Classic SNL Review: May 22, 1982: Olivia Newton-John / The SNL Band (S07E20)

RATING SYSTEM:

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

OPENING: THE PIG MEETS OLIVIA

  • Skanky Paulette Clooney (Robin Duke) runs into her idol Olivia Newton-John in the ladies' room.
  • My recording from Classic SNL starts a little late and I didn't feel like digging the tape from the box.  What I saw was alright, if not anything great (I'm not big on "recurring SNL character meets celebrity playing themselves").  Robin Duke carries much of the load, and provides the biggest laugh of the sketch by wiping her armpit with a piece of paper towel.  Her dancing as she left the left the restroom was also amusing.
  • Nice bit of continuity with Paulette addressing Petey (Tim Kazurinsky's character from the first "She's A Pig").
  • The writers seemed to get a good bit of mileage out of Robin Duke's waifish figure, as this sketch makes reference to her small bust (which her character decides to enlarge via paper towel).

***

MONTAGE/TALENT ENTRANCE

  • The SNL Band gets their only acknowledgment in the opening credits in the Ebersol era (they are credited as musical guest), which is their last montage mention until 1986, when G.E. Smith and the band would become more prominent in the show.  Paul Shaffer, Ray Chew, Joe Caro and Sammy Figuroa are not pictured but credited at the end.  For the purposes of the guest rundown I am including the SNL Band collectively as a "guest".
  • Michael Davis is referred to as "special host".
  • Mel Brandt announces Olivia and the cast of Saturday Night Live, but the cast doesn't post on-stage with her.

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "PHYSICAL"

  • Alright performance.  Olivia had good energy and it's nice to see the whole SNL band on stage (with the horn section making a contribution to the chorus).  She also made use of the whole main stage set and went into the audience.  Still feels a little cheesy though, especially after all the other great performances the show had this season.
  • One observation: one of the male backup singers has a cast on his right arm.

COMMERCIAL: TRANS-EASTERN AIRLINES [RERUN FROM 11/07/81]

SKETCH: EBONY & IVORY

  • Frank Sinatra (Joe Piscopo) and Stevie Wonder (Eddie Murphy) prepare to record a new "Ebony and Ivory" duet that's more fitting with Old Blue Eyes' style.
  • Written by Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield.
  • If there's a reason to watch this episode, it's this sketch: an undisputed classic and one of the best examples of Piscopo and Murphy at their peak together, which wouldn't last for long.  See my comments in the goodnights.
  • Piscopo's Sinatra also gets some recognition applause right at the beginning of the sketch.
  • The part where Sinatra and Wonder sing the new version together is the highlight, especially the lines "You are blind as a bat and I have sight / Side by side you are my amigo, negro, let's not fight!"
  • There is a boom shadow visible in the first scene; as well, this sketch continues the convention the show used to have about displaying the real time on any clocks on the set.

*****

SKETCH: I MARRIED A MONKEY IV

  • Tim discovers his chimpanzee bride Madge is now a nun of the order of the Seventh Day Horizontalists.
  • Kind of flat.  The main laughs in the sketch come from the monkeys' antics (particularly Madge sucking the teapot spout before pouring some into the cup, and baby Ronnie sneaking onto the chair behind Tim and hopping onto the table), but it's basically a retread of the other sketches.

**1/2

SKETCH: PEARLY GATES

  • Adolf Hitler (Tim Kazurinsky) tries to get past St. Peter (Tony Rosato) by dressing as Mother Teresa, but The Colonel (Graham Chapman) thinks the whole thing's too silly.
  • Rosato is fine as usual in his straightman role, and the premise was a little funny, but if they were going to use a member of Monty Python, it should have been in a better sketch than this, which felt like a copy of "Endings" from Chevy Chases' '78 show.  It doesn't help that both involved a Twilight Zone cutaway.  A wasted opportunity.

**1/2

COMMERCIAL: NOT A RECORD AD

  • Whatever this product is, it's amazing, but it's not a record.
  • Fillerish, but it does have some funny non-sequiturs (particularly the dilemmas of Tony Orlando rearranging your furniture and animals billing you for long distance calls).
  • Addendum (07/15/15): Written by Nate Herman and Joe Bodolai.

***

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "MAKE A MOVE ON ME"

  • A bit better than the first number.

