Classic SNL Review: October 17, 1981: George Kennedy / Miles Davis (S07E03)

RATINGS SYSTEM

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

OPENING: CONTROL ROOM '81

  • While shooting a To Tell The Truth sketch with Regis Philbin, Ron Howard and George Kennedy, the studio cameras begin failing one by one; ultimately, the disaster escalates to the point where the entire control room suffers heart attacks.  It's up to Kennedy and a lone script girl (Christine Ebersole) to take control of the show.
  • Nice to see a full-fledged cold opening; this is the first time in the season the show had something besides a brief bumper before the opening credits.
  • I particularly enjoyed Kennedy referring to the crew as "a bunch of wimps" for having heart attacks during the crisis, as well as Piscopo's master control character getting all snippy with Kennedy for not being in a union.
  • The original broadcast version precedes this sketch with an Exxico bumper ("Ripping you off in ways you never thought possible"); the rerun goes straight into the Control Room opening.

***

SKETCH: MISTER ROBINSON'S NEIGHBORHOOD

  • Mister Robinson hasn't paid rent in six months, so Mister Landlord (Tim Kazurinsky) serves him with an eviction notice, which leads to the word of the day: "scumbucket".  Mister Robinson also shows the dress his wife used his money on and takes an imaginary trip to ask the President why he's so poor.
  • A strong second installment of Mister Robinson's Neighborhood, with enough fresh material in this sketch to keep it from being a rewrite of the first one from last February's Charlene Tilton show.
  • Eddie Murphy has some good lines in this one, like his cheerful "I'm so glad the bitch is gone" after mentioning his wife left him, as well as "How come I sound like Geraldine?" as he does the screechy falsetto voice during the Visiting The President puppet show.  The ending where Murphy closes his hand (except for his ring finger, obviously standing in for  another digit) was a good way to end the bit.
  • The one weak point in this is that I thought the part with him bragging that his wife didn't have to take the dress off for him to put the footprint on it was a little too tasteless.

****

MUSICAL SKETCH: 53 AT STUDIO 54

  • After the doorman (Tony Rosato) turns him away, George Kennedy sings about the perils of the nightlife when you're middle-aged.
  • Written by Eliot Wald and Nate Herman.
  • I thought this was a better song than last week's lifeboat bit; somewhat of a throwaway, but it still had some good lines like how even Sanka makes him pace the floor.
  • Comedian Fred Stoller can be seen as one of the extras in the Studio 54 lineup.

***

SHOW: A FEW MINUTES WITH ANDY ROONEY: CHOCOLATE

  • The 60 Minutes codger (Joe Piscopo) is back with a few thoughts on chocolate and married life with wife Marguerite (Christine Ebersole).
  • I thought they brought back Rooney far too soon; the last time was only two weeks before, and if it wasn't for Christine Ebersole, this would have been way too much of a carbon copy of the last one.
  • There were a few good lines in there, like how there aren't any homosexuals named Buster and that Ed Bradley is sort of "white chocolate" himself.
  • The audience really reactd well to the line about Rooney fantasizing about Jessica Savitch when he makes love to his wife.

**1/2

COMMERCIAL: VELVET JONES SCHOOL OF TECHNOLOGY

  • Velvet Jones (Eddie Murphy) describes the opportunities that await graduates of his course: "I Wanna Be A Ho".
  • I have to admit Velvet Jones is one of Eddie Murphy's more overrated characters, but I always like his wooden "local TV pitchman" voice, and Duke's testimonial was a nice touch.

***

GUEST PERFORMANCE: HARRY ANDERSON: $5 BILL

  • Harry Anderson does a few sleight-of-hand tricks with an audience member's $5 bill, then demonstrates the grapplers that made his illusions possible.
  • Good act, and a good companion piece to Michael Davis' act a few weeks before; I'd put it a little bit lower but Anderson was pretty engaging, with lines like "I'm Harry, but aren't we all?" and props like the "pinky grappler" and the "Camel grappler"
  • I noticed Anderson actually said "BFD" at one point.

**** 

FILM: "MR. BILL IN L.A."- WALTER WILLIAMS

  • Thanks to Sluggo and Mr. Hands, the Play-Doh man gets addicted to cocaine and loses his house.  While hitch-hiking back to New York, Mr. Hands suggests a picnic on the San Ansluggo Fault Line.
  • With Mr. Bill, if you've seen one, you've pretty much seen them all, and this one didn't have as many funny moments as the earlier ones.  The audience still responded well to seeing this character again.

