Classic SNL Review: December 5, 1981: Tim Curry / Meat Loaf & The Neverland Express (S07E07)

RATING SYSTEM:

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

OPENING: TEXXON

  • The evil oil company warns: "We got Karen Silkwood, we'll get the creep at Saturday Night Live who writes these things".
  • Easily my favorite of the quick open jokes.
  • This is one of two episodes this season where NBC News announcer Bill Hanrahan fills in for Mel Brandt; Hanrahan's voice is a lot sterner than Brandt's was and it doesn't really fit the spirit of the opening credits sequence.  If you want to hear Hanrahan's voice, it's at the start of this news clip.

****

MONOLOGUE

  • Eddie Murphy, speaking like someone out of Amos 'n Andy, sweeps up during the monologue because "an ol' black buck" has some barriers to appearing in more sketches.  Tim explains that he avoided being typecast by not publicly appearing in drag and suggests that Eddie take steps to not appear black in public.
  • The second "monologue" of the season (after Susan Saint James) and the first to really stand as its own segment.   Both Tim and Eddie were both pretty funny in this; I give Eddie the slight edge for his performance, but Tim had some good lines, especially "You can call me 'Massa Tim'".
  • The reasons Eddie gave for not being in sketches (no black politicians, no man/woman sketches, obviously not related) are worth noting because Eddie was already a breakout star anyway without having to do any of that kind of material, and they eventually did have Eddie play the adopted son of James Coburn and Christine Ebersole's characters in "Those Crazy Taboosters" a few episodes later.  I wonder what they would have thought if someone told them then that the United States would have a black president thirty years later.
  • Eddie's transformation (via shoe polish) into "Richard B. Winthrop" strikes me as a precursor to the "White Like Me" film from three years later.

****

COMMERCIAL: TRANSEASTERN AIRLINES [REPEAT FROM 11/07/81]

SHOW: MICK!

  • The Rolling Stones' frontman has his first network TV variety special, with special guests The Mandrell Sisters (Robin Duke, Christine Ebersole, Mary Gross), Frank Nelson ("YEEEEESS?"), Shari Lewis (Duke again), Buckwheat (Eddie Murphy), Rip Taylor (Tony Rosato) and The Chairman Of The Board himself, Francis Albert Sinatra (Joe Piscopo).
  • This sketch was a replacement for a lengthy sketch about the final days of Fred Silverman's tenure at NBC written by Michael O'Donoghue and starring John Belushi as Silverman.  The sketch was planned and rehearsed for a few shows until NBC standards killed the sketch (the Hitler's bunker parallel was too much for them).  This left a big gap in this week's show that would be partially filled by this 14-minute sketch, a gap not helped by another issue with an O'Donoghue sketch: "At Home With The Psychos" (which aired next week) was also originally supposed to air this week judging by the goodnights, but was axed from the show due to standards issues with the "blow-hole" prop.
  • Unlike the material that replaced the cut sketches in the Pleasence show, the show had a host that could rise to the challenge, and the cast and writers had a bit more momentum from having a few more shows under their belts.  Despite the length, this was continually enjoyable and fun, with good performances from everyone involved, particularly from Curry himself.
  • I have to give special mention to Robin Duke, who had a quick change from Louise Mandrell to Shari Lewis a few minutes later.  The part where Jagger starts aggressively tongue-kissing the Lamb Chop puppet was hilarious.
  • The material that got the biggest response was Murphy's Buckwheat, which was the character's second appearance (not counting the brief backstage impression Eddie did for Hutton) and Piscopo's Sinatra.  By this point in the season, it feels like the show had already found its footing.
  • I had to laugh at Jagger referring to Rip Taylor as an influence on the same level as Muddy Waters and Big Bill Broonzy.
  • The credits listing the characters from the Dick Van Dyke show were a nice touch, as well as the reference to "Bernie Sugarman" (a reference to Burt Sugarman, whose late night music show The Midnight Special was cancelled that year as part of the deal for Dick Ebersol to run SNL).

*****

MISCELLANEOUS: POPPA, I LOVE YOU 

  • A tearful Eddie Murphy describes how his father left for some milk, never came back, became Governor of California and later President.
  • Another very funny segment, especially Eddie's tearful delivery throughout; my favorite part of the joke was the doctored family photo with Reagan, a "mammy" type as the mother and adult Eddie's head pasted on the child's body.