SNL NEWSBREAK WITH MARY GROSS, CHRISTINE EBERSOLE AND BRIAN DOYLE-MURRAY 

  • Best joke: Sex without partners on the QE2, Nancy Reagan's family
  • After last week's shorter installment, this week's Newsbreak is back to 15 minutes long.
  • Mary Gross and Akira Yoshimura are back for a segment in which Mary found "Arnold Schwarzenegger" outside a bar in the East Village called the Anvil.  I think this might be my favorite of the Mary/Akira pairings :not only does he not look or sound anything like Arnold (or make any attempt to for that matter), he's also wearing the Conan the Barbarian outfit, which for some reason makes him look so much funnier.
  • After airing a banned ad for The Secret Policeman's Other Ball which ends with Graham Chapman revealing he's wearing a tutu and garter belt, Chapman appears at the Newsbreak desk to apologize for any desecration of the US Flag or mockery of the Moral Majority.  Chapman only got mild applause when he is introduced and the end where he stands up and reveals a garter and an American flag Speedo (shades of Show Your Patriotism?) felt a little predictable.  Brian Doyle-Murray gets one up on him for wearing a garter and tutu himself as he gets up to shake his hand.
  • Tim Kazurinsky comments on the glut of self-help books flooding the market.  This felt like a warm-up for some of Kazurinsky's other commentaries, namely his Salute To Journalism feature and a few other book reviews where he uses that same sarcastic tone.  There are some good lines, particularly Kazurinsky's assertion that Dr. Wayne W. Dyer looks like he "pulls his own string".  He also ends with one of the more directly angry lines on the show, commenting that these books sell so many copies while small-minded towns burn The Catcher In The Rye.
  • Next is the return of SNL Newsbreak's favorite crutch in the last third of the season, the photo montage, this one being two minutes devoted to Sophia Loren's prison term for tax evasion, using stills from her previous film roles.  Whatever chuckles were coming from the audience seemed to die off pretty fast.  Brian Doyle-Murray gets a good line at the end about how European values have stars thrown in jail while Americans put stars in the White House.
  • Olivia Newton-John gives a commentary about Secretary of the Interior James Watt, listing his ethical issues as well as his callous disregard for the environment.  This segment was too straight and too earnest to really be funny.  It would fit in as a cold opening for the show in 2010-11.
  • Joe Piscopo raises the energy level with his final Saturday Night Sports for the year, turning into a prop comic while displaying potential new athlete-endorsed products.  Best one: Secretariat for ballpark franks.  Piscopo also ends the segment with a pull-string doll saying his catchphrase, and gets a few laughs by pushing the doll into Brian Doyle-Murray's face.
  • Eddie Murphy gets the highlight of the week's Newsbreak with his commentary about prom night and that fathers shouldn't fool themselves into thinking their daughters won't be having sex because "everybody gets it on prom night".

**

GUEST PERFORMANCE: MICHAEL DAVIS

  • Davis demonstrates his oral juggling abilities by sucking and spitting ping-pong balls and hard-boiled eggs.
  • Davis cartwheels onto the stage and is as funny, engaging and impressive as usual.
  • Best joke: "If I were to swallow this ball...it would hurt.  (pause) Twice."

****

SKETCH: BUZZ WORDS

  • Businessmen (Tim Kazurinsky, Joe Piscopo, and Eddie Murphy) communicate in corporate-speak, but when one is fired, he can't comprehend the others' euphemisms.
  • The show slips quality-wise with this sketch, which is not particularly funny and suffers from a largely dead audience.  Lame punchline too.
  • Eddie Murphy's realization that he's fired and his subsequent yelling at his co-workers were the only highlights of this sketch, particularly his switch from his angry bellow to his "normal" voice.

**

SKETCH: SANDY'S CURSE

  • Geeky Rydell High students Norma (Mary Gross) and Kathy (Robin Duke) don't exist in the same social strata as Sandy (Olivia Newton-John), Rizzo (Christine Ebersole), Danny (Tony Rosato) and Kenickie (Brian Doyle-Murray).
  • Interesting idea: I thought Robin Duke and especially Mary Gross did a good job here (watch Gross's gestures and facial expressions during the "Grow boobs grow" chant).
  • Olivia Newton-John didn't really add much aside from showing up.  
  • The casting of Brian Doyle-Murray as Kenickie always struck me as funny because he always looked old for his age, which is even more obvious when you realize Seth Meyers is now older than he was back then.
  • More flat-chest jokes at Duke's character's expense.  As well, I can't believe they actually used the word "retard" in this sketch, coming from Mary Gross' mouth no less.