**

COMMERCIAL: SPRAY ON LAETRIL

  • Peggy's (Mary Gross) lung cancer threatens her trip to the prom with Ted (Joe Piscopo), so Gwen (Christine Ebersole) suggests the new drug that comes in "the pump".
  • This was a very funny and very tasteless (the good kind of tasteless, mind you) commercial by Michael O'Donoghue, made even funnier by the singing cigarette-smoking doctors marching and singing "The pump!" (I believe that was from a hairspray ad from the time).  Even funnier was when Kazurinsky started to spray Murphy and they broke character.
  • I love Joe Piscopo's delivery on the line where he's just blatantly asking Mary Gross if he can come inside so he could have sex with her.
  • Speaking of Gross, some of her facial expressions in this sketch remind me of The State's Kerri Kenney, particularly at the very end when she's trying to kiss a non-responsive Joe (who just found out she has syphilis) before conceding with a handshake.

****

SNL NEWSBREAK: WITH BRIAN DOYLE-MURRAY AND MARY GROSS, COMMENTARY BY EDDIE MURPHY AND JUAN GAVINO

  • Best jokes: Idi Amin, Big Bird assassination attempt, Lech Walesa.
  • The footage of the adult Sesame Street performers trying to calm the pandemonium looked like it must have been very old; the original Gordon (Matt Robinson) is visible.
  • I was surprised how much better Mary Gross' delivery was this week, especially considering they yanked her off the desk the next show and only had her back intermittently afterwards.
  • Another surprising thing: the lack of audience applause for Eddie Murphy when Doyle-Murray introduced him.  I would say this was the best of his first three commentaries, especially the facial expressions he used to demonstrate why nobody really is too ugly to have sex with.
  • Some of the actual jokes weren't as bad as usual, but there was one about Wayne Newton that just died, at least the second part.  There was also a poorly done joke about everyone in Ireland dying (a rewrite of last week's joke about Iran), only with a punchline about England moving blacks and Asians there that also didn't work.
  • Juan Gavino's (John Candy) forecast for illegal aliens was merely OK, but him "shoving Mexico up the United States" was funny.

**1/2

COMMERCIAL: LA CAGE AUX FOLLES '81

  • George Kennedy plays female impersonator Albin opposite Ugo Tognazzi's (Tim Kazurinsky) Renato in the newest sequel to the hit play and film.
  • This was very funny, especially with George Kennedy's over-the-top effeminate character.  The main reason this worked so well is because Kazurinsky did an excellent job playing off Kennedy completely straight .

****

FILM: "UP AND AT 'EM"- DOUG WENDT

  • After being fed peanut butter, a dog continually licks his mouth.
  • To be honest, this film belonged on "America's Funniest Home Videos" more than SNL.

*

COMMERCIAL: RUBIK'S TEETH

  • A new puzzle with a number of dental color combinations.
  • A one-joke bit and not a great one, but at least it was brief.

**

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "JEAN PIERRE" 

  • Miles Davis performs with sidemen Mike Stern on guitar, Marcus Miller on bass, Al Foster on drums, Bill Evans on saxophone and Mino Cinelu on percussion. 
  • Miles wasn't in great physical shape tonight and was shuffling around the stage very stiffly; I heard he was dealing with a lot of physical pain related to a hip problem at the time, so that explains a lot.  He also didn't sound the best but I thought overall it was still a pretty good performance.
  • One thing that did bug me was that the camera would just be on Miles' back or him staring at the band while they were playing their solos.  This is especially noticeable during Stern's guitar solo. 
  • It sounds like they cued the applause early and it goes to commercial as the last note is playing.  Considering the performance was earlier in the live show than it is in the rerun I don't think they would have been short on time.

SKETCH: JAKE THE HIRED HAND

  • Jake, The Hired Hand (Tony Rosato) and his employer, widowed landowner Ms. Luke (Robin Duke), experience sexual tension.  Bill Thompson (George Kennedy), the man who killed Ms. Luke's husband, comes by to take her land, also seeking revenge on Jake for killing his brother.
  • This was a lot funnier than I remembered it being; it was still a bit long, but it had enough silliness to it to make it enjoyable.
  • The audience had a bit of a delayed reaction to Jake mentioning marauders raping all the cattle; then they give a big one for the callback a few lines later when he hears the gang coming and says he's going to hide the cattle.
  • Another funny part was when both Rosato and Kennedy fire their guns at Duke while she's preaching at them for their constant violence; what makes it funny is the completely unnecessary last shot Rosato shoots after they've both shot her multiple times.  And then she gets up to speechify again a moment later.
  • Kennedy did seem a little glued to the cue cards in this one.

