***** - Classic
**** - Great
*** - Good/Average
** - Meh
* - Awful
- Joe Piscopo angrily confronts SNL makeup artist Kevin Haney after learning he was given Charlie Chan makeup for a Phil Donahue impression.
- A strong and economical opening. While I generally find white actors in yellowface makeup problematic, the visual of a Charlie Chan lookalike with the mannerisms and speaking style of Phil Donahue was pretty funny, and this didn't stretch the premise too long. Haney, who won an Oscar for his work on Driving Miss Daisy, actually does pretty well here for a non-performer.
- As I mentioned in my review of Howard Hesseman / Men At Work, I love the "backstage" segments of SNL, especially when members of the show's crew and writing staff are visible in the background. This particular backstage trek includes appearances by production assistant Barry Nichols, writers Andrew Kurtzman, Andy Breckman, Michael McCarthy, Nate Herman and Kevin Kelton, and stage manager Joe Dicso.
- Half the regular band is out tonight; Mark Egan subs for bassist Tom Barney, Dave Weckl fills in for drummer Buddy Williams, and former SNL band saxophone player Lou Marini plays instead of Mike Brecker.
- Michael Palin has brought his mother Mary to the United States for the first time as a gift for her 80th birthday; sitting on stage during her son's monologue, Mary interrupts him with requests and suggestions.
- Mary Palin easily steals this from her son; Michael has to do most of the heavy lifting, so to speak, but his mother's deadpan presence and one line ("No, that's all. Now go ahead and be funny.") contrasts nicely with Michael's growing frustration.
COMMERCIAL: BOY GEORGE BURNS: THE MAN AND HIS MUSIC
- The androgynous octogenarian (Jim Belushi) plugs his upcoming special.
- Good performance by Belushi, but there really wasn't enough to this other than the juxtaposition of George Burns in Boy George makeup.
- The pianist in this sketch is Bob Christianson, who frequently scored Sex and the City; Christianson often sat in with the SNL band in the early 80s and appears in several more sketches over the next season and a half.
SHOW: MISTER ROBINSON'S NEIGHBORHOOD
- Mister Robinson (Eddie Murphy) demonstrates "ransom" with his new canine friend.
- The last Mister Robinson sketch to air during Eddie Murphy's tenure with the cast, although "Bastard" was the last shot, and Murphy would bring the character back for his Christmas 1984 hosting appearance. This is a strong one to go out with, though: the phone call sequence is one of my favorites, from Murphy's facial expression after he asks the dog's owner if she knows today's new word ("Mrs. Green knows a lot of words, boys and girls!") to the dog "talking".
- Written by Eliot Wald and Nate Herman; taped at the preview show on September 21, 1983.
SKETCH: POWERFUL LIVING SNAPS
- Lorne Greene (Joe Piscopo) touts a way to share the Word of God with your dog.
- Piscopo brings back his Lorne Greene impression for a thin but brief spoof of Greene's Alpo commercials and the Christian evangelistic book Power for Living, first published a few months before this show aired. Like "Boy George Burns", the humor depends on the juxtaposition of two disparate things, but this doesn't have a sight gag on par with the other sketch.
SKETCH: MAN ON A CHAIN
- Landlord (Michael Palin) downplays the feral man (Jim Belushi) included in the apartment he tries to lease to a couple (Brad Hall and Robin Duke).
- Not quite a classic, and the audience was a little muted for this, but I give the show credit for such an odd premise, and Jim Belushi was cast perfectly here. Michael Palin's character seems reminiscent of his pet store proprietor character from Monty Python's "Dead Parrot Sketch", and Brad Hall and Robin Duke do well as the foils, particularly Hall's quickness to shrug off Duke's apparent death at the end.
- Written by Andy Breckman
COMMERCIAL: MICK PITWHISTLE DOES IT ALL
- A new record offer features completely unsuccessful attempts at different musical genres.
- Palin tried with this, but this was weak and one-note, with some unintentional laughs coming from his hat falling off his head during "Mellow Yellow". The ending with Robin Duke felt a little unnecessary, although it's nice seeing her get more screentime this week.
