Classic SNL Review: October 2, 1982: Louis Gossett Jr. / George Thorogood & The Destroyers (S08E02)

RATINGS SYSTEM:

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

OPENING: NBC PROMO

  • NBC isn't confident that their new fall schedule will turn their fortunes around, so  the struggling network's resorting to stripping for viewers.
  • Not great, although Mary Gross' facial expressions and dance moves were amusing.  Part of the issue is that the whole "NBC is in trouble" joke had been played out for the last couple of years, but this bit just didn't have much bite to it.
  • While NBC didn't quite get its comeback in 1982-83, this season did feature the debuts of a number of the network's more acclaimed and/or popular shows: Cheers, Family Ties, Knight Rider and St. Elsewhere began airing in the fall, while The A-Team would debut mid-season.  Then again, stuff like The Powers of Matthew Star (which co-starred tonight's host Louis Gossett Jr.) would make anyone strip for viewers.

**

MONOLOGUE: MARINE COMEDY

  • Louis Gossett Jr. drills the cast in joke-telling, pratfalls, mugging and schtick a la Gunnery Sgt. Emil Foley.
  • This is very reminiscent of the Fran Tarkenton cold opening with John Belushi coaching the Not Ready For Prime Time Players on comedy drills; it's not identical but the similarity is there.  This was the lesser sketch, but it played to Gossett's strengths and was a good use of the entire cast.  I liked how it characterized Murphy and Piscopo as the cocky veterans of the cast; Kroeger also starts his characterization as the hapless, inept member of the cast here (I did like his attempt at improvising a punchline: "She...threw up, sir?").
  • Robin Duke is wearing an obvious wig; I'm guessing they had her wear the Mrs. T. bald-cap for the first part of the show.
  • A few bloopers: the camera only shows Kroeger when Brad Hall is setting up a joke, and at one point, Gossett addresses Mary Gross by Kroeger's name before correcting himself.

***

COMMERCIAL: HITCHHIKER

  • Thumbing his way to Springfield, a young man (Tim Kazurinsky) learns the dangers of hitchhiking first-hand when he accepts a ride from an attractive woman.
  • One of the more durable filmed bits from the season, with a good use of Bernard Hermann's "Scene d'Amour" from Vertigo and a strong twist at the end, with the woman hitting the accelerator while in the throes of passion.  The scene of Kazurinsky excitedly taking off his clothes in the passenger seat always makes me chuckle.
  • The stock footage of the car going over the cliff was reused many times for the Toonces sketches in the late 80s and early 90s.

***1/2

SHOW: MISTER ROBINSON'S NEIGHBORHOOD

  • Mister Robinson (Eddie Murphy) teaches the kids about music courtesy a drum kit he stole from Smokey Robinson's van.  Robinson's new neighbor (Mr. T.) has a lesson of his own when the noise gets too loud.
  • The audience is happy to see this character again.  I did find the setup with Robinson saying the neighbor wouldn't be able to get in with the new lock a little predictable, but this had a lot of funny variations on the Robinson formula, such as the "glitter shoes", the "Soul Train Scramble Board" with SCUMI on it, and the Mr. T. cameo ("Hello, boys and girls. Our new word for today is PAIN!").  This one didn't drag at all: it was very tight, had good momentum, and a strong ending.

****

SKETCH: SEX THERAPY

  • Dr. Ferguson (Louis Gossett Jr.) uses roleplay to help his clients, including nerdy Marvin (Tim Kazurinsky) and Celeste (Mary Gross), with their bedroom issues.
  • A little slow moving at first, but this really started to take off when Kazurinsky and Gross were front and centre with their uptight, geeky characters: both had some very good delivery choices (Kazurinsky's "I like this" as he holds the gun).  The punchline of their problem was very well executed (him prematurely firing as soon as he runs in...followed by the gun being held limply).  This had a great ending as well, with Gossett firing the gun himself (multiple times) when Gross kisses him.
  • Gossett's delivery in this sketch is very stilted and awkward, and I found his "a-HA a-HA!" a little distracting.

***1/2

COMMERCIAL: MR. & MRS. T BLOODY MARY MIX

  • Mr. T and his mohawked wife (Robin Duke) pity the fools who don't buy their drink mix.
  • Duke does the heavy lifting in this (Mr. T mostly sits, glowers, and interjects a few words) and finally gets a chance to shine; this was excellent, and easily one of her most memorable performances on the show.  I've always liked how she delivers "Dat's MEAN!" after drinking down the the finished product.
  • Duke wrote this one; there's a video on Youtube where she talks about how this sketch came about.

