Classic SNL Review: January 29, 1983: Rick Moranis & Dave Thomas / The BusBoys (S08E11)

RATINGS SYSTEM:

***** - Classic
****  - Great
***   - Good / Average
**    - OK
*     - Terrible

OPENING: SUPER BOWL PARTY

  • Bob Hope (Dave Thomas) and Frank Sinatra (Joe Piscopo) enlist Woody Allen (Rick Moranis) to direct a campaign commercial for Ronald Reagan.
  • This is based around the three performers' standout impressions, and it works, with Moranis playing foil to Thomas' cutting take on Hope for a second time: the two impressions were first paired in SCTV's "Play It Again Bob".  Thomas' Hope gets some of the best lines while Piscopo's Sinatra is a little more menacing this time around.
  • Hope noticing Allen talking to the camera (which itself gives the sketch a nice meta-referential feel) and breaking the fourth wall himself was done in the SCTV sketch
  • Lines that stood out: Sinatra asking Allen how it felt to have seconds (Allen and Mia Farrow were together at the time) and Hope pipes up that it's actually thirds ("Wasn't she done in by the devil?"), the description of the "scum vote" that Allen was supposed to convince to vote for Reagan, Hope's dis towards Sinatra's kids.

****

MONOLOGUE

  • Bob and Doug McKenzie (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas) are mad that Don Pardo announces the hotel where SNL's guests stay, and get revenge before introducing their film.
  • The "Great White North" segments on SCTV were improvised; I have a feeling this was as well, because Moranis makes reference to the time left, and rushes to get the plug for Strange Brew in before the videotape segment starts.   It's a little odd to see the characters having to feed off a live audience (SCTV used a laugh track), but the dynamic works.  There's a neat summation of the history of SNL's quality as well.
  • The reference to Pardo announcing the hotel is something that makes a little more sense if you've seen the original live airings (there would normally be a slide and Pardo voiceover promoting Berkshire Place right before the 10-to-1 sketch; these are usually cut from the repeat versions or Classic SNL rebroadcasts). 

*** 1/2

MISCELLANEOUS: MCKENZIE BROTHERS

  • Bob and Doug McKenzie visit NYC landmarks including Times Square, 42nd Street, Bergdorf Goodman and a hot dog cart.
  • A little weaker than the live McKenzie segment.  There are a few funny bits here (their obliviousness towards the porno theatres on 42nd Street, their very quick visit to Bergdorf Goodman), but it was a little too disjointed.
  • The Bergdorf Goodman scene was cut out of the 60-minute syndicated version.

***

SKETCH: WHINERS V

  • Doug and Wendy Whiner (Joe Piscopo and Robin Duke) exacerbate a hostage situation with their nagging during an armed bank robbery.
  • There's really not a whole lot more to this sketch aside from that description, although Piscopo and Duke get some recognition applause for their entrance.  I did get a small laugh out of Piscopo's very unthreatening "I'll make mincemeat out of you!".  The audience seemed to like Duke getting hurt.
  • Frequent 1982-83 extra "mustache man" shows up as a teller.

**

SHOW: I'LL BE THE JUDGE OF THAT

  • Thug poet Tyrone Green (Eddie Murphy) competes on Dick Cavett's (Rick Moranis) highbrow and self-indulgent game show.
  • This could have been tightened up a bit, but Moranis' take on Cavett is one of my favorite of his impressions: it really nails his pomposity, narcissism and tendency to name-drop, which are all on full display here.  Murphy's Tyrone Green is welcome, even if this isn't his best sketch.
  • Kazurinsky and Gross's characters are window-dressing; even poor misused Robin Duke gets a chance to shine here as journalist Oriana Fallaci, serving as the show's prize girl (who thinks the shows sponsors are fascists).

***

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN"

  • Eddie Murphy introduces the BusBoys as "some guys he met this summer"; the predominantly African-American band had appeared with Murphy in 48 Hours; Murphy sings background vocals.
  • A very upbeat number led by keyboard player Brian O'Neal.  This is fun to watch; everyone's enjoying themselves on stage.

FILM: "HITCHCOCK HYGIENE"

  • A suspenseful scene centers around drops of blood and an important appointment.
  • Very well directed by John Fox, although the final punchline (the dripping blood on the protagonist's desk and hands is from is gums; the menacing figure scolding him is his dentist) was underwhelming.
  • No clue who the actors in this one are; the dentist looks a little familiar.

