***** - Classic
**** - Great
*** - Good / Average
** - Meh
* - Terrible
A note about live and repeat versions: I only have access to a heavily-edited repeat version of this show, which replaces about 9 minutes of content that aired in the original airing with pre-taped material from other episodes; locating a copy from the original broadcast has proven considerably difficult. Because of the extensive editing, the review may not present an accurate picture of the quality of the show. I have cobbled a running order based on the order of screen grabs on the official NBC Saturday Night Live page (which don't match the segment descriptions). Information about the cut segments has been provided by a number of sources, including Paul Barrosse and John Hedegor.
I will revisit my review with the missing material as soon as I have access to the complete show.
MISCELLANEOUS: SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE WILL BE DELAYED
The show will be delayed for a special presentation of The Merv Griffin Show.
- Not a rateable segment, but I like the cast photo bumper they used. Interestingly enough, they used this same "show delay" device with a cast photo once a season for the past two seasons, at the beginning of the Robert Hays and James Coburn shows.
OPENING: THE MERV GRIFFIN SHOW
- Merv Griffin does a special one-night show in Studio 8H, where Robert Blake expresses his disdain for Hollywood and reminisces about his career. At home base, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Joe Piscopo snark about how phony Blake is during the interview. After walking off the Merv set, the former star of Baretta has a tense confrontation with the two castmembers.
- Piscopo and Louis-Dreyfus have a few good lines, especially groaning about Merv starting to reminisce himself. It's an interesting setup, but Blake really comes off as stiff and insincere; this may have been deliberate for the premise of the opening, but something tells me it wasn't. His use of Baretta catchphrases ("You can take dat to da bank!", "Dat's da name of dat tune") just made it seem like he's awkwardly playing "himself" as another character. Merv fares better and gets most of the laughs here; he gets the Live From New York line tonight (followed by a "whoa!")
- The trick ending where Blake confronts the two calling him a "wussy" by knocking the wind out of 21-year-old Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a little uncomfortable to watch, especially after the whole Bonnie Lee Bakely murder allegation. Even though Piscopo quickly breaks reality to mention that it was all a sketch, Blake still seems to be in "tough guy performance" mode, especially when he talks about the Julia Louis-Dreyfus blow was to make a point about battered women. Her kick back at the end was satisfying, though.
- One takeaway I have from seeing Merv is how accurate Rick Moranis' impression on SCTV was, espcially when he would say "maaarrrvelous".
- I always was amused by Merv's reaction to finding out that Blake worked with Judy Garland; he's far more interested in her than Blake's other co-stars!
MONOLOGUE: LITTLE RASCALS REUNION
- In lieu of an opening monologue, Robert Blake pays tribute to his show-biz beginnings by reuniting with his fellow Little Rascals Alfalfa (Mary Gross), Spanky, Darla (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), Froggy (Joe Piscopo) and Buckwheat (Eddie Murphy), who treats Blake to a version of the "Amedda" (Baretta) theme ("Keep No Eye On Da Barrow").
- I wonder if Blake was specifically chosen to host because of the Little Rascals connection, or if they were just having a hell of a hard time booking guests (Blake did not have any projects to promote and actually openly says he doesn't know why they booked him at the beginning of the monologue). Mary Gross' Alfalfa has a good debut here (note that Gross calls Blake "Mickey", his real name and Little Rascals character. Nice touch). Piscopo's Froggy is a little too broad and he seems to know it (the Wolfman Jack line). Buckwheat makes his first appearance on the show in over six months, and the audience welcomes him back.
- Blake is a little more relaxed here and not quite as obviously performing as in the cold opening; he does seem to repeat himself a few times, using the term "many moons" twice and addressing two different Little Rascals as the oldest. I wonder if he was reading what was written for him on the cards, or if he went off-script in places; he has been said to be dyslexic, so that may have had some bearing on his ability to do such a cue card heavy show as SNL.
SKETCH: SPACE SHUTTLE
- Aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, Captain Paul Smalley (Joe Piscopo) deals with an unexpected crisis: his fellow astronaut (Eddie Murphy) is in love with him.
- Unlike a lot of later sketches where the premise is based around a homosexual character, this actually was pretty amusing. The main reason this sketch works as well as it does is due to Eddie Murphy's understated, businesslike delivery; most of the humor comes from Piscopo's reaction to the confession, and there's a lot of mileage from the pauses between the dialogue.
- Who was doing the mission control voice?
- The public broadcaster declares "We're Not Stuffy Anymore" by jazzing up their educational and current affairs programming.
- This was very well-produced (Peter Shifter and Theodore Pappas are listed as directors in the closing credits), but the humor was lacking, and the joke stretched thin. There were a few minor jokes that worked towards the end, but the whole thing just seemed to be fancy dressing on a weak premise.
SKETCH: THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE
- Charles Ingalls (Robert Blake) and wife Caroline (Mary Gross) are optimistic about the future when he allows her to prostitute herself.