****

FILM: "THE TROUBLE WITH FRED"- DAVID EWING

  • A camera pan down reveals what frog Fred's problem is.
  • This segment was cut from the rerun and moved to the repeat of the Bernadette Peters show; I'm reviewing the segment in the original episode it aired in.
  • This was basically one joke, but it was brief.

**

SKETCH: FATHER AND SON 

  • Frank (Tim Kazurinsky) visits his Italian parents' house after a fight with his wife.  Papa (Tony Rosato) tries to impart wisdom using a story about a man who visits a witch and makes love to his wife 50 times a week, but Frank is less than receptive. 
  • This was a sequel to the "Papa's Advice" sketch from the first Ebersol show in April 1981 (before the season-ending writers' strike). It was another lengthy sketch (10 minutes), and it is likely this was also done as a way to fill the gap in content left by the Silverman and Psychos sketches.
  • I wasn't too crazy about the sketch when I first started rewatching, but it grew on me as it went along, particularly due to the excellent performances by Tim Kazurinsky and Tony Rosato, particularly when Frank's making comments as Papa tells his story, and the end of Papa's tale ("And then she spit on him!").
  • Despite the parts with Frank and Papa yelling at each other in Italian, this was actually a low-key, quieter piece.  I don't know for sure if it was Marilyn Suzanne Miller's sketch or just similar to her style, but it had a realism to it I liked.
  • The actual Italian argument scene actually was pretty well executed, especially as the mother (Robin Duke) comes in from upstairs and joins in without missing a beat.
  • Speaking of Robin Duke's character, she would play a few more "Italian mama" characters over the course of her tenure, complete with a fake fat suit (Duke is pretty small of body).
  • Is this the same basement set they used for Wild Country Gun Cards from the April 1981 show?

***

STATION BREAK: NEXT WEEK'S HOST

  • In the live versions of this season's shows, they would occasionally have a cast member stand on the home base stage and announce who would be appearing on the next broadcast.  Christine Ebersole did it this week; unfortunately this segment is always removed from repeats for obvious reasons and I do not have a recording of the live broadcast.

SNL NEWBREAK: WITH BRIAN DOYLE-MURRAY AND MARY GROSS

  • They're still doing the "falling letters" gag.
  • I enjoyed the preamble to this week's segment where Gross and Doyle-Murray both mock each others' style, with Gross referring to Doyle-Murray's delivery screwups and Doyle-Murray retorting that he at least sounds like a newsman as opposed to a schoolteacher.  I think everyone was aware Newsbreak wasn't the show's strongest segment, as well as of the anchors' weaknesses (in fact, after Ebersol changed the name of the segment to Saturday Night News, there were two episodes in 1984-85 that were completely devoid of news segments).  What made this even funnier is after Gross congratulates Doyle-Murray for getting through his impassioned speech without making any mistakes, he screws up his first actual joke and he and Gross ad-lib in reaction.
  • Curry and Ebersole's Prince Charles and Princess Di segment was pretty funny, although there was a line where Prince Charles says "What, me worry?" (in a way to highlight that the big-eared prince's resemblance to fellow jug-ear Alfred E. Neuman) that didn't the get response from the audience that it was intended to.
  • Piscopo's Saturday Night Sports with Bryant Gumbel discussing his move to the Today Show was a decent outing, but my favorite part was Joe's "DAMN!" when Bryant said that Joe couldn't take his old job.
  • The Raheem Abdul Mohammed commentary got the best reaction from the audience, especially his threats to Jerry Falwell.
  • Aside from the commentaries, there weren't too many actual jokes from the anchors.

***

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "PROMISED LAND" 

  • A very good, energetic performance.
  • I particularly liked the false ending and the a capella portion.
  • An observation: the blonde guitar player in the Neverland Express is Davey Johnstone, who would appear on the show four months later with Elton John as part of his re-formed "classic period" band.

COMMERCIAL: TIM AND MEAT'S ONE STOP ROCKY HORROR SHOP 

  • Never go to a midnight screening unprepared with the official items for sale at Tim Curry and Meat Loaf's store.
  • Another good segment.  Meat Loaf in particular was very funny (Curry seemed to stumble a few times) and actually stole the sketch.
  • I especially liked the part where Meat Loaf says they didn't see a dime from the film's profits and Curry smirks "Speak for yourself", to which Meat Loaf keeps asking "Hey man, you got paid?" as Curry gives his next lines.  There was also an amusing exchange where Curry continually squirts at Meat Loaf with the water pistol and Meat Loaf says "Stop squirting at me , sucker!"
  • I also got a big laugh at Tim Kazurinsky in the Frank-N-Furter outfit.