****

MISCELLANEOUS: MAN IN THE STREET

  • New Yorkers answer the question "What's The Worst Thing You've Ever Done?"
  • As I mentioned in my review of the Bruce Dern show, I don't  rate the "Man In The Street" segments because they're essentially filler segments, but this was amusing, especially the audience reactions to some of them (particularly the hisses toward the guy who stole money from a nun).  There's also an amusing exchange with a hard-of-hearing old man towards the end of the segment.

SKETCH: SINGING IN THE STALL

  • A businessman (Joe Piscopo) starts to sing "Under The Boardwalk" while on the toilet; the other stalls' occupants join in.
  • This always came across as more "cute" than "funny", although Tim Kazurinsky singing Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" while looking for an empty stall bumped it up a bit for me.

**1/2

MISCELLANEOUS: DON'S BACK

  • Don Pardo does a game-show style announcement of the lows he hit in the year since he was fired from Saturday Night Live.
  • A good way to reintegrate Pardo back into the show after his year off; it's similar to a lot of his previous feature bits on the show, but someone so iconic and tied into the show's brand as Pardo deserves a welcome back.  Note that Joe Piscopo refers to him as "our voice" at the beginning of this segment; when the show finally has to replace him (again), I doubt the new announcer would be as big a part of the show's identity as Pardo is.
  • This was originally scheduled to air in last week's show but was cut for time.
  • In reruns, the very end is cut to remove Piscopo announcing next week's guests.

***

SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS WITH BRAD HALL: SCIENCE REPORT WITH DR. JACK BADOFSKY (TIM KAZURINSKY), EDITORIAL BY SHELLY WINTERS (ROBIN DUKE), SATURDAY NIGHT SPORTS WITH JOE PISCOPO.

  • Best joke: Vicky Morgan, Chevy Chase
  • Hall is still trying to make his own mark on the news segment, this week doing a blues-style song with guitar about all the horrible things in the news; he gets frustrated when he gets to Congress and smashes his guitar.  There's still a few sarcastic bites toward the Reagan administration that come off as a bit angrier than I remember being in the latter part of Hall's tenure; most of the jokes are a little better than last week's.
  • Dr. Jack Badofsky returns with another medical report, this time with more puns and wordplay about the advanced stages of medical conditions.  Nothing really stood out for me this time except for the part where he reads the wrong condition, and then later on ad-libs about it being a "recurring condition" when he reads it in the correct order.
  • Robin Duke brings back her Shelley Winters impression to discuss her former roommate Marilyn Monroe (dead 20 years the year this episode aired) and her secret "red diary".  The "aahs" began to annoy me after a while, but there were some funny lines (her playing the title role in Poseidon 3: "Ernest Borgnine tries to climb on top of me".  According to Getty Images, the Winters segment was originally performed at the previous week's dress rehearsal.
  • Piscopo's Sports Guy is back again this week, talking about the 12-day-old NFLPA strike and the network's airing of CFL games.  He brings out Montreal Concordes player Bubba St. Jacques (Eddie Murphy), who answers Piscopo's questions in French (and Piscopo "translates").  Murphy pushes this above average with his delivery, and he has a few funny ad-libs towards the end.

**1/2

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "BAD TO THE BONE"

  • Very energetic performance of what is now the cliche entrance music for any bad-ass character in film and TV. Good guitar work by Thorogood and sax solos by Hank Carter.

SHOW: DONAHUE

  • From the United Nations, Phil Donahue (Joe Piscopo) often misses the point when discussing conflict with Menachim Begin (Tim Kazurinsky) and Yasser Arafat (Gary Kroeger).
  • This is another sketch where Piscopo's vocal imitation wasn't that great, even if the mannerisms were nailed down (or exaggerated to comic effect, like him splaying across a row of audience members to ask a question).  Funny concept, though, and there were some good moments (such as Arafat weighing in on an audience member's quarrel with her neighbor).

***

MISCELLANEOUS: TRASHING JERRY

  • Mary Gross disavows a tasteless joke about Jerry's Kids as being from SNL, and reads more jokes about Jerry Lewis by the joke's writer.
  • Forgettable; mostly a bunch of jokes about how greasy and oily Jerry Lewis is (as well as a dig at the French for thinking he's a great director).
  • This was originally cut from last week's dress rehearsal, and never appeared in the network reruns.

**

SKETCH: FATHER AND SON

  • Louis Gossett Jr. and Eddie Murphy cut short their dramatic scene about an impoverished, bitter father and son because it's nothing like their real experiences.
  • A meta sketch, and the second dig in two weeks about the show's lack of black writers.  Aside from Eddie telling the musicians in the closet (who did not look like SNL band personnel) to shut up, this bit could have used more humor.  Gossett was the most relaxed here tonight, at least in the part where he was out of character.
  • Real SNL writer Eliot Wald makes an appearance in this sketch.  I'm not sure if Eddie Murphy's audience father was really Vernon Lynch (actually his step-father; Murphy's father had been dead by this point) or just an actor in the audience.