SKETCH: THAT'S OKAY
- A mid-show format change means the last guest (Brad Hall) has to demonstrate his painful skill.
- This was quick; the "rule of three" reigns supreme here, and a very strong closing joke boosts this.
FILM: "SHOPLIFTER" BY TONY LOVER
- A convenience-store worker (Gary Kroeger) doesn't catch that the sole customer (Jim Belushi) is making off with most of the merchandise.
- Originally intended for the previous show, this sketch marks a turning point in the Ebersol era, marking the show's increased reliance on pre-filmed material. A little quiet and dry, but very well shot and acted, with Gary Kroeger's suspicious but hesitant clerk contrasting nicely with Jim Belushi's brazen thief (great facial expressions by Belushi, by the way). Nice ending shot too.
SHOW: WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT? I
- Technical issues quickly derail the new high-tech game show.
- Essentially a quick blackout; not even worth rating as it's mostly just a setup for a three-part runner. This leads into a commercial break (which includes the extra break for network and station identification) on the original broadcast.
SHOW: WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT? II
- Host Sally Benjamin (Michael Palin) is able to explain the game show's rules, but is quickly injured during the demonstration.
- This airs on the other side of the station break, and basically elaborates a bit more on the whole premise, but aside from the host's name, this fell flat.
SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS: SPORTS REPORT
- Joe Piscopo previews Super Bowl XVIII.
- Another important turning point in the season; the removal of Brad Hall from the news anchor chair. Rather than replacing him immediately, this week's show just isolates the guest commentaries into their own "report" segments.
- Piscopo's segment is the stronger of the two, although it's mostly standard-issue Sports Guy stuff; I did like the cartoon on drawn on the telestrator, though, and there's a funny moment at the end where Piscopo changes his predicted winner based on the audience reaction.
SHOW: WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT? III
- Gameplay begins, but computer cock-ups lead to "fedora" being accepted as the answer to "17-2", as well as potential nuclear annihilation.
- The strongest of the three parts of this underwhelming runner; Palin gives a game performance all throughout, but this has a few funnier jokes and a decent ending.
SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS: SCIENCE REPORT
- Dr. Jack Badofsky (Tim Kazurinsky) examines the different types of menopause.
- Like with the last Dr. Jack commentary, the audience isn't having some of Kazurinsky's more groan-worthy puns, audibly booing at "Gentle-Ben Opause" (which is "un-bear-able") and "Tutankhamun-opause"; Kazurinsky plays off the audience reaction on the latter with "guess that joke Sphinx" and starts to break. Without Brad Hall to cut him off, though, this ends quite awkwardly.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER"
- I've always liked this song; this differs from the studio version on the Little Robbers album as the beat is played by a live drummer (the recording uses a drum machine), which actually gives it an interesting edge. Martha Davis's facial expressions are a little spacey but suit the song and performance.
- One member of The Motels actually belongs to SNL's "Five Timer's Club": keyboard player Scott Thurston (wearing black, on Davis' right) has appeared on the show four times (1994, 1996, 1999 and 2010) as a member of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.
SKETCH: HOUSE OF MUTTON
- Mr. Fenner's (Michael Palin) new sheep-themed restaurant is not a hit with the staff or customers.
- This was rough to sit through; just a weak idea overall, and too many bad sheep jokes. I'm not really faulting the performers, though I thought Mary Gross had the best performance here as the waitress who quickly drops any pretense of faith in the restaurant's food. I have no idea what was with the part at the end where Palin gets splashed by water through the kitchen doors.
- In Eddie Murphy's absence, Clint Smith gets a prominent role in this sketch as the humiliated busboy forced to be the "black sheep".
COMMERCIAL: SAVE LOTS OF PLANKTON
- Spokesman (Michael Palin) thinks that whales are the wrong target for conservation efforts.
- Forgettable, but there are some decent jokes tucked away in here, particularly a dig at Rupert Murdoch. It worked as well as it did because of Palin.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "REMEMBER THE NIGHTS"
- A more uptempo number than the somber "Suddenly Last Summer", Davis and band do a fine job here.
- On the original broadcast, the Berkshire Place slide (which normally appears before the 10-to-1 sketch; the next segment of this show) appears by mistake before the Palins' intro; the slide (with Don Pardo's voiceover) runs in its correct spot after the next commercial break.
