Classic SNL Review: February 18, 1984: Jamie Lee Curtis / The Fixx (S09E13)

RATINGS SYSTEM:
***** - Classic
****  - Great
***   - Good / Average
**    - Meh
*     - Awful

OPENING: RAPPIN' JIMMY B.

  • The SNL Band accompanies Jim Belushi as he raps and breakdances to hype the audience up for tonight's show.
  • This was an unusual choice for a cold opening and felt more like a pre-show warm-up bit; I wonder if this was a last-minute replacement for something that had to be cut or shuffled around in the live show. Belushi is far from the best rapper or breakdancer, but the live band helps, and what this lacks in hard laughs is made up for in energy.
  • Note that Belushi specifically mentions Eddie Murphy is appearing tonight; the promo for this week's show also has Don Pardo mention "Eddie Murphy and the whole cast." As mentioned in the Smothers Brothers / Big Country review, Hill & Weingrad mentioned there was a week when Murphy decided to back out of appearing in the live show, but relented later. It could either have been the Smothers or Curtis show; there are a few things about tonight's show that make me suspect this was the week of Murphy's near-bailout.
  • Written by Jim Belushi; music by Tom Malone.

***

MONTAGE

  • For the first time in SNL history, Don Pardo misses the show due to illness; Joe Piscopo steps in with his Don Pardo impression tonight.

MONOLOGUE

  • Jamie Lee Curtis wanted to make sure Eddie Murphy would be on the show this week, so she told him she was going to announce she was pregnant with his child if he didn't show up.
  • Underwhelming, despite the presence of Eddie Murphy. Curtis isn't bad, and Murphy has a few funny lines ("beige baby", "It took longer than a second"), but this felt more like an excuse to prove he was going to be in tonight's show.

** 1/2

COMMERCIAL: RUBIK'S GRENADE (repeat from 12/11/82)

SKETCH: TAG

  • Larry's (Jim Belushi) life goes downhill after an intruder (Tim Kazurinsky) breaks into his apartment to tag him "it".
  • Solid, silly premise with an ambitious combination of live and filmed segments. The film portion (directed by Claude Kerven) has some nicely done visual jokes showing various people on the streets of New York dodging Belushi's path.
  • Written by Andy Breckman.

****

SKETCH: JAKE'S VIDEO HUT

  • Without a stock of popular movies on opening day, Audie (Eddie Murphy) improvises by doing the "live" versions for customers.
  • This really dragged at the beginning; it improves once Murphy starts to do his impressions, and there's still a bit of the old Piscopo-Murphy chemistry here, but the sketch was pretty weak overall.
  • Joe Piscopo wore a white wig for his character in dress rehearsal.

**

COMMERCIAL: TEXXON (repeat from 02/26/83)

SKETCH: EL DORKO

  • Jamie Lee Curtis's obligatory date with nerdy Tiger Beat contest winner Rory (Gary Kroeger) ends up being better than she expected.
  • The second and last appearance of Kroeger's underrated El Dorko character. There are some similarites to the first sketch, but I have to give the writers credit for actually developing continuity from the last one. I thought the ending was played too broad, though.

***

SHOW: THE JULIA SHOW

  • Narcissistic Julia Louis-Dreyfus is more interested in the subject of herself than anything Eddie Murphy or Jamie Lee Curtis has to say.
  • This is a new high for Julia Louis-Dreyfus; she absolutely carries this piece and manages to make such a self-absorbed characterization of herself still somewhat likable. It really feels like an early glimpse into her future as one of the leading comic actors of our time. Murphy and Curtis don't really have much to do, though I liked Murphy's "That doesn't sound like me" following the redubbed Trading Places clip.
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus introduces Joel Hodgson in character from the set. This sketch wasn't in the 60-minute edit of the show, but Hodgson's "I hate her" comment at the beginning of his set is left in without context.

****

GUEST PERFORMANCE:

  • Joel Hodgson impersonates a tree, a pencil sharpener, makes a balloon animal, and plays Rock-em Sock-em Robots with an audience member.
  • Enjoyable, although the only thing that really sticks out is the "face through the rollers" prop ("I hate that trick") and Hodgson's dirty Rock-em Sock-em tricks.

***

SKETCH: REAGAN WORKOUT

  • Ronald Reagan (Joe Piscopo) demonstrates his cluelessness while flipping through TV channels during his workout.
  • This seemed unfocused; there are a few funny and biting jokes about Reagan (specifically how not much bores him "except national affairs and foreign policy"), but they don't really mesh well with the cartoonish portrayal. There's also a very awkward pause after Piscopo's line about The Three Stooges that makes me think it was supposed to go over better than it did.

** 1/2

SKETCH: REHEARSAL

  • Layla (Jamie Lee Curtis) and fellow actor (Jim Belushi) rehearse only the dialogue of their love scene.
  • Belushi's stiff line readings and moans were somewhat funny, and his last scream was good, but this was too dry and one-note to really work.

* 1/2

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER"

  • The Fixx make their live US TV premiere with their hit single from 1983's Reach The Beach album. Lead singer Cy Curnin is animated, which gives this song a little more oomph, but the sound is still a little clunky and the stiff direction that plagues a lot of the more recent musical guests is still evident here.

SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS

  • Joe Piscopo is this week's guest anchor; his only story is that Don Pardo has laryngitis, and while he took over announcing duties tonight, "no one can fill Don's throat."
  • Tim Kazurinsky debuts new character Wayne Huevos, a Latin-American businessman and proud New Yorker who has a few suggestions on how to remedy NYC's "dirty" reputation, such as "pardon our mess, we're redecorating" signs, and magic slate coating on the subways to easily remove grafitti. It's good to see Kazurinsky do something new, although this wasn't my favorite. I did find the part where he protested calling homeless people "bums" quite progressive though.

