Classic SNL Review: April 7, 1984: Michael Douglas / Deniece Williams (S09E16)

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

OPENING: LOST SCRIPT

  • When Michael Douglas can't find his script, former co-star Karl Malden (Joe Piscopo) comes to the rescue with an American Express Traveler's Script.
  • Very short (about a minute long), and Karl Malden isn't one of Piscopo's better impressions, though at this point in the show's history, the impressions seemed to rely as much, if not more, on the makeup as the mannerisms; Piscopo also throws in a Jimmy Durante-style "ha-cha-cha-cha-cha-cha!" for good measure. This does get an extra point for finding an interesting way to work Michael Douglas into the show, something that seems to be an issue tonight.

**

MONTAGE

  • Eddie Murphy is officially removed from the opening montage as of this episode.
  • Lou Marini fills in for Michael Brecker on saxophone tonight.

MONOLOGUE

  • Michael Douglas' father Kirk hosted the show four years ago and gave him some advice: "forget the monologue, just plug your movie". An on-screen scroll explains that Michael has been plugging Romancing the Stone backstage all week.
  • Douglas seems a little nervous but excited, and he briefly launches into an impression of his dad (something that will come up again later tonight). This felt like the first time in a while that the show used a "crawl appears while the host is talking" monologue; I felt that the main joke was undercut by it being telegraphed when Michael promises to forget about the movie for the rest of the show, and the crawl itself could have taken it much farther. 

** 1/2

SHOW: MTV NEWS I

  • Nina Blackwood (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) reads news items about John Cougar Mellencamp and ZZ Top.
  • This was more interesting for the variation on the show's normal structure: usually, the commercial parody appears immediately after the monologue, but here, one is bookended by a two-part MTV sketch. As an individual sketch, though, the first MTV News segment was filler, with some weak jokes about John Mellencamp's name and ZZ Top's beards.

*

COMMERCIAL: FOLDGER'S CRYSTALS

  • A pitchman swaps the blood of intensive care patients with instant coffee to demonstrate the richness of Foldger's Crystals.
  • This was good. The audience reacts well to the reveal, which is accompanied by a great visual of the coffee crystals being stirred into the blood and the brown solution being pumped intravenously.
  • Can anyone identify the outside actor who played the pitchman?
  • Written by Herb Sargent and directed by Claude Kerven; Nate Herman considers this an all-time favorite.

****

SHOW: MTV NEWS II

  • The Garage Band (Brad Hall, Jim Belushi, Gary Kroeger) presents their clip for "Look At Our Video".

 

  • Hall, Belushi and Kroeger seem to be reprising the characters they played in December's Clark Street Garage Band sketch; this works as a standalone piece, but watching the other sketch gives a little more depth to the band's delusions of stardom, knowledge of the industry and lack of talent or effort.
  • The real meat of this sketch, though, is the music video itself, directed by Martin Kahan, a parody of then-common video tropes set to a song composed by Hall, Belushi and Tom Malone; the chorus itself is an earworm ("We just want to sell records! We just want to be rich!"), but Hall, Belushi and Kroeger sell their characters' combination of ineptitude and image-consciousness.
  • Malone and Barry Nichols also reprise their respective roles as the Garage Band's bass player and drummer, while SNL writer and producer Bob Tischler makes a brief cameo as the cigarette-smoking doctor.

*** 1/2

SKETCH: PRICE WATERHOUSE

  • Price (Tim Kazurinsky) and Waterhouse (Jim Belushi) prefer to base their Oscar winner picks on personal taste instead of vote tallies.
  • This grew on me; it seemed reminiscent of Bill Murray's Oscar picks from his SNL tenure, but Belushi and Kazurinsky made this work with their performances, and this was a nice two-hander that could have been done by any pair of performers throughout the show's history. I can easily see this working with Kevin Nealon and Dana Carvey or Will Forte and Jason Sudeikis.

*** 1/2

FILM: "4 MINUTES TO LIVE" - JOHN FOX

  • Dying Kevin (Gary Kroeger) vows to live his remaining time to the fullest, but a slow elevator ride complicates things.
  • The third pre-taped segment tonight, and another indication of the increased possibilities that filmed sketches were giving the show. The slower pace actually helps the joke, which truly reveals itself when the triumphant music that swells when Kroeger makes his vow ends long before the elevator comes. Kroeger is great in this, by the way: a lot of it is sold through his growing impatience and wordless agony in the elevator ride, which reaches a breaking point when Kate & Allie's Frederick Koehler strolls in and presses the elevator buttons. Great ending as well, with the elevator stuck between floors as Kroeger weeps.
  • According to director John Fox, this was written by Andy Breckman, who has a small cameo as one of the janitors.