- Written by Paul Barrosse and Robert Blake. The sketch description comes from John Hedegor; the only other detail I can confirm is Joe Piscopo playing the Merlin Olsen character.
- This remains one of the most elusive SNL sketches; it's not in any streaming version of the show, and the original broadcast isn't currently in circulation on the trading circuits. Going by the amount of pre-taped material added to pad the show, this appears to have been a significant sketch that night. If anyone has a copy of this show with this sketch intact, please contact me.
SKETCH: TYRONE GOES REGGAE
- Tyrone Green (Eddie Murphy) and his reggae band (Steve Jordan and Hiram Bullock) perform "Kill The White People" to the horror of a VFW talent show's audience.
- The sketch is a little thin, but Eddie Murphy carries it, and the song is memorable. A lot of the laughs come from the visual jokes: The visual of Murphy, Jordan and Bullock with the dreadlock wigs and surly demeanor is funny in itself, but the best example is the slow reveal of the sole black veteran (Clint Smith) being the one person who enjoys the song. Murphy's death glare when Kazurinsky's stodgy emcee character tries to confront him is a highlight.
- Jordan and Bullock were in the Late Night with David Letterman band at the time. Also making a cameo is SNL band trumpeter Alan P. Rubin, who plays "The Bullfighter Song" at the beginning of the sketch. There are a number of extras, most of whom I can't recognize, though I do see Mustache Guy from Opie's Back with Tim Kazurinsky at the front, as well as Andy Murphy on the other end of the stage.
- If Tyrone Green wrote the song, wouldn't the title be "Cill The Wite People"?
MISCELLANEOUS: BLUE LAGOON
- Brad Hall and Robin Duke break character when promoting the "Blue Lagoon's" network premiere to say that SNL having their youngest-ever host next week is a bigger deal.
- Another segment not included in the repeat version; promos for upcoming shows rarely are, though. This would prove to be one of Duke's only appearances that night.
SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS: SATURDAY NIGHT SPORTS WITH JOE PISCOPO, MARY GROSS COMMENTARY ON SUGAR RAY LEONARD'S RETIREMENT, SCIENCE REPORT WITH DR. JACK BADOFSKY (TIM KAZURINSKY)
- Best jokes: Brezhnev/Lana Turner eyebrows, James T. Hoffman/John Delorean.
- A strong outing for Brad Hall this week; the audience responds well to the jokes, which are better than usual for Saturday Night News; it seems there were fewer this time around. The audience also cheers loudly at the death of Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev, leading to a funny Brad Hall ad-lib.
- Joe Piscopo's segment on Sugar Ray Leonard's retirement is short and to the point; more interesting is that he does his segment from the side of the Saturday Night News set and sets up Mary Gross' bit, who is sitting at the desk where Piscopo would normally be.
- Gross' segment ties in Piscopo's by starting off with Sugar Ray Leonard's retirement, and turns into another "spittin' mad" commentary on figures who she would rather have retire. The show already seems to be returning to the Mary Gross rage well a bit too often, and the content is a little weaker than before, but Gross gets in a few good digs that get response from the audience (Howard Cosell, Steve Garvey, and Marvin Hamlisch).
- Dr. Jack Badofsky's report on different types of orgasms is one of his better ones, with a good setup ("Nobody doesn't like...orgasms") and several very funny jokes, the highlight being "Jawgasms" (which are what Steven Spielberg and Linda Lovelace have). Incidentally, there's a very visible edit in the rerun: in the original live show, the joke gets a mild groan to which Tim Kazurinsky ad-libs "That's a mouthful", and the audience laughs/applauds. The repeat cuts from the Jawgasms line to the laughter and applause, and Badofsky's hands have already shifted lower on the cards.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "HEART TO HEART"
- I'm always surprised how much I enjoy Loggins' performances in this show: he's not really the edgiest musician but he and his band are spot-on here, with some tight musicianship and Loggins killing it on the falsetto breaks. I can't ID his backup band, but they deserve a lot of credit for both performances.
- Loggins looks a little gaunt tonight; on Wikipedia it mentions he met one of his wives at that time when he was having health problems, so I wonder if that's the reason he was so skinny.
SHOW: MASTERFUL THEATRE
- In "Airheads Revisited", Lady Marjorie-Main (Mary Gross) has a gathering populated by various upper-class dolts and a butler (Robert Blake) reporting on the laundry.
- This was a mess; silliness just for its own sake does often work, but this particular sketch is too fragmented and ultimately doesn't hang together. The thread that fared best featured Piscopo (as Pip) and Eddie Murphy (as Cyril), who get some of the better jokes in this sketch. Robert Blake's scenes appear to be shoehorned in, and his line delivery is so stilted and awkward that it seems like his lack of appearances in tonight's show were deliberate.
- Someone drops a glass as Piscopo raises a toast; it seems like a genuine blooper going by Piscopo and Murphy's reactions.