*** 1/2

SHOW: GUY TALK

  • Macho man Lenny Cicciloni (Joe Piscopo) chats with fellow "guy's guys" Liberace (Dave Thomas) and Michael Jackson (Eddie Murphy) about their sexual conquests.
  • There's really not a whole lot to this other than the main juxtaposition of effeminate Lee and Jackson talking about their womanizing, and the performances were a little too sloppy to make it work (there's also a section where Murphy can be heard off-camera clapping and saying "marvelous!" to Liberace's anecdotes; missed camera switch?).
  • This is more notable for being the first time SNL had really satirized Michael Jackson; he was mentioned in the Barrymore cold opening, but this is the first time he was the focus of a sketch.  It's almost quaint in that the "weirdest" thing about him at the time was that he was a little light in the loafers.

**

COMMERCIAL: PORTA-DISH

  • Gerry Todd (Rick Moranis) shows the channels available on the low-cost alternative to big satellite dishes.
  • This maybe would have worked a little better if Moranis had some more tech stuff/post-production tricks to play with (as he did for his SCTV sketches with this character), but it's not bad at all.  This has its moments, particularly the humidity channel ("56% in Europe!" seemed like an ad-lib), the Dyslexia Channel (subtitled with the words scrambled), and African Bandstand (bare-breasted African women dancing to Toni Basil's "Mickey").

*** 1/2

SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS

  • Best joke: Hitler's ball
  • Weak night for Brad Hall, but he hardly had any jokes to tell.  The only one that really seemed to work was the one about the 50th anniversary of the Third Reich, with the punchline "It was the one and only ball Hitler had in his life" getting a laugh.  The (Klaus) Barbie joke (playing on the doll) was too obvious and did not warrant the video segment.
  • Joe Piscopo gets his second Saturday Night Sports this month to promote the Superbowl ("Football! Gambling! Hookers! Paaaar-ty!"); he does a Spanish translation before predicting the Miami will win by 9 points (Washington actually won by 10).  Not really much to it.
  • Mary Gross makes her first appearance as Dr. Ruth Westheimer, and seems to struggle with her first few lines in the accent.  The only thing that really stands out is Brad Hall interrupting her suggestive finger gestures at the end (which would be repeated for the other Dr. Ruth appearances).
  • Eddie Murphy appears to protest Ronald Reagan's opposition to creating a federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Murphy stumbles on his lines throughout but makes up for it with some of the most pointed and direct criticism of Reagan of the entire Ebersol era, at one point calling him a "sleazeball" following a brief mention of some of his nastier policies.  Murphy then asks viewers to send him letters in support of the holiday so he can drive them by truck to the White House and the show can televise it.  This is probably the most memorable and successful segment of the whole SNN; interestingly enough, this whole segment and the following joke (a Chevy Chase-esque line about Zbigniew Brzezinski changing his name to "Ralph Malph") are cut from reruns.  Reagan actually did relent and signed the holiday into law late that year. 
  • Walter Cronkite (Dave Thomas) appears to correct Brad Hall's attempts at closing the newscast.  Good impression, but it felt like it could have been put into a better-developed segment (they hint at him taking up pranks after retirement).

**

SKETCH: HELL BENT FOR GLORY

  • In 1944, American soldiers taking refuge in a French barn realize most of their chances of survival are slim because they personify WWII movie cliches.
  • Written by Paul Barrosse.
  • This actually had a good concept; the audience didn't really seem to care for it, but I have to admit I enjoy the whole metafiction angle; the ending with Sarge (Dave Thomas) surviving by cowardly hiding under a pail was a little weak, but the credits and dedication at least end it on a stronger note.
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the "blind, beautiful French girl" got a few funny bits of physical business.

***

COMMERCIAL: RENT ED MCMAHON

  • Ed McMahon (Joe Piscopo) will guarantee that even the lamest joke you tell at a party will get laughs. 
  • Fairly predictable; Gary Kroeger does well as the bad joke-teller, as does Brad Hall as the pitchman.  This was mainly an excuse to get some extra mileage out of the prosthetic Ed McMahon makeup for Joe Piscopo.
  • In Dave Thomas' 1996 book SCTV: Behind the Scenes, both he and Moranis briefly mention and criticize the use of the prosthetic in this sketch, calling it essentially a mask.
  • Recurring extra watch: mustache man, preppy guy with glasses (he was in Melina's Cafe in Dern '82).  I'm sure some of the others have been in a few sketches.