****

SKETCH: AUDITION

  • Auditionee (Mary Gross) for a child's role in a play seems to be considerably mature for the part.
  • This ended up being too long and the ending was weak, but Mary Gross gives a strong performance here. Michael Douglas makes his first appearance since the monologue; I thought that his nervous energy worked well with his character's growing arousal, and he has a nice bit of business with a stiff-legged walk to disguise his erection. The scene with Douglas having Gross pretend to "look for her father's watch" was a little uncomfortable to watch, though.
  • One of the little girls auditioning with Gross is Lily Nell Warren, who played the Ms. Pac-Man addict in Claude Kerven's "Video Victims" film.

**

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE BOY"

  • The SNL band backs Deniece Williams up for this performance, augmented by Errol "Crusher" Bennett on percussion and David Spinozza on guitar. Williams and the band are in good form here, but the brighter studio version is the better take.
  • Another case where the host announces the song title before the performance, with Douglas adding that this is "from Footloose."

MISCELLANEOUS: NEXT WEEK

  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus announces that George McGovern is hosting the show next week and shows clips of pedestrians and politicians "reacting" to the news.
  • I don't usually rate the next show promos, but I give the show credit for doing something different this week with a Not Necessarily The News-style collection of out-of-context footage.

SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS

  • Michael Douglas is in the anchor chair this week; unfortunately, he's the weakest guest anchor at this point in the run. The main joke here is that the mudslide clip from Romancing the Stone that he played during the monologue is played repeatedly as video footage for all his stories, but the bigger issue is Douglas's delivery on the stories.
  • Public citizen Wayne Huevos (Tim Kazurinsky) returns with more suggestions to improve his beloved New York City's vermin, court backlog and abandoned building problems. Huevos isn't my favorite Kazurinsky character, but this was harmless enough.
  • Gary Kroeger is back with another movie review, panning Romancing the Stone on the sole basis that his girlfriend Leslie found Michael Douglas sexy; Kroeger launches into a (more or less adlibbed, according to Kroeger himself) rant about how much of a pasty-faced wimp Douglas was, before getting tossed over the news desk (continuing a running joke this season). Some good physical work from Kroeger and Douglas here, and easily the highlight of the segment.

**

SKETCH: FOOTLESS

  • New kid (Brad Hall) learns the Reverend (Joe Piscopo) has made the townsfolk donate their feet to the poor in China and banned all music except for hymns. Kenny Loggins (Nate Herman) sings the title song.
  • This could have been funnier, though Gary Kroeger walks away with the sketch by bringing back his grumpy Walter (from December's Shoe Tier), and Robin Duke got laughs with her shamelessly broad Ike character (who rubbed her face when agitated)Piscopo's preacher character seemed to be visually John Lithgow, but mostly just a generic southern preacher (with a bit of a Frank Nelson "YEEEEESSS?" thrown in for good measure).
  • Kroeger and Brad Hall get to show off their dancing skills during the "Footloose" parody (choreographed by Denny Shearer). Herman didn't do a bad Kenny Loggins, though I found the rest of the cast (besides Hall and Kroeger) grooving to the song a little cheesy; I still laughed at Kazurinsky's character's attempt to dance without feet.

***

SKETCH: SOUNDTRACK

  • Mr. Burrows (Michael Douglas) seeks psychiatric relief from the music that constantly follows him.
  • One of the weaker sketches tonight: a thin premise (not helped by timing issues with the music cues), and Douglas's performance felt a little too big here.
  • Michael Douglas accidentally knocks a glass into his forehead when he splashes himself on Robin Duke's entrance; there's a bit of an audible "thuk" when hit happens, but I give him credit for going on with the rest of the sketch.

**

SHOW: TV'S FOUL-UPS, BLEEPS, BLUNDERS, BLOOPERS, PRACTICAL JOKES, AND POLITICAL DEBATES

  • Kirk Douglas (Michael Douglas) and Shelley Winters (Robin Duke) present outtakes from the Democratic candidates debate.
  • Despite a bandaged Michael Douglas gamely taking the opportunity to do an impression of his father, this was very weak, and an example of how the Ebersol era tended to shy away from political humor, with satire taking a backseat to cuckoo sound effects, Groucho glasses and whoopee cushions.
  • Unlike other elections, where the SNL impressions became iconic, this sketch features forgettable takes on Gary Hart and Walter Mondale; Joe Piscopo's return to the Jesse Jackson role stands out (and his impression is a little better this time out), but more for it being a chase of a white performer playing a black politician.

* 1/2

FILM: "SUGAR OR PLAIN" - JOHN DAVIES

  • At an Ice cream parlor, a young couple (Lance Kinsey and Elizabeth Caldwell) are aggressively grilled about their dessert preferences by the counter staff (Jim Belushi and Rob Riley).
  • The fourth filmed piece tonight; this was actually an outside production shot the previous year in Chicago (Eggboy Productions receives a credit in the goodnights), written and directed by John Davies. Belushi and Riley are good as the menacing ice cream jerks and the pressure builds nicely.
  • Rob Riley would later join the writing staff of SNL in November 1984.

**** 

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "WRAPPED UP"

  • This had a little more "oomph" compared to the studio version on the Let's Hear It For The Boy album; Williams and the backup singers also imitate the echo effects for good measure.

