Classic SNL Review: March 27, 1982: Blythe Danner / Rickie Lee Jones (S07E15)

RATING SYSTEM:

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

COLD OPENING: LORNE GREENE: THE MEAT DOGS LOVE

  • Lorne Greene (Joe Piscopo) pitches Alpo dog food, but his canine pal All-Star has another preference.
  • Short and to the point; it didn't take too long to get to the punchline and didn't belabor the point either.  Greene calling for "Hop Sing" as All-Star attacks him made me laugh.
  • Piscopo stumbles on his "healthy, happy..." line.

***

MONOLOGUE

  • Mary tells Blythe she loved her as Eleanor Roosevelt opposite Edward Herrman's FDR; to her embarrassment Blythe tells her she actually played Eleanor Gehrig opposite Herrmann in a different movie.  Mary shows Blythe her Eleanor Roosevelt impression, then goes on a power trip when she makes Blythe impersonate random celebrities.
  • Cute monologue with an interesting idea.  Nice to see Mary bring back her Roosevelt impression from the Conrad show.
  • Mary on her power trip reminds me of how animated she would get during her "spittin' mad" commentaries the next season, and her attempt at a maniacal laugh made me chuckle.

***

COMMERCIAL: COME ON OUT AMERICA

  • In a spoof of the "America's Turning 7-Up" campaign (with a little "I'm A Pepper" thrown in), Americans are dancing their way out of the closet.
  • This reminds me a little of "Show Us Your Guns" from the first season, with the random townspeople waving to the camera.
  • I've always liked this one and thought it stood on its own without the knowledge of the soft-drink ads it was parodying.  Some may feel the "I'm a homo, you're a homo" ending is dated, but I thought it worked.

****

SKETCH: THE NEW CELIBACY

  • At dinner, Steve (Tim Kazurinsky) and Doreen (Robin Duke) tell their friends they owe their newfound focus on other projects to no longer having sex.  When they discover their celibacy was all due to a misunderstanding, the resulting rushed, sexually tense meal makes their guests uncomfortable.
  • Another sketch I've always liked, with funny performances from all involved and a nice escalation into the Tom Jones style eating sequence.
  • One thing I've noticed is that Robin Duke's character's voice goes from this pinched, bright and chipper tone when she's entertaining to this really deep, breathy voice once she and Kazurinsky start getting sexual again.
  • Best line: "Who cares? Just give me MEAT!"
  • Two bloopers: Christine Ebersole can be seen running onto the stage at the very beginning (and Robin Duke is looking toward the camera); Duke and Kazurinsky also say it's been over a year since thei last had sex, but Kazurinsky later gives the specific date as November 23, 1981.

****1/2

SHOW: 20/20

  • Geraldo Rivera (Joe Piscopo) investigates "Horror In Our Hospitals", misinterpreting a routine birth at Mount Sinai as something more sinister.
  • SNL's first "Geraldo is an ass" sketch!  Piscopo's impression was pretty good.  The sketch itself was pretty one-note and predictable but saved by the impression and its brevity.
  • Favorite parts: when the doctor asks Geraldo who he is, Piscopo looks directly at the camera to say "I'm Geraldo Rivera!", and Kazurinsky as the father screaming "I'll kill you, that was a Nikon!" after Geraldo breaks his camera and alleges his pictures of the delivery were child porn.

***

COMMERCIAL: THE KHADDAFFI LOOK [REPEAT FROM 10/03/81]

SKETCH: POETS

  • Flighty poet and incontinent shut-in Ariel Feeley (Mary Gross) faces a burglar, but the armed robber is Tyrone Green (Eddie Murphy): he and Ariel share a mutual appreciation for each other's work.
  • This starts off slow, but it really picks up when Eddie Murphy comes in; the writers found an interesting way to bring back his "Prose and Cons" character.  I suppose the repeat of the "Cill My Landlord" poem was necessary to firmly establish this was the same character, but it pays off, and Murphy actually gets a good round of applause when his character exits the scene.
  • I also thought Robin Duke's character, Ariel's homely spinster sister/caretaker Lina, was a good foil; I noticed Duke gave her character an interesting physicality with the way she walked and moved her body.
  • I was surprised at the bathroom humor with Gross' character, but they did it in a funnier and subtler way than has been done in the show's last 20 years.  I chalk this up to the more restrictive censorship at the time, but if they remade this sketch with the current cast, the pee jokes would have been more explicit - and Ariel would have been one of Kristen Wiig's wacky characters.

****

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "PIRATES (SO LONG LONELY AVENUE)"

  • The title track from Jones' 1981 album (get it, it's quite good) gets a decent performance, but it's not quite as solid as the last group of guests.  This is an interesting song with a few mood/time changes.
  • Jones seems to be pulling at her lip a lot.  She also says "This is for you, Chuck E." during the closing, shouting out to pal Chuck E. Weiss.