***

MUSICAL SKETCH: AN EDITORIAL REPLY 

  • Marilyn Monroe sings "Downers Are A Girl's Best Friend" to comment on the continued press sensationalism of her life and death. 
  • A very well-executed and enjoyably cynical production number, featuring an excellent performance by Mary Gross.  I remember reading someone in a discussion forum mention Gross was actually surprisingly sexy because she could turn it on or off like so; watching this I completely understand.  

**** 

SKETCH: TUNA MELTS & TYPING

  • A janitor (George Kennedy) and secretary (Christine Ebersole) have lunch together; he discusses how life is too short to worry about small things, his admiration for Frank Sinatra and she talks about having trouble typing, and discusses her plans to pay for her own engagement ring.  The janitor argues that doing it this way robs her of the thing she can't give herself: romance.
  • A great Marilyn Suzanne Miller sketch; I thought this succeeded very well at a small, real-life, semi-dramatic piece.  I really liked the ending of this one with the Helen O'Connell song playing and Kennedy musing sadly that life is too short.
  • Very good characterization from Kennedy as the older janitor and especially Ebersole as the slightly shallow secretary obsessed with Marilu Henner.

*****

GOODNIGHTS

goodnights.jpg
  • Kennedy mentions if he could adopt seven more kids, he'd adopt the whole cast.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

A definite improvement over the previous week's show and one of the better shows of the season.  Two of Eddie Murphy's most famous sketches are in this episode, but I found the real highlights to be some of the long-overlooked sketches like Tuna Melts & Typing and La Cage Aux Folles '81.  As usual with this season, some of the material did feel filler-ish or just fell flat, but overall it had a stronger hit-to-miss ratio and was a fairly solid show by this season's standards.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Tuna Melts & Typing
  • Spray-On Laetril
  • Mister Robinson's Neighborhood
  • An Editorial Reply
  • Harry Anderson
  • La Cage Aux Folles '81

EPISODE LOWLIGHTS

  • Up And At 'Em
  • A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney
  • Mr. Bill In L.A.
  • Rubik's Teeth
  • some jokes in SNL Newsbreak

MVP

  • Tim Kazurinsky

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN

cast

  • Robin Duke: 2 appearances [Velvet Jones School of Technology, Jake The Hired Hand]
  • Christine Ebersole: 4 appearances [Control Room '81, A Few Moments with Andy Rooney, Spray-On Laetril, Tuna Melts & Typing]
  • Mary Gross:  3 appearances [Spray-On Laetril, SNL Newsbreak, An Editorial Reply]
  • Tim Kazurinsky:  3 appearances [Mister Robinson's Neighborhood, Spray-On Laetril, La Cage Aux Folles '81]
  • Eddie Murphy:  4 appearances [Mister Robinson's Neighborhood, Velvet Jones School of Technology, Spray-On Laetril, SNL Newsbreak]
  • Joe Piscopo: 3 appearances [A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney, Spray-On Laetril, Rubik's Teeth]; 1 voice-over [Control Room '81]
  • Tony Rosato: 3 appearances [53 At Studio 54, Spray-On Laetril, Jake The Hired Hand]

featured players

  • Brian Doyle-Murray: 1 appearance [SNL Newsbreak]

crew and extras 

  • Pete Fatovich: 1 appearance [Control Room '81]
  • Phil Hymes: 1 appearance [Control Room '81]
  • Heino Ripp: 1 appearance [Control Room '81]
  • Fred Stoller: 1 Appearance [53 At Studio 54]
  • Dave Wilson: 1 voice-over[Control Room '81]

guests

  • George Kennedy: 5 appearances [Control Room '81, 53 At Studio 54, La Cage Aux Folles '81, Jake The Hired Hand, Tuna Melts & Typing]
  • Miles Davis: 1 appearance ["Jean Pierre"]
  • Harry Anderson: 1 appearance [Guest performance]
  • John Candy: 1 appearance [SNL Newsbreak]

  • Ron Howard: 1 appearance [Control Room '81]
  • Regis Philbin: 1 appearance [Control Room '81] 

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • November 28, 1981
  • June 12, 1982

Known alterations:

  • Exxico opening bumper was removed from the cold opening. 

Additional screen captures from this episode can be seen here.