Classic SNL Review: November 17, 1984: Ed Asner / The Kinks (S10E06)

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

COLD OPENING: RESCUE MISSION

  •  Lou Grant (Ed Asner) spearheads a rescue mission to free Mary Richards (Mary Gross) from her seven-year captivity in syndicated reruns.

 

  • A very strong opening for tonight’s show with a great premise, and the audience really enjoyed the reveal as well as the individual cast members’ impressions of the familiar Mary Tyler Moore Show characters. This is a much better showcase for Mary Gross’s impression of Mary Richards than the Lou Grant spoof of two and a half years earlier (Billy Crystal’s Ted is much better than Joe Piscopo’s), and there are some clever references to Nancy Walker’s Bounty ads and the oversaturation of the reruns in some markets.
  • I also got laughs from Rich Hall as the dumb mercenary.
  • When this sketch was included in the Best of Saturday Night Live compilation the following May, the ending was cut to remove the "Live From New York", and ends right after Lou Grant orders his men out of the apartment following his hug with Mary.

****

MONOLOGUE

  • Ed Asner questions his reputation as a father figure by showing some of his past roles.

 

  • Asner is completely comfortable in front of a live audience, but there doesn’t seem to be much to the monologue aside from showing a series of pictures of his previous work, something that the show would do a few more times this season.
  • The Encyclopaedia Britannica film that Asner shows a clip of himself as Kubla Khan from is Marco Polo’s Travels.
  • This show aired two days after Asner's 55th birthday.
  • This is the first show back in Studio 8H this season, and the first one of the year to have the theme played live by the SNL Band (Bob Christianson fills in for Leon Pendarvis tonight). The regular home base stage also gets a small makeover with much of the signage on the doors removed and a lot more blue in the set color scheme.

** 1/2

FILM: "WALKING AFTER MIDNIGHT (WING TIPS)" - JOHN FOX

  • When his mean boss (Jim Belushi) keeps him at work late, grocery store employee Virgil (Rich Hall) uses the automatic door opening mat to make shoes that open every door around him.
  • This is a classic and very well constructed; the hook reveals itself nicely, there’s a nice little detail of Hall wearing his normal shoes when approaching his boss’s apartment, and the film ends strong. While there is dialogue in the opening scene (featuring a great performance by Belushi) and when Hall apologizes to the woman who walks into the door when the mat is moved, the humor mostly comes from the visuals.
  • The song playing when Hall walks through the streets of New York with the shoes is “The Street Only Knew Your Name” by Van Morrison, off the Inarticulate Speech of the Heart album.
  • Written by Hall and Andy Breckman.

*****

SKETCH: ED GRIMLEY THANKSGIVING

  • Ed Grimley’s (Martin Short) excitement over Thanksgiving dinner is cut short when he discovers his neighbor (Ed Asner) killing his wife Rear Window-style.
  • The audience gives big cheers for Short’s entrance, and this has some very funny pieces of physical business (Grimley taking the pies out of the oven without a mitt and being weighted down by a garbage bag). Once again, Christopher Guest steals the sketch, this time by managing to outdo Martin Short at his own character as Grimley’s dad, though I felt the part after Guest’s entrance dragged a little.
  • At the end of the sketch, an older woman in the audience is captioned as an “Ed Asner Groupie”.

***

SHOW: 60 MINUTES

  • Mike Wallace (Harry Shearer) probes the rash of defective foreign novelty items affecting the reputations of American businessmen like Herb (Christopher Guest) and Al Minkman (Billy Crystal).
  • Mostly pretaped (aside from Wallace’s introduction) and directed by Christopher Guest, this piece’s humor comes from the very serious treatment of the subject of plastic schnozzes and dribble glasses. I always thought this was more a case of style-over-substance; accurately recreating the 60 Minutes style even if the main subject of the piece wasn’t my favorite.
  • This also features the debut of Martin Short’s sweaty, defensive and chain-smoking lawyer character Nathan Thurm (“I knew that!”); I give the sketch a whole extra half-star just for his segments alone.
  • This is Harry Shearer’s only on-camera appearance all night, and most of this is in a pre-tape; this is the beginning of a stretch of shows where he only appears in one sketch a night.

*** 1/2

COMMERCIAL: ME AND JULIO

  • Fresh off high-profile duets with Willie Nelson (Jim Belushi) and Diana Ross (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), Julio Iglesias (Gary Kroeger) has a whole album of collaborations.
  • A good showcase for Gary Kroeger; he does a great Iglesias and manages to alternate between the different songs effortlessly.
  • Belushi’s Willie Nelson has improved since May’s “Sarducci and Nelson”; Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Diana Ross was a rare misstep for her (more for her impression, though the blackface aspect remains problematic). Martin Short as Mick Jagger was an impression I wouldn’t have thought of, but it makes sense. Writer Kevin Kelton plays Senor Wences here, while Christopher Guest does the voice for Johnny.
  • According to Kroeger, this was likely written by Andrew Kurtzman and Eliot Wald.

*** 1/2

SKETCH: BOWLING

  • At the bowling alley, Ricky (Billy Crystal) makes conversation and makes a 7-10 split.
  • This is a solo monologue for Crystal, who debuts his Ricky character here. Crystal is an engaging enough performer to be able to carry a completely solo piece on a darkened stage, and there are some funny bits here (the running gag with Ricky learning the relatives he asks about have died), though I could have done without the joke about dating a high school girl.

