Classic SNL Review: February 27, 1982: Elizabeth Ashley / Daryl Hall & John Oates

RATING SYSTEM:

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

OPENING: CBS EVENING NEWS WITH DAN RATHER

  • Robotic Dan Rather (Joe Piscopo) tries to follow his director's (Brian Doyle-Murray) instructions to loosen up and be warmer.
  • Decent opening; I still don't like Piscopo's Rather that much, but the impression works better than normal here because it's played for laughs more, especially when he says he feels fine in that monotone.
  • The ending with Rather turned into Walter Cronkite was merely OK, but nothing special.
  • The headline he reads about the Hyatt walkway collapse disaster in Kansas City is actually an actual event that happened in July 1981.

***

MONOLOGUE

  • Elizabeth Ashley reads a letter she wrote home when she first arrived in New York at age 18.
  • More cute than actually funny.  Ashley had this exaggerated over-the-top delivery when she read the letter that I found a little annoying.

**

COMMERCIAL: BIG DAMN PLASTIC BUBBLE

  • Eddie Murphy appears to tout a hypothetical bubble to protect your house from the elements.  He really thinks it's a stupid idea, and he rants about the logistical problems of such a product.
  • A funny commercial parody that was unfortunately cut from the network reruns for unknown reasons, though it is in the 60 minute syndicated episode.
  • Favorite line: Murphy telling viewers that once they run out of air, they're just going to look stupid as well as be dead.

***1/2

SHOW: SPEAKING AS A WOMAN: KISS AND TELL

  • Michael Nash (Tim Kazurinsky) interviews four women who have written "kiss and tell" books: Elizabeth Ashley, Britt Ekland (Christine Ebersole), Shelly Winters (Robin Duke) and Harriet Nelson (Mary Gross).
  • The sketch itself was merely OK, but Duke and Gross stood out: Duke's Shelly Winters is a carry-over from her SCTV days, while Gross' upbeat delivery contrasted nicely with the sordid lines, such as the ones about Ozzie and Harriet's swinging (I laughed at "I always suspected The Beaver was Ozzie's!").
  • Elizabeth's delivery was still overdone at times, but there were a few places where she toned it down.

***

SKETCH: PAPAL TOUR 

  • After Pope John Paul II (Joe Piscopo) politely declines his suggestion to add some stage presence to his African tour, Cardinal Bernard (Tony Rosato) daydreams about the pontiff acting like a typical showbiz performer backstage.
  • It's funny that the repeat switched this sketch and The Party in the running order, because I've never liked this sketch; in fact, this is what colored my impression of the entire episode for quite a while now.  It's almost nine minutes long and boring as all hell.
  • The audience did laugh at the "bigger than the Beatles" line but overall the sketch really dragged.  Sadly, this wouldn't be the last of these overlong, boring sketches this season.
  • Any idea who the older black actor that plays Father Leon at the start of the dream sequence is?

*1/2

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "YOU MAKE MY DREAMS"

  • A very energetic rendition with a lot of flourish and a big finish.
  • It's fun seeing G.E. Smith (still smirking) and the late T-Bone Wolk on the show years before they formed the core of the new SNL Band in 1985.
  • I've always found it odd that they did two tracks from Voices and only one from their current album Private Eyes.  It's usually the other way around when a musical guest appears on SNL now, and if they bring out the big hit from the previous album, it's always done at the end of the show.

SNL NEWSBREAK WITH MARY GROSS & BRIAN DOYLE-MURRAY

  • Best jokes: Reagan's guards, suicidal Sandy.
  • The audience really seemed more responsive and energetic that usual during this week's Newsbreak.
  • The first commentary is from Ed Asner (Tony Rosato), who clarified some political statement he made recently; Asner was SAG president at the time and also getting very politically outspoken regarding his opposition to US foreign policy in Central America.  Rosato got a big applause after his introduction and while explaining his many different sides, they all began to blend together and he became "Lou Asner", which seemed to be an excuse for Mary Gross to break out her Mary Tyler Moore impression for a few seconds.  Meh.
  • Afterward, Doyle-Murray got another excuse to do one of those "series of photos" bits for the "Eds in the news".  I did like the joke about Ed Sullivan actually being dead for 16 years before he was buried in 1974, and this wasn't as long as some of those bits would get.
  • Dr. Jack Badofsky (Tim Kazurinsky) makes his first appearance, giving a pun-filled list of different strains of herpes.  It had some funny lines in there but he would have better and more memorable outings later.  This killed with the audience, though; they would bring him back to the Newsbreak desk in the next show. 
  • The repeat I have has some weird audio glitches in there; I can hear the audio of a joke they removed from the repeat (about Liz Taylor's 50th birthday) over top of the audio from part of the next portion.  The audience reaction suggests the graphic was what made the joke so I'd be curious to see it.  If anyone has an original air copy of this episode please contact me because I'd love a copy.
  • Eddie Murphy appears in a green screen "remote" as an Eastern District high school who brought a gun to school.  It's one of those things that would never get on the air now (especially the "...I shot the bitch" punchline), but Murphy carries it, it helped extend the momentum from the last bit.
  • Joe Piscopo returns with his second Saturday Night Sports in two weeks to comments on magazines like Sports Illustrated using sex to sell copies.  Piscopo predicts other magazines will start featuring scantily clad athletes, and sportscasters like Howard Cosell will join the fun.  I did laugh at the Cosell pic and the finale with Joe naked was pretty funny.  The audience by this point was enthusiastic.
  • Which leads me to the finale with Brian Doyle-Murray and Mary Gross arguing in a continuation of the whole "romance" arc from the last few shows.  It was unnecessary and felt really tacked on; they should have ended Newsbreak on a high note with Piscopo's bit.