COMMERCIAL: SLEEPY-BOY 2000 (repeat from 02/19/83)

  • I have to wonder whether something had to be cut from the show due to Douglas' injury, since the last 15 minutes or so were either filmed pieces or music performances.

GOODNIGHTS

  • Joe Piscopo comments on Michael Douglas shoving the glass into his forehead in "Soundtrack"; Michael thanks everyone for the lovely week and calls the people at the show "angels".
  • Credits cut off early in the live show, but this version of the closing theme was used in most repeat versions of the 1983-85 shows that needed a "clean" version of the music to replace Don Pardo announcing future shows; Julia Louis-Dreyfus yelling "Happy birthday, Laurie!" was included in the canned theme.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

A weaker show on the live front, but beefed up with a lot of very good taped sketches. Michael Douglas didn't exactly seem quite comfortable doing live sketch comedy, , though he sometimes found ways to compensate, and seemed to be used more sparingly than other hosts. With Eddie Murphy gone, and without a taped sketch in the hopper, tonight's show gave the cast some interesting opportunities: most of the cast got at least one chance to shine, but Jim Belushi and Gary Kroeger both had particularly good showcases for their abilities, while Tim Kazurinsky had the busiest night of the cast. Tonight also seemed to indicate the show was starting to shift away from Joe Piscopo being the dominant non-Eddie Murphy performer. 

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Four Minutes to Live
  • Foldger's Crystals
  • Sugar or Plain
  • MTV News II
  • Price Waterhouse

SHOW LOWLIGHTS:

  • MTV News I
  • TV's Foul-Ups...and Political Debates
  • Soundtrack
  • Audition
  • Saturday Night News
  • Lost Script

MVP:

  • (tie) Jim Belushi / Gary Kroeger

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN:

cast

  • Jim Belushi: 4 appearances [MTV News II, Price Waterhouse, 4 Minutes To Live, Sugar or Plain]
  • Robin Duke: 4 appearances [Lost Script, Footless, Personal Soundtrack, TV's Foul-Ups...and Political Debates]
  • Mary Gross: 4 appearances [Lost Script, Foldger's Crystals, Audition, Footless]; 1 voice-over [Price Waterhouse]
  • Brad Hall: 4 appearance [MTV News II, Price Waterhouse, Footless, TV's Foul-Ups...and Political Debates]
  • Tim Kazurinsky: 9 appearances [Lost Script, MTV News II, Price Waterhouse, 4 Minutes To Live, Audition, Saturday Night News, Footless, Soundtrack, TV's Foul-Ups...and Political Debates]
  • Gary Kroeger: 6 appearances [Foldger's Crystals, MTV News II, Price Waterhouse, 4 Minutes To Live, Saturday Night News, Footless]
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 6 appearances [MTV News I, MTV News II (2 roles), Price Waterhouse, Next Week, Footless]
  • Joe Piscopo: 3 appearances [Lost Script, Footless, TV's Foul-Ups...and Political Debates]

crew and extras

  • Tom Barney: 2 appearances ["Let's Hear It For The Boy", "Wrapped Up"]
  • Errol "Crusher" Bennett: 2 appearances ["Let's Hear It For The Boy", "Wrapped Up"]
  • Andy Breckman: 1 appearance [4 Minutes To Live]
  • Bob Christianson: 3 appearances [Audition, "Let's Hear It For The Boy", "Wrapped Up"]
  • Joe Dicso: 2 appearances [Lost Script, TV's Foul-Ups...and Political Debates]
  • Nate Herman: 1 appearance [Footless]; 1 voice-over [TV's Foul Ups...and Political Debates]
  • Frederick Koehler: 1 appearance [4 Minutes To Live]
  • Tom Malone: 1 appearance [MTV News II]
  • Barry Nichols: 1 appearance [MTV News II]
  • Leroy Leon Pendarvis: 2 appearances ["Let's Hear It For The Boy", "Wrapped Up"]
  • David Spinozza: 2 appearances ["Let's Hear It For The Boy", "Wrapped Up"]
  • Bob Tischler: 1 appearance [MTV News II]
  • Georg Wadenius: 2 appearances ["Let's Hear It For The Boy", "Wrapped Up"]
  • Lily Nell Warren: 1 appearance [Audition]
  • Buddy Williams: 2 appearances ["Let's Hear It For The Boy", "Wrapped Up"]

guests

  • Michael Douglas: 6 appearances [Lost Script, Monologue, Audition, Saturday Night News, Soundtrack, TV's Foul-Ups...and Political Debates]
  • Deniece Williams: 2 appearances ["Let's Hear It For The Boy", "Wrapped Up"]
  • Elizabeth Caldwell: 1 appearance [Sugar or Plain]
  • Lance Kinsey: 1 appearance [Sugar or Plain]
  • Rob Riley: 1 appearance [Sugar or Plain]
  • Nancy Rush: 1 appearance [Sugar or Plain]
  • Rick Thomas: 1 appearance [Sugar or Plain]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • July 7, 1984

Known alterations:

  • Next Week removed

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.