 ** 1/2

SHOW: FIVE MINUTES TO REFLECT

  • Rabbi Morton Karlov (Rick Moranis) discusses the "lost" books of Moses, which would have eventually addressed skills which Jewish people stereotypically lack.
  • The sight gag with Karlov's payot (the curls) coming off as he removes his glasses was done regularly on SCTV.  Moranis carries this well, but it's unremarkable; the funniest part of this segment was Karlov ranting about being cut off ("What is this, four minutes to reflect and a one minute window commercial?"

** 1/2

COMMERCIAL: THE BIOLOGICAL WATCH

  • Ronco's new product lets women quickly check their fertility; the Ovu-larm feature also warns of their susceptibility for PMS.
  • The song cues for the stages of life were somewhat funny, but there's actually a little bit of nice satire of sexism in there, with the "busy and meaningful life" being mentioned as a distraction from having children, as well as the mention of the watch coming with a "real watch for him".
  • Robin Duke's performance always struck me as she was trying too hard here, at least in comparison to the others in the sketch; that said, it's nice to see all the under-used cast get airtime in this sketch.

***

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "NEW SHOES"

  • A bluesier number from the American Worker album (and the 48 Hours soundtrack), with Gus Loundermon on lead vocals (and dance moves to show off said shoes).  I actually liked this one a little better than the first number.
  • Interesting trivia about the American Worker album: they perform a version of Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn's "Heart and Soul", which Huey Lewis & The News would record on Sports (and perform on the show about a year after this show). 

FILM: HITCHHIKER (repeat of 10/02/82)

GOODNIGHTS

  • Mary Gross kisses one of the BusBoys, while Brad Hall pogos.  Robin Duke gives former co-star Rick Moranis a peck on the cheek.
  • Guitarist Cliff Carter and trombonist Birch Johnson are credited as members of the SNL band tonight.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Moranis and Thomas seemed to give the whole show a boost without taking over the whole show like Lily Tomlin did; while Moranis got some juicy solo showcases, Thomas seemed to integrate into sketches a bit more, although both were in their element tonight.  There are a few weaker sketches (Guy Talk, an unneccesary Whiners sketch, Saturday Night News), and a few missed opportunities (particularly considering Robin Duke was in the 1980-81 SCTV cast with both hosts), but this is easily one of the better shows of the season.

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Super Bowl Party
  • Monologue
  • Eddie Murphy commentary on Saturday Night News
  • Porta-Dish
  • Hitchcock Hygiene

SHOW LOWLIGHTS:

  • most of Saturday Night News (aside from Murphy and Cronkite)
  • Guy Talk
  • Whiners V

MVP:

  • Rick Moranis

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN:

cast

  • Robin Duke: 3 appearances [Whiners V, I'll Be the Judge of That, The Biological Watch]
  • Mary Gross: 3 appearances [I'll Be the Judge of That, Saturday Night News, The Biological Watch]
  • Brad Hall: 5 appearances [Whiners V, Saturday Night News, Hell Bent for Glory, Rent Ed McMahon, The Biological Watch]
  • Tim Kazurinsky: 4 appearances [I'll Be the Judge of That, Hell Bent for Glory, The Biological Watch, Hitchhiker (rerun)]
  • Gary Kroeger: 4 appearances [Whiners V, Hell Bent for Glory, Rent Ed McMahon, The Biological Watch]
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 3 appearances [Hell Bent for Glory, Rent Ed McMahon, The Biological Watch]; 1 voice-over [Saturday Night News]
  • Eddie Murphy: 5 appearances [I'll Be the Judge of That, "The Boys Are Back In Town", Guy Talk, Saturday Night News, Hell Bent For Glory]
  • Joe Piscopo: 5 appearances [Super Bowl Party, Whiners V, Guy Talk, Saturday Night News, Rent Ed McMahon]; 1 voice-over [Super Bowl Party]

guests

  • Rick Moranis: 6 appearances [Super Bowl Party, Monologue, McKenzie Brothers, I'll Be The Judge of That, Porta-Dish, Five Minutes to Reflect]
  • Dave Thomas: 7 appearances [Super Bowl Party, Monologue, McKenzie Brothers, Guy Talk, Saturday Night News, Hell Bent for Glory, The Biological Watch]
  • The BusBoys: 2 appearances ["The Boys Are Back In Town", "New Shoes"]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • April 23, 1983
  • August 6, 1983

Known alterations: 

  • Hitchcock Hygiene removed
  • Saturday Night News edited
  • Rubik's Grenade, The Girls of SNL and Prose & Cons are added.

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.