**1/2

SKETCH: THE INTERESTING FOUR

  • When the other heroes aren't available, General Craig (Louis Gossett Jr.) is forced to consider a quartet of superheroes with powers that are more annoying than useful: Seiko (Tim Kazurinsky), The Human Stapler (Brad Hall), Weather Woman (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Mr. Wonderful (Joe Piscopo).
  • While there were isolated moments that were somewhat funny, this ended up falling flat. I'm guessing this sketch played funnier on paper and that they invested too much in the pre-tape/costumes/etc. to scrap it before airtime.  Part of the problem is that the videotaped setup goes on for too long and gives away the lameness of the superpowers immediately.  There were a lot of moments where it seemed they were hoping for a bigger laugh than what they got (Gossett's "I hate that Wonderful guy" line seems to be one of them).  Gossett's over-the-top delivery was a little too much, even for this deliberately silly and cartoonish sketch.
  • I have to admit to laughing a bit at Julia Louis-Dreyfus' mugging (second time tonight).

*1/2

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "BACK TO WENTZVILLE"

  • Thorogood raises the energy level in the studio and goes into the audience for this Chuck Berry-inspired number.
  • The show ran long on the original broadcast, so the live airing fades to a bumper before the end of the song and is cut off by a commercial.  Rerun versions trim a little off the ending and fade to black.

GOODNIGHTS

  • Gossett says "Goodnight everybody!"; the studio feed to the network cuts off before the credits roll.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

A fairly uneven show.  As a host, Gossett was sub-par; not completely terrible, but out of his element enough in sketches that it's clear there's a gulf between him and the cast performance-wise.  I think the writers knew this and kept him out of the way; Mr. T's appearances are usually what everyone remembers from this episode.  The Mr. T bits also benefit from being some of the stronger material, although it's only the back 25 minutes of the show (the segments after Donahue) that seem to fizzle out.

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Mr. & Mrs. T Bloody Mary Mix
  • Mister Robinson's Neighborhood
  • Hitchhiker
  • Sex Therapy

SHOW LOWLIGHTS:

  • The Interesting Four
  • NBC Promo
  • Trashing Jerry

MVP:

  • (tie) Joe Piscopo/Eddie Murphy

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN:

cast:

  • Robin Duke: 4 appearances [Marine Comedy, Sex Therapy, Mr. & Mrs. T Bloody Mary Mix, Saturday Night News]; 1 voice-over [Donahue]
  • Mary Gross: 5 appearances [NBC Promo, Marine Comedy, Sex Therapy, Donahue, Trashing Jerry]
  • Brad Hall: 6 appearances [Marine Comedy, Sex Therapy, Singing In The Stall, Saturday Night News, Donahue, The Interesting Four]
  • Tim Kazurinsky: 7 appearances [Marine Comedy, Hitchhiker, Sex Therapy, Singing In The Stall, Saturday Night News, Donahue, The Interesting Four]
  • Gary Kroeger: 5 appearances [Marine Comedy, Sex Therapy, Singing In The Stall, Saturday Night News, Donahue]
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 4 appearances [Marine Comedy, Sex Therapy, Donahue, The Interesting Four]; 1 voice-over [Donahue]
  • Eddie Murphy: 5 appearances [Marine Comedy, Mister Robinson's Neighborhood, Singing In The Stall, Saturday Night News, Father And Son]
  • Joe Piscopo: 7 appearances [NBC Promo, Marine Comedy, Singing In The Stall, Don's Back, Saturday Night News, Donahue, The Interesting Four]

crew and extras:

  • Don Pardo: 2 voice-overs [Don's Back, The Interesting Four]
  • Eliot Wald: 1 appearance [Father And Son]

guests:

  • Louis Gossett Jr.: 4 appearances [Marine Comedy, Sex Therapy, Father And Son, The Interesting Four]
  • George Thorogood & The Destroyers: 2 appearances ["Bad To The Bone", "Back To Wentzville"]
  • Mr. T: 2 appearances [Mister Robinson's Neighborhood, Mr. & Mrs. T Bloody Mary Mix]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • January 1, 1983
  • May 21, 1983

Known alterations:

  • Don's Back is edited to remove the promo for next week's show.
  • Trashing Jerry is removed.
  • "Back To Wentzville" is trimmed.  
  • The Web (OAD 09/25/82) is added.

Sketches in the 03/24/84 Best Of special:

  • Mister Robinson's Neighborhood
  • Mr. & Mrs. T Bloody Mary Mix
  • Singing In The Stall.

Additional screen captures from this episode can be seen here.