Classic SNL Review: March 19, 1983: Robert Guillaume / Duran Duran (S08E16)

RATINGS SYSTEM:

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

OPENING: BUCKWHEAT DEAD

  • Ted Koppel (Joe Piscopo) keeps the media circus surrounding Buckwheat's death going, and profiles his assassin John David Stutts (Eddie Murphy), who becomes the night's new story.
  • This has a slower start than last week's first part of the Buckwheat assassination saga (recapping Buckwheat's death again, the sponsor messages from Mutual Life: "Because you could die tomorrow"), and doesn't really take off until John David Stutts is introduced. I'm actually willing to say the material that comes afterwards ends up besting the original, though. A large part of this comes from the Stutts character: the stereotypical quiet loner who goes off, only this time everyone he knew grew up saw it coming ("Most likely to kill Buckwheat"). Once it gets into the parody of Jack Ruby gunning down Lee Harvey Oswald, it transcends its sequel status.
  • Eddie Murphy's characterization of Stutts is in itself hilarious, particularly the blissed-out voice he gives him ("Hi! I killed Buckwheat!" "I had to kill him, my dog told me he was the Antichrist." "The reporters are back!"). My favorite part is Stutts' reaction after being gunned down, a long "Ooooooouch! I'm shot!")
  • The same actor who played the surgeon last week appears as Dr. Irwin Fletcher, a psychologist who fingerpoints at the media for turning people like Stutts into celebrities and inspiring them to seek publicity by killing people. Koppel, of course, misses the point.
  • Like last week's "Buckwheat Buys The Farm", this was written by Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield, with pre-tapes directed by Claude Kerven.

**** 1/2 

MONTAGE

  • Some interesting guitar playing during this version of the theme.
  • Duran Duran get loud screams from the audience, which sounds like it's packed with teenage girls.

MONOLOGUE

  • Radical moderate Robert Guillaume leads the audience in the "Creed of Moderation".
  • Guillaume's entrance is energetic, and the audience's cheers are particularly loud. He has some good lines at the beginning, including some self-deprecating stuff about why he was booked), and threatening to "burn this mutha down" if he doesn't get some moderation; the "creed" was an interesting way to get the show's audience involved, but wasn't particularly funny in itself.
  • The whole moderation angle reminds me a lot of when Howard Hesseman urged the audience to chant "restraint" during his first show at the beginning of the Iran Hostage Crisis.

***

COMMERCIAL: CLYSLER-PRYMOUTH [rerun of 12/11/82]

SKETCH: MOTOWN UPON THE SWANEE RIVER

  • Chicken Mel (Eddie Murphy) doesn't want to be an Uncle Tom like Cotton Joe (Robert Guillaume), and plans to go north to the land of proud black music.
  • I'm not crazy about this one; some of the jokes are groan-worthy (the Underground Railroad being called "the Tubway", Guillaume comparing the chains he wears to jewellery), but a lot of the trouble comes from Guillaume's performance: the accent throws off his delivery. Eddie Murphy carries most of this, but even he manages a slip-up of his own (he calls Guillaume "Cotton Mel" by accident early in the sketch). The payoff, where Chicken Mel (aka Prince Gor-Day) reveals he's going north to create what will become the Motown sound, was  too little, too late.
  • The scene where Murphy hears the background music, opens the closet door to reveal the musicians responsible, and yells "SHUT UP!" was used before this season (in the Gossett show's Father and Son sketch). Eliot Wald appeared in the earlier sketch as the writer; I wonder if he and/or Nate Herman wrote this one.

**

COMMERCIAL: HEIL HITS

  • Klaus Barbie (Tim Kazurinsky) pitches an album with Third Reich-inspired reworkings of familiar tunes.
  • The first "record ad" commercial parody in almost a year; unlike Jesus In Blue Jeans or Middle Age Of Aquarius, this doesn't work and just seems to go on and on. I give credit to whoever's performing the songs (sounds a little like Kroeger, Hall and Louis-Dreyfus handling some of the vocals), but the individual parodies and titles themselves don't really work. The jokes in Kazurinsky's spiel ("Ve are ONLY TAKING ORDERS...for a short time!") also come off as especially laboured.

SHOW: THE MRS. T BIRTHDAY SPECIAL

  • Mrs. T (Robin Duke), alone on her birthday while her husband (Eddie Murphy) shoots the A-Team, celebrates with special guests Lena Horne (Mary Gross) and Steve Lawrence (Joe Piscopo).
  • While not quite as memorable as the original Mr. and Mrs. T sketch, Robin Duke is still hilarious as Mrs. T, and this gives her some much-needed screentime (which is her only appearance tonight), and a great physical bit where she leaps onto Joe Piscopo's Steve Lawrence.
  • This is the second time this season Mary Gross has appeared impersonating a black woman; she does a decent Lena Horne (particularly the mannerisms with her hands), but this is something that would never fly today.
  • The omnipresent red-haired child extra appears again as one of Mr. and Mrs. T's children.

*** 1/2  

SKETCH: I MARRIED A MONKEY (V)

  • Madge is in the hospital with a case of amnesia, but all is not as it seems.
  • We haven't seen these characters in a while, but this is the weakest installment so far. Aside from a blooper in which the monkey spits out the grape Kazurinsky orally passes to her in the "kiss" scene, there's really not a lot of unscripted moments from the monkey for him to play off.
  • A large reason for this is because, according to Kazurinsky in Live From New York, the monkey had to be sedated before air, as it had become aggressive during dress rehearsal (at one point visibly masturbating): Madge's eyes are visibly glassy here.

