on Hillary Clinton (McKinnon's is now the definitive impression). Vanessa Bayer made an incredible comeback this year ("Santa Baby" unleashed one of her most unsettling performances), and Cecily Strong returned to her full power as a member of the ensemble. There were still a few questionable sketches throughout the year ("Good Morning Song" marred the otherwise excellent Tracy Morgan show with a questionable gay predator punchline), but there seems to be more meat in the writing this year.

Colin Jost and Michael Che continued their turnaround of Weekend Update; it is now the most consistently funny and surprising part of the show, thanks in no small part to increased collaboration between the anchors and writers, and the efforts of segment producer Dennis McNicholas. Jost also stepped down as head writer prior to the start of the season, which allows him to put his focus on Update; while it is unclear as to what extent Jost's influence affected the quality of the show over the previous seasons, but this year's writing seems less beholden to recurring characters or attempts at new ones.

I used to think the show needed a huge shake-up to get it out of the holding pattern of mediocrity it was in for the past few seasons. I'm beginning to think that all it needs is a slight bit of work over the summer to trim some of the bloat.