SKETCH: FAB FIFTIES

  • At the 1982 Senior Spring Fling, Tim Kazurinsky and Blythe Danner explain the Fifties are back in the Eighties, both the good and the (mostly) bad.
  • A short little piece with a few laughs, like Brian Doyle Murray's character telling Christine Ebersole "Well, abortion's illegal, so you're ruined for life, you tramp!"
  • I have to wonder if Tim Kazurinsky wrote this because it has the exact same sarcastic tone that his Salute To Journalism segments had the next season, and a little more willingness to criticize the current political climate at the time.
  • Blythe Danner screws up a few of her lines pretty badly.

***

SNL NEWSBREAK: WITH CHRISTINE EBERSOLE AND BRIAN DOYLE-MURRAY

  • Best jokes: Reagan organ donations, school for Motown singers in Peking, unemployed protests of Reagan.
  • This is the first SNL Newsbreak with Christine Ebersole as co-anchor.  Mel Brandt actually announces that she is just filling in for Mary Gross, but Ebersole would remain co-anchor for the remainder of the season.  I thought she was a better match for Doyle-Murray than Gross was and had much better delivery than either of the two.
  • Ebersole's Newsbreak tenure begins with a great blooper: as the segment begins, you can see someone else trying to help her pin her microphone onto her necklace.  The mic picks up some fumbling around as Brian Doyle-Murray reads his first joke (which has a strange echo to it), then he looks down and realizes he doesn't have his own microphone clipped to his tie.  There's also a rewinding noise during the first joke.  Afterward, during Mary Gross' report, she quips "I loved that first piece, Brian!" and Ebersole audibly guffaws loudly.
  • Speaking of Gross, this is the first time they have her in the role of ditzy correspondent, always going to the wrong location or interviewing the wrong person.  Tonight was a miss; I usually preferred the ones with Akira Yoshimura because his complete deadpan is always hilarious.
  • Robin Duke appears as fashion correspondent Yvonne "Spike" DeMouchier, criticizing the fashions of the Best Actress nominees with glib one-liners.  Joan Rivers' fashion commentaries made this feel too close to something real to be funny in itself, and I have to wonder if Duke was trying to create a new recurring character for Update.  She also seemed a bit nervous towards the end of the segment, as if she was aware it wasn't going too well.
  • Joe Piscopo has a short par-for-the-course Saturday Night Sports about the NCAA Basketball playoffs between UNC and Georgetown, giving the latter the edge based on the co-eds.  Not one of his more memorable segments.
  • Brian Doyle-Murray ends tonights' edition with a story about the birth of his nephew, Bill Murray's son Homer Banks Murray, without identifying Murray aside from the picture (which Doyle-Murray refers to as a "male nurse") and a reference to the father coaching the baby out with "Come on out, you knucklehead"!

**1/2

GUEST PERFORMANCE: MICHAEL DAVIS

  • Davis juggles a bowling ball, an egg and a tomato.
  • The usual great routine from Davis, with many random funny lines, such as how the "razor-sharp" bowling ball is more dangerous than a knife because "you can't tell where the edge is".
  • There's also some funny back and forth with the audience members: one lobs back the tomato when Davis is about to tell him not to; he has a good comeback when he asks the audience member to catch the bowling ball.  As well, when he has the audience member inspect the tomato, the audience member beside him can be heard saying "It doesn't look like it's real!"

*****

SHOW: THE UNCLE TOM SHOW

  • Tom Snyder (Joe Piscopo) interviews cigar-chomping cartoon legend Gumby (Eddie Murphy), who has a new tell-all book.
  • The first appearance of Eddie Murphy's take on Gumby, performed as a crotchety, hard-boiled, Jewish showbiz old-timer.  It wasn't quite as good as some of the later installments (I prefer the Letterman spoofs myself) but it had some good lines ("The woman is a slut, Tom"- Gumby re: Wilma Flintstone).
  • Interesting that Gumby's first appearance is opposite Piscopo's Tom Snyder, and his next appearance is opposite Piscopo portraying his replacement on NBC, David Letterman.
  • The set for the Uncle Tom Show is different this time out, with just a simple drawing of a city backdrop.