**

SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS

  • Best jokes: Hinckley's psychiatrist, Qadaffi's threat
  • Brad Hall gets a few funnier jokes this week, including one that works in a reference to John David Stutts. The other notable joke is what appears to be SNL's only acknowledgement of Fridays, their day-earlier competitor on ABC from 1980-82.
  • "Speedy Tim Kazurinsky" makes his fifth consecutive appearance at the newsdesk this week, this time appearing as himself to comment on the quality of the current bestseller list. This was fresher than most of what we've seen from Kazurinsky in the last few weeks, and some good visual gags.
  • Patti-Lynn Hunnsacker (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is back to complain about Gone With The Wind and The Wizard Of Oz; the jokes are marginally better in this one.
  • Brad Hall gets his own special feature to show off the Brad Hall Anchorman Doll and Accessory Kit: this is a fun bit, and Hall manages to get away with exposing the doll's crotch during the mock Piscopo intro. He also uses the doll to sign off this week's newscast.

***

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF"

  • I've always found this to be a particularly underwhelming performance, and possibly the worst performance on the show since The Go-Go's appeared in November 1981. There's just a general ropey quality here, and the feeling of the individual elements of the song not coming together. It reminds me a little of when Maroon 5 did a particularly dodgy "Moves Like Jagger" on the show in 2011.
  • Some interesting camera angles though, particularly of Nick Rhodes' keyboards.

COMMERCIAL: OIL IS US

  • Saudi Arabian (Joe Piscopo), Iranian (Robert Guillaume) and Nigerian (Eddie Murphy) oil ministers huck their countries' petroleum, late night pitchman-style.
  • This manages to work largely because of Piscopo and Murphy, but Guillaume (making his first appearance since the first commercial break) doesn't fare too poorly here. Murphy in particular does an interesting character voice. This also works in references to Crazy Eddie ("our prices are INSANE", the Pep Boys (the three pitchmen teaming up as "Manny, Moe and Jack") and Toys R Us (the company name and logo).
  • Gary Kroeger makes his only appearance tonight as Mexican president Miguel de la Madrid.

*** 1/2

SKETCH: PUDGE & SOLOMON

  • Solomon (Eddie Murphy) has been visiting his gynecologist nephew Jason (Robert Guillaume), who wants his uncle to move in with his family instead of an old folks' home.
  • This was the typical Pudge & Solomon sketch, with Piscopo and Murphy's chemistry at the forefront. Solomone gets some funny lines about his nephew's profession ("he lookin' at crotches for a living!" gets a big laugh). Guillaume is at his best here in a straight role. Another sentimental ending, with Solomon telling Pudge that he's happiest where he is.

*** 1/2

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "GIRLS ON FILM"

  • Slightly better than the first performance, particularly in the instrumental break towards the end. The audience full of teenage girls loves it, of course.
  • This song was two years old at the time Duran Duran performed it on SNL; this seemed to be performed to plug the band's just-released video compliation, as well as the reissue of their self-titled debut that would come out next month.

SKETCH: WRONG NUMBER

  • A man (Brad Hall) tries to end his relationship with his girlfriend (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) via the telephone.


  • This feels like it was imported from the Practical Theatre Co.'s stage show; it's a very simple premise but there's enough rapid-fire jokes in here to give this some laughs. Even if the ending was obvious, the performances work (particularly the casual "she's got triple nipples, you've got triple nipples...").

***

GOODNIGHTS

  • Mary Gross and Tim Kazurinsky are holding a "Get Well Brian" sign; Eddie Murphy is standing off to the side. Chimpanzee trainer Dave Sabo runs on stage with the monkeys a little later into the goodnights.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

A very uneven show, with one of the best sketches of the season ("Buckwheat Dead") and some very weak material ("Heil Hits", "Motown Upon The Swanee River"). Robert Guillaume ultimately didn't contribute very much to tonight's show, and notably struggled in his biggest stretch of the night. The Eddie Murphy / Joe Piscopo show continues, with poor Robin Duke and Gary Kroeger were especially underutilized this week. Duran Duran also underwhelmed, and despite the presence of the teenage girls in the audience, there was an "off" vibe much of the night, even when some of the sketches were above average. 

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Buckwheat Dead
  • Oil Is Us
  • The Mrs. T Birthday Special
  • Pudge & Solomon

SHOW LOWLIGHTS:

  • Heil Hits
  • Motown Upon The Swanee River
  • I Married A Monkey

MVP:

  • Eddie Murphy

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN

cast

  • Robin Duke: 1 appearance [The Mrs. T Birthday Special]
  • Mary Gross: 2 appearances [Motown Upon The Swanee River, The Mrs. T Birthday Special]
  • Brad Hall: 3 appearances [I Married A Monkey, Saturday Night News, Wrong Number]
  • Tim Kazurinsky: 3 appearances [Heil Hits, I Married A Monkey, Saturday Night News]
  • Gary Kroeger: 1 appearance [Oil Is Us]
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 3 appearances [I Married A Monkey, Saturday Night News, Wrong Number]
  • Eddie Murphy: 5 appearances [Buckwheat Dead, Motown Upon The Swanee River, The Mrs. T Birthday Special, Oil Is Us, Pudge & Solomon]
  • Joe Piscopo: 4 appearances [Buckwheat Dead, The Mrs. T Birthday Special, Oil Is Us, Pudge & Solomon]

guests

  • Robert Guillaume: 4 appearances [Monologue, Motown Upon The Swanee River, Oil Is Us, Pudge & Solomon]
  • Duran Duran: 2 appearances ["Hungry Like The Wolf", "Girls On Film"]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • July 23, 1983

Known alterations: 

  • Clysler-Prymouth removed
  • The Web added

Sketches included in the 03/24/84 Best Of special:

  • Buckwheat Dead

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.