**

SKETCH: PERSONS EXPRESS

  • Passengers of a low-cost airline are willing to be treated as cargo for cheaper air travel.
  • This was quick, had a strong concept, and there's a nice bit of physical business with Belushi and Duke's characters "switching seats". The ending with Yentl as the in-flight movie being the one thing passengers weren't willing to put up with wasn't great, but overall not a bad sketch.
  • Written by Kevin Kelton and Pam Norris.

*** 1/2

SKETCH: HEART TARTARE

  • An adaptation of a horror movie doesn't provide the change in image Jamie Lee Curtis wanted from doing a Broadway musical.
  • Interesting idea, good performances from Curtis and Gary Kroeger, and the fakeout at the beginning was handled pretty well, but overall this was sketch felt a little bit underdeveloped.
  • Written by Eliot Wald, Nate Herman and Andrew Kurtzman
  • Any idea who the pianist is? It doesn't look like Bob Christianson or anyone in the SNL Band.

** 1/2

SHOW: WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

  • Over 20 years later, Pete Best (Brad Hall) is still upset over being replaced by Ringo Starr.
  • Another somewhat one-note sketch (Best goes back-and-forth between violent emotional outbursts and calmly doing his day-to-day business), but Brad Hall goes all-out in his role, and I did laugh at him repeatedly punching the picture of Ringo Starr. The ending with The Rolling Stones' tour manager (Kroeger) bypassing Best for "the short guy who introduced the sketch" was a nice unexpected boost.

***

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "RED SKIES"

  • Jamie Lee Curtis introduces this performance as "Red Skies At Night", continuing the streak of the host introducing the song with its title and the musical guest performing an older cut; this song was from 1982's Shuttered Room album.
  • Moodier than the first number, and it worked a bit better on the SNL stage, though there is a blocking issue where Cy Curnin is off-camera when he sings his first line.
  • Keyboard player Rupert Greenall has "Hello" written on his right hand. 

FILM: PROSE AND CONS (repeat from 10/03/81)

  • This really felt like it was repeated to pad a short show, or to have an extra Eddie Murphy segment (this is the only thing he appears in after midnight).
  • Getty Images has a dress rehearsal still of a sketch that didn't make the air show, featuring Curtis, Hall, Kazurinsky, Gross, Kroeger, Louis-Dreyfus and a lot of extras (including Andy Breckman). I wonder what this sketch was, or who some of these extras were.

GOODNIGHTS

  • Neither Eddie Murphy nor Joe Piscopo are on stage. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Joel Hodgson play around. There is no closing announcement, but the credits run in full, and several people in the balcony are seen getting up from their seats at the end.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

An off week, but not a disaster. Eddie Murphy's presence surprisingly does very little to boost this week's show, which felt like the cast and writers were struggling to fill the full 90 minutes. Curtis wasn't bad, but she didn't add much to the show, and was either stuck in bland roles or playing herself. This was a better show than her 1980 gig, though, which shows how much Dick Ebersol, Bob Tischler, the cast and writers have turned things around since then. The best sketches either took advantage of the extra possibilities provided by the film unit (Tag) or allowed an underutilized performer to tap into a specific skill. The rest of the show wasn't awful, but so much of it was forgettable or didn't quite fulfill its potential.

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The Julia Show
  • Tag
  • Persons Express

SHOW LOWLIGHTS:

  • Rehearsal
  • Jake's Video Hut
  • Saturday Night News

MVP:

Jim Belushi

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN:

cast

  • Jim Belushi: 4 appearances [Rappin' Jimmy B, Tag, Rehearsal, Persons Express]
  • Robin Duke: 3 appearances [Jake's Video Hut, Persons Express, Where Are They Now?]
  • Mary Gross: 2 appearances [Jake's Video Hut, El Dorko]
  • Brad Hall: 4 appearances [Tag, Jake's Video Hut, El Dorko, Where Are They Now?]
  • Tim Kazurinsky: 6 appearances [Tag, Jake's Video Hut, El Dorko, Saturday Night News, Heart Tartare. Where Are They Now?]
  • Gary Kroeger: 6 appearances [Tag, Jake's Video Hut, El Dorko, Reagan Workout, Heart Tartare, Where Are They Now?]
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 3 appearances [Jake's Video Hut, El Dorko, The Julia Show]
  • Eddie Murphy: 3 appearances [Monologue, Jake's Video Hut, The Julia Show]
  • Joe Piscopo: 3 appearances [Jake's Video Hut, Reagan Workout, Saturday Night News]; 2 voice-overs [Reagan Workout, Rehearsal]

crew and extras

  • Tom Barney: 1 appearance [Rappin' Jimmy B]
  • Michael Brecker: 1 appearance [Rappin' Jimmy B]
  • Andy Breckman: 2 appearances [Tag, Persons Express]
  • Tom Malone: 1 appearance [Rappin' Jimmy B]
  • Barry Nichols: 1 appearance [Persons Express]
  • Clint Smith: 1 appearance [Persons Express]
  • Georg Wadenius: 1 appearance [Rappin' Jimmy B]

guests

  • Jamie Lee Curtis: 7 appearances [Monologue, Tag, El Dorko, The Julia Show, Rehearsal, Persons Express, Heart Tartare]
  • The Fixx: 2 appearances ["One Thing Leads To Another", "Red Skies"]
  • Joel Hodgson: 1 appearance [Guest Performance]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • Not rebroadcast on NBC (not counting a 2004 NBC All Night airing)

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.