MISCELLANEOUS: VIEWER MAIL
- Eddie Murphy receives a letter from a 9-year-old who wants to grow up to hate white people; Eddie explains that it's all an act.
- One of the better pieces tonight; Eddie Murphy completely runs with this. The lame examples of white culture and "credits to their race" work as a comment on how this kind of discourse is used regarding black entertainers, but making love to Burl Ives singing "Jimmy Crack Corn" is a funny idea on its own.
- Who is the blonde woman with the Burl Ives record that leaves with Murphy at the end?
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "I GOTTA TRY"
- Loggins throws himself into this one, a song that appears (in different recordings) on his own High Adventure album and co-writer Michael McDonald's If That's What It Takes release, which McDonald would promote on the show the following April. Loggins' lively performances prove a huge contrast to Robert Blake tonight.
- The late Leonid Brezhnev lends his support to the all-death network.
- Filler; the crude mouth movement on the Brezhnev picture was the only real laugh here.
MISCELLANEOUS: NO MORE ANDY KAUFMAN
- Dick Ebersol appears on camera to announce that Andy Kaufman's comedy is no longer up to SNL's standards.
- Another segment excluded from the repeat. Ebersol's appearance was referenced several times in next week's show with Drew Barrymore.
- Blake says goodnight to his real Little Rascals co-stars, wherever they are. Joe Piscopo has his son Joe Jr. with him; Julia Louis-Dreyfus shouts out to some of her friends. Gary Kroeger seems to be wearing the same musketeer outfit from the previous two shows.
- The rerun version uses the canned closing theme; Pardo's announcement (left in the Netflix version) mentions "ET's Drew Barrymore", before another reference to his rehiring ("This is announcer's name here saying 'Goodnight!'")
Repeat version: Another below-average show. According to several testimonies in Live From New York, Blake was a jerk to the cast and writers, but whether his lack of use in tonight's show was because of that or because of his weak performances is unknown; either way, he weighs down the segments in which he appears. It feels very much like the cast is aware they're not performing their best material tonight, though a strong musical guest and Saturday Night News segment elevate the show, and the return to their regular studio seems to also provide a boost of its own. The last part of the show feels very much like they were short on material or running late.
Addendum [08/26/14]: Gary Kroeger recalls that week: "There is a rather infamous encounter that I had where I suggested an idea to him and I believe he wiped his ass with the script. As a result I had very little to do in that show and I disliked the entire episode. Blake (as Barretta) was a hero and I was very disappointed."
Because of the amount of material cut from the repeat version, I can't form a conclusive opinion on the quality of the show; when I get a copy, I will add my impressions.
- Viewer Mail
- Saturday Night News
- Airheads Revisited
- Eddie Murphy
KNOWN CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN [will update/correct upon receipt of live show]:
- Robin Duke: 2 appearances [Blue Lagoon, Masterful Theatre]
- Mary Gross: 4 appearances [Little Rascals Reunion, The Best Little Whorehouse On The Prairie, Saturday Night News, Masterful Theatre]
- Brad Hall: 3 appearances [Blue Lagoon, Saturday Night News, Masterful Theatre]
- Tim Kazurinsky: 4 appearances [Space Shuttle, Tyrone Goes Reggae, Saturday Night News, Masterful Theatre]
- Gary Kroeger: 2 appearances [Space Shuttle, Masterful Theatre]
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 3 appearances [The Merv Griffin Show, Little Rascals Reunion, Masterful Theatre]
- Eddie Murphy: 5 appearances [Little Rascals Reunion, Space Shuttle, Tyrone Goes Reggae, Masterful Theatre, Viewer Mail]
- Joe Piscopo: 6 appearances [The Merv Griffin Show, Little Rascals Reunion, Space Shuttle, The Best Little Whorehouse On The Prairie, Saturday Night News, Masterful Theatre]
crew and extras
- Hiram Bullock: 1 appearance [Tyrone Goes Reggae]
- Dick Ebersol: 1 appearance [No More Andy Kaufman]
- Steve Jordan: 1 appearance [Tyrone Goes Reggae]
- Alan P. Rubin: 1 appearance [Tyrone Goes Reggae]
- Clint Smith: 1 appearance [Tyrone Goes Reggae]
- Robert Blake: 4 appearances [The Merv Griffin Show, Little Rascals Reunion, The Best Little Whorehouse On The Prairie, Masterful Theatre]
- Kenny Loggins: 2 appearances ["Heart To Heart", "I Gotta Try"]
- Merv Griffin: 1 appearance [The Merv Griffin Show]
- February 12, 1983
- September 10, 1983
- Best Little House On The Prairie, Blue Lagoon / Next Week and No More Andy Kaufman removed.
- Girls of SNL, Clysler-Prymouth, Jogger Motel (02/12/83 only), Sleepy Boy 2000 (09/10/83 only), and Video Victims added.
Sketches included in the 03/24/84 Best Of special:
- Saturday Night News (Dr. Jack Badofsky segment only).
Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.