Classic SNL Review: January 23, 1982: Robert Conrad / The Allman Brothers Band (S07E09)

RATINGS SYSTEM:

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

OPENING: THE PEOPLE'S COURT

  • Plaintiff Paulette Clooney (Robin Duke) sues Velvet Jones (Eddie Murphy) because she failed to make any money after following his instructions in "I Wanna Be A Ho". Judge Joseph Wapner (Robert Conrad) rules in favor of Jones, and explains the plaintiff wouldn't have benefited from the course because "she's a pig".
  • Essentially a remake and combination of previously used material, particularly with Paulette pulling out her top and the "I Wanna Be A Ho" pitch, this was a decent enough sketch carried by good performances from Murphy and Duke, and the big applause for both characters and Robert Conrad at the beginning gave it a bit of momentum.
  • Conrad isn't doing an impression of Wapner so much as just wearing a judge robe; I've always found his lack of makeup or wig curious.  He also has a bit of trouble with his lines during his ruling.
  • Eddie Murphy walked away with the sketch: his funniest parts were his stilted manner of speaking carrying over to when he's not doing commercials, his constantly calling the judge "my honor", and explaining why Paulette failed: "the bitch ugly".  Robin Duke didn't get as many laughs (and got dead silence when doing her top pull and panty flash) but she played off Eddie Murphy well and I found the part where she shoves her fist into her mouth quite funny.

***1/2 

MISCELLANEOUS: IN THE NEWS

  • Joe Piscopo narrates a quick summary of the many marriages of Elizabeth Taylor.
  • A short and funny segment; some of Piscopo's lines were good, such as the one about Liz being a home wrecker (regarding the Eddie Fisher marriage), the bad movies she and Burton made, and "Then they got divorce.  Then they got remarried.  Then they got divorced.  Then Liz got fat!"

***

SHOW: WILD WILD WILD WEST

  • Abraham Lincoln (Tony Rosato) asks Jim West (Robert Conrad) and Artemis Gordon (Joe Piscopo) to track down Ulysses Grant (Tim Kazurinsky) to find out what he drinks that helps him win the war.  Their main obstacle is that he's being held captive at Velvet Jones' brothel, and Jones and his harem of mind-controlled hos stand between them and Grant.


  • This segment was over 10 minutes long, and the mostly-dead audience made it feel even longer.  The main laughs in the sketch came from Velvet Jones (especially him laughing "maniacally" in the same stilted manner he speaks), although I did like Tony as Abe Lincoln, particularly his comments to his wife at the theatre ("Cool off.")  Other than that, this was dreadful.
  • According to Dave Thomas' SCTV book, Del Close, who was credited as an acting coach this season, co-wrote this piece with Brian Doyle-Murray.
  • The taller, bearded aide with the nasal voice that appears at the beginning with Brian Doyle-Murray is writer Nate Herman.  
  • An uncredited older actress has a small speaking role as Mary Todd Lincoln.  Another non-speaking extra plays John Wilkes Booth in the last few moments of the sketch.  If anyone can identify either, please let me know.

*1/2  

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "MIDNIGHT RIDER"

  • Not one of their better performances; Gregg seemed to be in particularly rough shape tonight.

FILM: "BABIES IN MAKEUP" BY ED BIANCHI

  • The Doors' version of "Alabama Song" plays over shots of babies wearing makeup and costumes.
  • It's hard for me to review this; while the film was very well made and quite memorable, some of the content (the tattoo on the baby bottom, the S&M baby with the leather pants and bound Snoopy toy) came off more than a little creepy and pedophilic.
  • Director Ed Bianchi later would go on to direct the opening dancing sequences of The Cosby Show, as well as episodes of such highly acclaimed shows like Mad Men, Deadwood and The Wire.
  • Those babies all must be pushing 30 right now; I wonder if any of them have seen this segment.

***

MISCELLANEOUS: OVEREXPOSURE

  • Velvet Jones announces that he will no longer be appearing on SNL because he has died of overexposure, and introduces another character that succumbed to the same fate, Paulie Herman (Joe Piscopo).
  • Brief, but funny.  Jones actually would return twice the following season but this was a good way of retiring the character before he wore out his welcome.  Current SNL writers, take note.
  • Was the audience's big round of applause for Paulie Herman because they were happy to see him one last time or was it because the character "died"?