**** 

MUSICAL SKETCH: "THE ZUCCHINI SONG"

  • Tim sings an innuendo-filled music hall number about a man and his prize-winning big, round, fat zucchini.
  • Probably the most memorable segment in the entire show, with a great performance by Curry and some nice audience participation.  A classic.

*****

SHOW: A CBS SPECIAL REPORT: IF REAGAN HAD SURVIVED THE ASSASSINATION

  • In an alternate reality, Dan Rather (Joe Piscopo) and other pundits discuss how Ronald Reagan would have handled the presidency differently than Bush.


  • I'm not a fan of  Piscopo's Rather impression...it just sounds way too much like Joe Piscopo as a robot, without being successful at either being Rather or robot.
  • This was a very smart sketch that featured some of the show's most pointed criticism of Reagan, by way of attributing his handling of certain events (like missing Sadat's funeral, selling AWACs to the Saudis, the air traffic controllers' strike, etc.) to George Bush.  It didn't really develop far enough for it to completely work, though.
  • The ending with Rather saying "I'm sorry, we're out of time" was completely abrupt; were they looking to make sure Meat Loaf got his full performance in?

**1/2

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "BAT OUT OF HELL" 

  • Another good performance, although I'd put it a little below the first number.  I also found it interesting that Meat Loaf didn't play anything from the album he was currently promoting (Dead Ringer).

GOODNIGHTS

  • Tim Curry asks Frank Nelson if he has a good time.  Frank responds with his trademark "YEEEEESSSS!".
  • During the pullout you can see Eddie Murphy wearing sticks of dynamite and standing completely stonefaced; he is actually dressed as his character in "At Home With The Psychos".
  • I've also noticed around this time, Robin Duke's hair was really starting to get a little wild, frizzy and out of control.  It wouldn't tame down until about March or April, once they were past the weakest portion of the season.  Kind of an odd coincidence to mention but there you go.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

One of the season's best shows, hands down, with a few classic segments and what wasn't classic was generally pretty strong as well.  This also seems to be the point where they realized that perhaps they didn't really need Michael O'Donoghue, because I can't really see too much of his influence in this episode.  It also helps that they had a great host like Curry this week to carry a lot of the load, though.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • "The Zucchini Song"
  • Mick!
  • Tim and Meat's One Stop Rocky Horror Shop
  • Monologue
  • Poppa, I Love You
  • Texxon

EPISODE LOWLIGHTS: -The Trouble With Fred

MVP:

  • Tim Curry

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN:

cast

  • Robin Duke: 3 appearances [2 roles in Mick!, Father and Son]
  • Christine Ebersole: 4 appearances [Mick!, Next Week, SNL Newsbreak, Tim and Meat's One Stop Rocky Horror Shop]
  • Mary Gross: 4 appearances [Mick!, SNL Newsbreak, Tim and Meat's One Stop Rocky Horror Shop, A CBS Special Report]
  • Tim Kazurinsky: 4 appearances [Father and Son, The Zucchini Song (voiceover only), Tim and Meat's One Stop Rocky Horror Shop, A CBS Special Report]
  • Eddie Murphy: 4 appearances [Monologue, Mick!, Poppa I Love You, SNL Newsbreak]
  • Joe Piscopo: 4 appearances [Mick!, SNL Newsbreak, Tim and Meat's One Stop Rocky Horror Show (voiceover only), A CBS Special Report]
  • Tony Rosato: 3 appearances [Mick!, Father and Son, A CBS Special Report]

featured players:

  • Brian Doyle Murray: 1 appearance [SNL Newsbreak]

guests:

  • Tim Curry: 5 appearances [Monologue, Mick!, SNL Newsbreak, "The Zucchini Song", Tim and Meat's One Stop Rocky Horror Shop]
  • Meat Loaf: 3 appearances ["Promised Land", Tim and Meat's One Stop Rocky Horror Shop, "Bat Out Of Hell"]
  • Frank Nelson: 1 appearance [Mick!]
  • Bryant Gumbel: 1 appearance [SNL Newsbreak]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • March 6, 1982
  • September 4, 1982

Known alterations:

  • The Trouble With Fred removed
  • Next Week removed
  • In The News (from 01/23/82) added

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.