SKETCH: A BOY'S LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
- Mark Twain recalls his younger self (Gary Kroeger) receiving mentorship from a riverboat captain (Michael Palin).
- A nice two-hander with Kroeger and Palin, and a relatively strong finish to tonight's show; I thought this was a little dry and dialogue-heavy at first, but upon rewatching, this has a breezy silliness to it that I really liked.
- One line is censored on the West Coast and repeat airings: when Palin sings "Oh you mighty river! Oh, you big wet bastard!", the word "bastard" is reversed on the West Coast airing and redubbed with "river" on the repeat.
- Written by Nate Herman
- Michael Palin says his mother can host by herself for her 90th birthday; Clint Smith is in his black sheep costume from "House Of Mutton", while a put-out Joe Piscopo mostly hangs around in the back.
- "Lord Donald Pardo" announces next week's show in a bad British accent.
Eddie Murphy's presence continues to be missed in this mixed bag of a show. Michael Palin was a welcome presence, doing what he could with a fair bit of weak material this week; fortunately, there are some stronger highlights compared to last week, including one of the better Eddie-on-tape pieces from last September. Murphy's absence means the cast is relatively balanced in terms of airtime, though, with Mary Gross making up for her low sketch count with the highlight of the night's weakest piece. As mentioned before, this is also a turning point for the season, with the post-Brad Hall era of Saturday Night News beginning in earnest tonight, and the addition of filmed sketches letting the writers stretch beyond the limitations of Studio 8H.
- Mister Robinson's Neighborhood
- A Boy's Life On The Mississippi
- That's Okay
- House Of Mutton
- Mick Pitwhistle Does It All
- Powerful Living Snaps
- Boy George Burns: The Man and His Music
- Michael Palin
CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN:
- Jim Belushi: 4 appearances [Boy George Burns: The Man And His Music, Man On A Chain, That's Okay, Shoplifting]
- Robin Duke: 3 appearances [Man On A Chain, Mick Pitwhistle Does It All, House Of Mutton]
- Mary Gross: 2 appearances [Donahue, House Of Mutton]
- Brad Hall: 4 appearances [Donahue, Man On A Chain, That's Okay, House Of Mutton]
- Tim Kazurinsky: 5 appearances [Donahue, That's Okay, Shoplifting, Saturday Night News Science Report, House Of Mutton]; 1 voice-over [Mister Robinson's Neighborhood]
- Gary Kroeger: 4 appearances [Donahue, That's Okay, Shoplifting, A Boy's Life On The Mississippi]
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 3 appearances [Donahue, That's Okay, House Of Mutton]
- Eddie Murphy: 1 appearance [Mister Robinson's Neighborhood]
- Joe Piscopo: 4 appearances [Donahue, Powerful Living Snaps, That's Okay, Saturday Night News Sports Report]; 1 voice-over [Boy George Burns: The Man And His Music]
crew and extras
- Andy Breckman: 1 appearance [Donahue]
- Bob Christianson: 1 appearance [Boy George Burns: The Man And His Music]
- Joe Dicso: 2 appearances [Donahue, Would You Believe It III]
- Kevin Haney: 1 appearance [Donahue]
- Nate Herman: 1 appearance [Donahue]
- Kevin Kelton: 1 appearance [Donahue]
- Andrew Kurtzman: 1 appearance [Donahue]
- Lee Mayman: 1 appearance [Donahue]
- Michael Clayton McCarthy: 1 appearance [Donahue]
- Barry Nichols: 1 appearance [Donahue]
- Clint Smith: 1 appearance [House Of Mutton]
- Michael Palin: 9 appearances [Monologue, Man On A Chain, Mick Pitwhistle Does It All, Would You Believe It I, Would You Believe It II, Would You Believe It III, House Of Mutton, Save Lots Of Plankton, A Boy's Life On The Mississippi]
- Mary Palin: 1 appearance [Monologue]
- The Motels: 2 appearance ["Suddenly Last Summer", "Remember The Nights"]
- June 16, 1984
- A Boys Life on the Mississippi edited.
Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.