****

NEWSBREAK PREVIEW: THE TRIAL OF JACK HENRY ABBOTT

  • Mary Gross shows an exclusive preview of a movie based on the trial of Jack Henry Abbott, in which Abbott (Robert Conrad) is cross-examined by attorney Lou Costello (Tony Rosato).
  • One of the better segments of the night, with Rosato doing his fantastic Costello for the only time on SNL (he did it a few times on SCTV the year before).  Conrad and Kazurinsky also did well and all played off each other nicely.
  • They reused the courtroom set from The People's Court.

****

SNL NEWSBREAK WITH BRIAN DOYLE-MURRAY, SATURDAY NIGHT SPORTS WITH JOE PISCOPO, WEATHER WITH CHRISTINE EBERSOLE

  • Best joke: NBC bought by Yoo-Hoo.
  • A lot of the jokes were pretty dumb, particularly the punchline to the joke about the last disco, and the tag to the decent but overextended Solidarnosc part.  Doyle-Murray's final joke about Chinese New Year also died.
  • Piscopo seems to be looking into the wrong camera at times but he did have a funny segment about the Superbowl; topping last year's electric football game demonstration, he uses two different video game systems (Atari and Intellivision) to predict the winner.
  • The weather segment with Ebersole not understanding windchill was pretty weak as usual.

**

SHOW: BATTLE OF THE WEEK

  • Vic Salukin (Tony Rosato) hosts a competition between three Las Vegas showgirls (Robin Duke, Mary Gross, Christine Ebersole) and three members of the U.S. Volunteer Army (Robert Conrad, Eddie Murphy, Tim Kazurinsky).
  • Vic Salukin seemingly comes back from the dead for this sketch, but it appears to be a different character with the same name; the Salukin in the first sketch seemed closer to Tony Rosato playing himself while this Salukin is a bit more of a generic cheesy game show host, with slick hair and slightly oversized glasses.
  • The audience was pretty dead for this, which was a one-joke premise that didn't go anywhere (the Army guys are incompetent).  There were a few funny lines like the head showgirl explaining that some of her team have actually graduated high school, and Eddie and Tim were good as usual, but this was not one of the show's better game show parodies.
  • There were a few errors in the sketch, including the top of the toilet being wheeled into frame being visible during a shot of the showgirls.  Conrad also messes up another one of his lines towards the end.

*1/2 

SHOW: A FEW MINUTES WITH ANDY ROONEY

  • Andy Rooney (Joe Piscopo) has some thoughts about breasts.
  • Back to more familiar territory with Piscopo's Andy Rooney impression, but there were a few good lines about "Kate Smith-sized" breasts and "twin cinemas".  The crowd seemed to wake up for the comment about men with breasts .
  • This ended awkwardly with a long pause before the audience started to applaud.

**1/2 

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "SOUTHBOUND"

  • Better than the first performance, with some good playing and solos.  I believe this is the first SNL performance with a keytar.

MISCELLANEOUS: NEXT WEEK

  • Joe Piscopo announces upcoming guests.
  • This is not in my copy of the show.

SKETCH: NIXON VS. FDR

  • A fascistic G. Gordon Liddy (Robert Conrad) pays a visit to the Nixon mansion to tell the disgraced former president (Tony Rosato) that his misdeeds only were what other great men did before him, particularly Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Tim Kazurinsky).
  • Another very long sketch; at 12 minutes this was the longest sketch of the show, yet this had a bit more going for it than the Wild Wild West parody, though.  Still, the length does hurt the sketch as I found it started to get boring.  There are enough highlights to keep it from being a complete waste, though, and it would have probably worked better if it was more succinct and didn't have the Nixon/Liddy wraparound.  
  • While Rosato did an okay but not great Nixon, Conrad's Liddy was pretty bad, which is odd considering Conrad actually starred as Liddy in an NBC TV movie that aired about two weeks before this episode aired.  Tim Kazurinsky, however, was great as FDR and I liked a lot of everyone else's performances, particularly Robin Duke as Missy LeHand, who she played as a loud ditz.
  • I liked a few of the gags in this, such as FDR's awkward microphone, Eleanor opening a bottle with her buck teeth, the record that served as evidence of Eleanor's "avant-garde relationship" with Lorena Hickock, and Missy screwing up Stalin and Churchill's names.
  • Another writer cameo in this sketch: Nelson Lyon plays Stalin.
  • Eddie Murphy's appearance as the Japanese ambassador is quite stereotypical, and it's likely that the show only got away with this by having Eddie only wear a pair of glasses and a fake bucktooth instead of disguising that he's African American.  I found this was a somewhat interesting choice; they would do something similar when Eddie Murphy plays Hideki Tojo in next season's "MAD Magazine Theatre".