***

SKETCH: STAND OFF

  • A SWAT team negotiatior (Joe Piscopo) and policeman (Tony Rosato) respond to a hostage situation where the gunman (Eddie Murphy) is threatening to kill his agent (Elizabeth Ashley) so he can get an audition with Joseph Papp (in a cameo appearance).
  • Eddie Murphy's performance was largely what made this sketch work; overall it was a little clunky, but the visual of him marching with a helmet and parasol while pointing a gun at Elizabeth Ashley is pretty memorable.
  • The ending with Robin Duke doing the same thing for her audition (with Kazurinsky as her agent)was unnecessary, though I did like the way Duke played her character cheerfully, as opposed to Murphy's more menacing character.

***

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "I CAN'T GO FOR THAT (NO CAN DO)"

  • Elizabeth Ashley has a lit cigarette during her introduction and can been seen clapping and dancing on the side stage as the song begins.
  • Kind of interesting to hear this version; they dispense with the drum machine and have an extended guitar and sax breakdown towards the end of the song.

GUEST PERFORMANCE: HARRY ANDERSON

  • Harry says that he will explain a trick he does with an audience member before executing it, then reveals that he was really doing the trick while the audience was distracted.
  • A funny and well done routine; I especially liked the joke headline on the paper he used.
  • Elizabeth Ashley is still holding a lit cigarette in her introduction; I guess it's a given that she smoked a lot based on her really husky voice.  She also apparently lost her possessions in an apartment fire that was caused by a cigarette.

****1/2

SKETCH: THE PARTY 

  • Two identical scenes where four friends (Christine Ebersole, Elizabeth Ashley, Robin Duke, Mary Gross) take a break from a party in the bedroom.  The same dialogue is used both when the girls are teenagers and adults.
  • This is one of my favorite sketches of the entire season; I can't confirm, but it has to be another Marilyn Suzanne Miller piece.  What really makes this work is how the shifts in delivery and the circumstances really change the meaning of the dialogue, such as the reference to Mrs. Connor (mother in the first half, wife in the second), and the cigarette being a joint in the second half of the sketch.  The twist isn't revealed until the midway point of the sketch, which suddenly gives the first half of the scene added weight.  There's an excellent payoff at the end as well.
  • The way Robin Duke delivers her line in the second part when Mary asks if she always thinks about sex got a good reaction.  Meanwhile, Rosato got laughs from the audience in the second half with his sleazy entrance alone.

*****

COMMERCIAL: LOWEMBRAU

  • After losing a patient during surgery, the doctors and nurses think tonight is kind of special.
  • A brief, funny commercial parody; short and to the point.

***1/2

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "YOU'VE LOST THAT LOVIN' FEELIN'"

  • The audio glitch on my copy has an echo for a few seconds.

GOODNIGHTS

  • Elizabeth Ashley says "Goodnight America!" -This is writer Andrew Smith's first episode.  He would become head writer for the 1983-84 season.  [Addendum: Producer Bob Tischler also joins the writing staff, while this would be Marilyn Suzanne Miller's final show for the season]
  • For some reason, there's a shot of a smiling cameraman standing on the balcony, but they don't mention anyone retiring or anything.  I wonder who he is and why they did that.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

A lot better than I remembered, thanks to the excellent Party sketch, a good Harry Anderson routine and a better-than-average Update.   Wasn't too wild about Elizabeth Ashley as a host; she didn't add too much to the show overall.  It was a pretty good night for Robin Duke though; all the ladies shined in The Party but Duke's Shelley Winters was one of the high points of Speaking As A Woman, and she even managed to give an unnecessary tack-on part its own bit of charm.  There was still a lot of average material and Papal Tour unfortunately did weigh down the episode a bit but there seemed to be a renewed energy all through the episode.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The Party
  • Harry Anderson
  • Big Damn Plastic Bubble
  • Lowembrau 

EPISODE LOWLIGHTS:

  • Papal Tour
  • The end of Newsbreak
  • Monologue

MVP:

  • (tie) Robin Duke/Eddie Murphy

CAST & GUEST APPEARANCES:

cast

  • Robin Duke: 4 appearances [Speaking As A Woman, The Party, Hostage Audition, Lowembrau]
  • Christine Ebersole: 3 appearances [Speaking As A Woman, The Party, Lowembrau]
  • Mary Gross: 4 appearances [Speaking As A Woman, The Party, SNL Newsbreak, Hostage Audition]
  • Tim Kazurinsky: 5 appearances [Speaking As A Woman, SNL Newsbreak, Hostage Audition, Papal Tour, Lowembrau]
  • Eddie Murphy: 4 appearances [Big Damn Plastic Bubble, SNL Newsbreak, Hostage Audition, Papal Tour]
  • Joe Piscopo: 5 appearances [CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, SNL Newsbreak, Hostage Audition, Papal Tour, Lowembrau]
  • Tony Rosato: 5 appearances [The Party, SNL Newsbreak, Hostage Audition, Papal Tour, Lowembrau]

featured players

  • Brian Doyle-Murray: 2 appearances [CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, SNL Newsbreak]

guests

  • Elizabeth Ashley: 4 appearances [Monologue, Speaking As A Woman, The Party, Hostage Audition]
  • Daryl Hall & John Oates: 3 appearances ["You Make My Dreams", "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)", "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'"]
  • Harry Anderson: 1 appearance [Guest performance]
  • Joseph Papp: 1 appearance [Hostage Audition]

REBRAODCAST HISTORY:

  • July 3, 1982

Known alterations:

  • Big Damn Plastic Bubble removed
  • SNL Newsbreak edited.

Additional screen captures from this episode can be seen here.