This has always been an "in-the-middle" season for me; it has some good shows, some weaker shows, but none of the peaks or valleys of 1981-82, nor does it have that oddball feel the previous season had. The renamed Saturday Night News wasn't great, but it has more energy than the often sluggish SNL Newsbreak, particularly the bloated spring 1982 editions. Like with the latter portion of 1981-82, it feels a little too "safe" at times, with less space for weirder, conceptual material, and the political material has little bite to it. There's also a tendency in the second half of the season to bring out some racial humor (particularly some stereotypical Asians in what seems like every other show in March, April and May), as well as some unusually bold sexual references.
As for the cast: Eddie Murphy stands out as usual, dominating even more after his hosting gig; however, Joe Piscopo also has a very good year, managing to improve on his weaknesses from the previous season and demonstrating some more relaxed energy. The remainder of the cast is decent, with Gary Kroeger already establishing himself as a solid player in his first year, but the focus on Murphy and Piscopo constrains them considerably, and they only display hints of their full potential. Robin Duke is particularly underused.
I can understand why it made sense to base the show around Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo, and rein in some of the more "cutting-edge" tendencies that were associated with the old show. It's still frustrating to think about what was sacrificed in the name of pragmatism, though.
- Stevie Wonder (Average sketch rating: 3.25/5)
- Howard Hesseman / Men At Work (Average sketch rating: 3.17/5)
- Joan Rivers / Musical Youth (Average sketch rating: 3.12/5)
- Jeff and Beau Bridges / Randy Newman (Average sketch rating: 2.5/5)
- Ed Koch / Dexy's Midnight Runners (Average sketch rating: 2.5/5)
- Ron Howard / The Clash (Average sketch rating: 2.5/5)
- Buckwheat Buys The Farm (March 12, 1983)
- Merry Christmas, Dammit! (December 11, 1982)
- Buckwheat Dead (March 19, 1983)
- Dung In The Oval Office (April 16, 1983)
- Heil Hits (March 19, 1983)
- Whiner Vietnam (May 14, 1983)
Best musical guests:
- Stevie Wonder
- Kenny Loggins
Worst musical guests:
- Duran Duran
- Laura Branigan
- Musical Youth
Writer tally and turnover:
(*) indicates the writer returned the next season, (~) indicates a previous writer returning to SNL.
- Paul Barrosse
- Barry W. Blaustein~
- Robin Duke*
- Ellen L. Fogle
- Nate Herman*~
- Tim Kazurinsky*~
- Andrew Kurtzman*
- Eddie Murphy*
- Pamela Norris*~ (Caesar through Koch)
- Margaret Oberman*~
- Joe Piscopo* (Howard through Koch)
- David Sheffield~
- Andrew Smith*~
- Bob Tischler*~
- Tracy Tormé (Chase through Moranis/Thomas)
- Eliot Wald*~
Special thanks to Paul Barrosse, Nate Herman and Gary Kroeger for their insight on this time in the show's history; I will also update previously published reviews with new information as it becomes available. If anyone with further information about SNL during the Ebersol era would like to get in touch, provide background or correct previously published information, I would appreciate it.
I will be taking a short break from reviewing, but plan to begin 1983-84 in early July. Over the next two months, I will be posting on roughly a bi-weekly schedule, including my thoughts on the current season in about two weeks (after the season finale airs on May 16).