** 

MISCELLANEOUS: SISTER

  • Christine Ebersole's mousy sister Nancy Sue Ebersole (actually played by Christine herself) demonstrates her marginal talent as onscreen text explains why she's been given time on the show.
  • Amusing.  The onscreen text apologizing for having Nancy Sue on the show as she sang horribly and played her viola was funny, but Christine did an excellent job at playing awkward.

***1/2

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "LEAVIN"

  • A track from the Allmans' current Brothers Of The Road album. Gregg's still pretty rough, but everyone has a decent solo.  The show was running long at this point and their performance gets cut off in the middle.

GOODNIGHTS:

  • No closing voiceover from Mel Brandt tonight; this likely means that the studio feed cut out early when originally aired.  However, the goodnights still last a bit after the full credit run.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

The first show after Michael O'Donoghue's firing shows a definite dip in quality and difficulty coming up with a full show of decent material; the bulk of the show taken up by lengthy and fairly unfunny sketches, as well as three musical numbers.  The show also seems to be really struggling to get guests, judging by the booking of both Conrad and the Allman Brothers Band, with neither act in their prime nor particularly relevant at the time.  As a host, Conrad was fairly weak; despite a decent performance in Newsbreak Teaser, he seemed to play "Conrad with a robe" or "Conrad with a mustache" in every sketch.  The show would spend a few more episodes in the wilderness before finally regaining some the momentum from earlier this season.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Newsbreak Teaser
  • Overexposure
  • The People's Court
  • Sister

EPISODE LOWLIGHTS:

  • Wild Wild Wild West
  • Battle Of The Week
  • SNL Newsbreak
  • Nixon vs. FDR
  • A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney

MVP:

  • Eddie Murphy

CAST AND GUEST BREAKDOWN:

cast

  • Robin Duke: 4 appearances [The People's Court, Wild Wild Wild West, Battle Of The Week, Nixon vs. FDR]
  • Christine Ebersole: 5 appearances [Wild Wild Wild West, SNL Newsbreak, Battle Of The Week, Nixon vs. FDR, Sister]
  • Mary Gross: 4 appearances [Wild Wild Wild West, Newsbreak Preview, Battle Of The Week, Nixon vs. FDR]
  • Tim Kazurinsky: 4 appearances [Wild Wild Wild West, Newsbreak Preview, Battle Of The Week, Nixon vs. FDR]
  • Eddie Murphy: 5 appearances [The People's Court, Wild Wild Wild West, Overexposure, Battle Of The Week, Nixon vs. FDR]
  • Joe Piscopo: 6 appearances [The People's Court, Wild Wild Wild West, Overexposure, SNL Newsbreak, A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney, Nixon vs. FDR]; 1 voice-over [In The News]
  • Tony Rosato: 4 performances [Wild Wild Wild West, Newsbreak Preview, Battle Of The Week, Nixon vs. FDR]

featured players:

  • Brian Doyle-Murray: 3 performances [Wild Wild Wild West, SNL Newsbreak, Nixon vs. FDR]

crew and extras:

  • Nate Herman: 1 appearance [Wild Wild Wild West]
  • Yvonne Hudson: 1 appearance [The People's Court]
  • Neil Levy: 1 appearance [The People's Court]
  • Nelson Lyon: 1 appearance [Nixon vs. FDR]
  • Liz Welch: 1 appearance [The People's Court]

guests:

  • Robert Conrad: 5 appearances [The People's Court, Wild Wild Wild West, Newsbreak Preview, Battle Of The Week, Nixon vs. FDR]
  • The Allman Brothers Band: 3 appearances ["Midnight Rider", "Southbound", "Leavin'"]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • Not rebroadcast by NBC. In The News was added to repeat versions of Tim Curry and Robert Urich; Babies In Makeup was repeated in the Robert Culp and Robin Williams episodes.

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.