***1/2

SHOW: MEET THE PEOPLE

  • On a panel show, three ordinary Americans (Robin Duke, Blythe Danner, Tony Rosato) horrify Princess Di (Christine Ebersole) with their invasive, rude questions.
  • This is the second show in a row where Brian Doyle-Murray hosts a panel show featuring a newsmaker.  Still a little one-note, but I thought this was funnier than the previous week's "Headline Challenge", largely because the questions posed by the panel were funny, and matched well by the increasingly upset Princess' reactions.
  • Blythe was kind of stiff all night, but I thought this worked in her favor here: she played an upper-class woman who mentioned picturing Di going to the bathroom and asked if her panties "creep up the crevice of her fanny".  That last one is even funnier considering the different meaning "fanny" has in England than it does in the States...no wonder she was horrified!
  • Rosato was also good as the sleazeball character, and I loved his follow-up comment to Blythe's panties question: "Mine do all the time!"  It reminded me of his random comment about the hotel where Kazurinsky was staying in "Strangers In The Funeral Parlor"..
  • That maternity dress Ebersole wears has made its way around on the show; I remember seeing it on Victoria Jackson in the "This Old House" sketch with John Larroquette in '88.
  • Ebersole's lines about being harrassed and photographed have a weird quality to them, considering the implication of the paparazzi in Princess Di's death 15 years later.

***

MISCELLANEOUS: BLYTHE'S PLEA

  • Blythe Danner explains that cuts to arts funding force legitimate actors to do Saturday Night Live.
  • A short filler-ish segment.
  • Who is the old cigarette-smoking woman bringing the tuna fish costume in at the end?  She's been seen in the background of a lot of the Ebersole era shows, kind of like a female Andy Murphy.

**

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "LUSH LIFE", "WOODY & DUTCH ON THE SLOW TRAIN TO PEKING"

  • I liked "Lush Life" a little better, but the more upbeat second song provided a good contrast to the sad Billy Strayhorn standard.
  • Rickie begins "Woody & Dutch" by announcing they had 7 minutes and 20 seconds left and constantly checks the camera on the side of the stage to see if it's still on.  At the end, she announces to the band "We're still on camera!  We made it!"

GOODNIGHTS

  • Blythe Danner is dressed in the tuna fish costume from Blythe's Plea, and Eddie Murphy introduces Piscopo's dog All-Star, who was in the cold opening.  Mel Brandt announces the encore presentation of SNL with "Football's John Madden" on April 3 and a special prime time presentation of "The Best of the New Saturday Night Live" on Monday April 5.  I'm curious what sketches were included the special.
  • Interesting that Robin Duke and Rickie Lee Jones were standing beside each other talking since Duke actually impersonated Jones about a year before when she was on SCTV.
  • The credits show that Margaret Oberman is now a writer on the show.  I believe Urich was actually her first show but there were no credits on the original broadcast and my tape is currently packed up.
  • Addendum: This is the final show this season with Pam Norris credited as a writer.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Despite a fairly unremarkable host, I thought this was actually a pretty strong outing that  seemed to move by pretty fast.  A lot of the credit goes to Eddie Murphy, who actually had a productive night despite appearing in only two segments: he made more of an impression in those two segments than most of the other cast did that night.  Christine Ebersole also made a comeback this week, going from the least featured cast member last week to the most this week.  SNL Newsbreak's change in anchors was welcome too, although the segment still had its weaknesses.  Besides that, the show was helped by a strong run of sketches in the first hour and the always welcome Michael Davis.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Michael Davis
  • The New Celibacy
  • Poets
  • Come On Out America
  • The Uncle Tom Show

EPISODE LOWLIGHTS:

  • the commentaries on SNL Newsbreak (usually it's the other way around!)
  • Blythe's Plea

MVP:

  • Eddie Murphy

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN

cast

  • Robin Duke: 4 appearances [The New Celibacy, Poets, SNL Newsbreak, Meet The People]
  • Christine Ebersole: 6 appearances [Monologue, The New Celibacy, 20/20, Fab Fifties, SNL Newsbreak, Meet The People]
  • Mary Gross: 3 appearances [Monologue, Poets, SNL Newsbreak]
  • Tim Kazurinsky: 3 appearances [The New Celibacy, 20/20, Fab Fifties]
  • Eddie Murphy: 2 appearances [Poets, The Uncle Tom Show]
  • Joe Piscopo: 4 appearances [Lorne Greene, 20/20, SNL Newsbreak, The Uncle Tom Show]
  • Tony Rosato: 2 appearances [20/20, Meet The People]

featured players

  • Brian Doyle-Murray: 4 appearances [The New Celibacy, Fab Fifties, SNL Newsbreak, Meet The People]

crew and extras 

  • Neil Levy: 1 appearance [20/20]
  • Lee Mayman: 1 appearance [20/20]
  • John Murray: 1 appearance [Come On Out America]
  • Rosie Shuster: 1 appearance [Come On Out America]

guests

  • Blythe Danner: 5 appearances [Monologue, 20/20, Fab Fifties, Meet The People, Blythe's Plea]
  • Rickie Lee Jones: 2 appearances ["Pirates (So Long Lonely Avenue)", "Lush Life/Woody & Dutch"]
  • Michael Davis: 1 appearance [Guest performance]

REBROADCAST HISTORY

  • June 26, 1982

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.