***

COMMERCIAL: SPORTS ORGAN CLASSICS

  • Bring the excitement of the ballpark back to your living room with a songbook of Sports Organ Classics.
  • Another meh sketch.  Tony Rosato's exaggerated facial expressions when he was playing the organ were funny, as well as him playing "Hava Nagilah" when "the Blausteins from next door" arrive (even if it was an obvious joke).  Otherwise, it feels like they didn't have enough material for the whole show (exhaustion perhaps) and someone wrote this in five minutes.
  • The young man watching the game is John Murray, younger brother of Bill and Brian.

**

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "LANDSLIDE"

  • Christine Ebersole, Mary Gross and Robin Duke introduce Olivia by each saying a part of her name.
  • This was the weakest of Newton-John's three performances.
  • The percussionist playing the timpani is Ray Chew, who is now the music director for American Idol.

COMMERCIAL: THE CLAMS [REPEAT FROM 10/03/81]

GOODNIGHTS

  • Joe Piscopo mentions that Eddie Murphy's going to be filming a movie with Nick Nolte that summer; of course, we all know what movie Eddie Murphy was filming.  By the time the show returned in the fall, he would cement his position as the dominant cast member, leaving Piscopo in his shadow.
  • Tony Rosato can be heard yelling "How 'bout that band, huh?"
  • During the credits, still images show highlights from the season which just concluded.  Going by the which stills were included, the producers must have been especially proud of the Daniel J. Travanti, Blythe Danner, Bill Murray and Tim Curry shows, but there were also a few shots from John Madden and one of Robert Conrad.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Anticlimactic, aside from the classic Ebony & Ivory sketch and a great as usual performance by Michael Davis.  Olivia Newton-John didn't really contribute a whole lot to the show besides three okay music performances, and Graham Chapman's appearance was a little disappointing.  The last half of the show is also weighed down by weaker material; while nothing is truly awful (even the weak sketches are over with quickly), it's a largely forgettable show that gets a boost from one very good sketch.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Ebony & Ivory
  • Michael Davis

EPISODE LOWLIGHTS

  • SNL Newsbreak aside from Eddie Murphy
  • Buzz Words
  • Sports Organ Classics

MVP Eddie Murphy & Joe Piscopo

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN

cast

  • Robin Duke: 2 appearances [The Pig Meets Olivia, Sandy's Curse]
  • Christine Ebersole: 2 appearances [SNL Newsbreak, Sandy's Curse]
  • Mary Gross: 4 appearances [I Married A Monkey, Pearly Gates, SNL Newsbreak, Sandy's Curse]
  • Tim Kazurinsky: 5 appearances [Ebony & Ivory, I Married A Monkey, Pearly Gates, SNL Newsbreak, Buzz Words]
  • Eddie Murphy: 3 appearances [Ebony & Ivory, SNL Newsbreak, Buzz Words]
  • Joe Piscopo: 5 appearances [Ebony & Ivory, Pearly Gates, SNL Newsbreak, Buzz Words, Sports Organ Classics]; 1 voiceover [Not A Record Ad]
  • Tony Rosato: 4 appearances [Ebony & Ivory, Pearly Gates, Sandy's Curse, Sports Organ Classics] 

featured player

  • Brian Doyle-Murray: 4 appearances [Pearly Gates, SNL Newsbreak, Sandy's Curse, Sports Organ Classics]

crew and extras 

  • John Murray: 1 appearance [Sports Organ Classics]
  • Liz Welch: 1 appearance [Sports Organ Classics]
  • Akira Yoshimura: 1 appearance [SNL Newsbreak]

guests

  • Olivia Newton-John: 6 appearances [The Pig Meets Olivia, "Physical", "Make A Move On Me", SNL Newsbreak, Sandy's Curse, "Landslide"]
  • Graham Chapman: 2 appearances [Pearly Gates, SNL Newsbreak]
  • The SNL Band: 3 appearances ["Physical", "Make A Move On Me", "Landslide"]
  • Michael Davis: 1 appearance [Guest Performance]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • August 21, 1982

Additional screen captures from this episode can be found here.

I will be doing a final post about the season and cast in general shortly.