***

CARTOON: "TIPPI TURTLE" – ZANDER PRODUCTIONS INC.

  • With a few minutes to kill before the bar opens, Tippi (voice of Christopher Guest) has fun by framing an innocent bank patron (voice of Gary Kroeger) for robbery.
  • Probably the cruelest of the three Tippi Turtle pranks, but this didn’t overstay its welcome past the punchline.
  • Written by Andy Breckman
  • Another audience caption at the end; this time, a young woman is revealed to be "Two hours pregnant".

***

SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS

  • Best joke: Lawsuit playoffs
  • Ed Asner anchors tonight; he only has a handful of jokes but his delivery is fairly awkward compared to the rest of the guest anchors.
  • Paul Harvey (Rich Hall) suggests toy manufacturers get involved in the arms race, showing weapons such as the Wiffle Rocket and recommending covering the earth with Nerf. Hall’s impression is a little broader than Piscopo’s, but like with Byrne, he hits the right notes.
  • Pamela Stephenson returns to apologize for her “cheap” bit last week, says that she was tricked by some American writers into believing that most female news personalities got their start by showing their bodies, and shows doctored pictures of Diane Sawyer and Jane Pauley (and a real one of Phyllis George) before asking her left breast if it was sorry. Not quite as strong as the previous week’s bit, but a decent follow up.

** 1/2

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "DO IT AGAIN"

  • A hard rocking, echo-heavy performance of the big single from the Word of Mouth album that would be released just two days later. The band is good, and Ray Davies has energy, though the vocals seem to be a little off here.

SKETCH: YOU CAN'T PUT TOO MUCH

  • Ambiguous parting words from a retiring colleague (Ed Asner) lead to confusion among nuclear scientists regarding how much water to put in the nuclear reactor.
  • This is very much a “writer’s sketch” that was clever, well-acted, but didn’t really get too much from the audience, though the delayed response once they realized the reveal (the long silent pause when the scientists realize they had no idea what the tip meant) was satisfying. Still, this is one of those sketches that you just end up remembering well after you see it because of how smart the premise is.
  • Gary Kroeger once again makes the most of his part, getting a laugh by suggesting Asner’s character just meant they can’t but some other shift could, to which Julia Louis-Dreyfus gives a perfect “God, you’re useless.”
  • Written by Jim Downey; there is also a story with a similar premise in Rich Hall’s 2002 book Things Snowball.

*** 1/2

COMMERCIAL: PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

  • Nobody adopted Jim Belushi during the Great American Smokeout, so he’s sponsoring a young child (Frederick Koehler) to get him smoking in the American Tobacco Institute’s own event.
  • Not great, but has a few laughs (while waiting for someone to adopt him, a girl bummed a smoke from Belushi, and was adopted herself).
  • The Great American Smokeout is a real event put on by the American Cancer Society every year on the third Thursday of November.

** 1/2

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "WORD OF MOUTH"

  • A mid-tempo rocker with a catchy riff at the beginning; the title track from their new album is not The Kinks’ best song. Like the first song, Ray Davies strains on the vocals a little too much.

SKETCH: PETER PAN

  • After many years, a much older and fatter Peter Pan (Ed Asner) catches up with Wendy (Mary Gross).
  • This definitely feels like a Marilyn Suzanne Miller piece; there’s a bit of humor from the visual of Ed Asner in a Peter Pan outfit and him mentioning “years of analysis” and asking Wendy if they could “get it on”, but this is a very bittersweet and melancholy sketch that touches on themes of loss, aging, depression, settling, guilt, and rejection. Not a lot of hard laughs (aside from maybe Asner’s cock-crow and “Ow!” at the end), but Miller’s skill with writing such real scenes about people makes this worth watching.

****

GOODNIGHTS

  • Ed Asner mentions there was twice as much stuff written for tonight’s show and invites viewers to tune in next week for the other half.
  • Margaret Oberman and Marilyn Suzanne Miller are credited as guest writers.
  • Don Pardo invites viewers to “make a reservation” for the December shows and reminds them to “tip your Maître d’.”

Final Thoughts: Another fairly solid show, though some of the repeat material (Ed Grimley, Tippi Turtle, Pam’s breasts) is starting to show wear. Ed Asner was a good host despite being an awkward fit on Saturday Night News, and (aside from Harry Shearer) most of the cast has moments to shine tonight, including Pamela Stephenson. Special mention has to go to Mary Gross, who gets big showcases in both the cold opening and the final sketch of the evening, and makes a welcome return as Alfalfa in the Me and Julio sketch, as well as Rich Hall, who stars in the evening’s best piece.

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Walking After Midnight (Wing Tips)
  • Rescue Mission
  • Peter Pan
  • Me and Julio
  • 60 Minutes
  • You Can’t Put Too Much

SHOW LOWLIGHTS:

(none)

MVP:

  • Mary Gross

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN

cast

  • Jim Belushi: 4 appearances [Rescue Mission, Walking After Midnight (Wing Tips), Me and Julio, Public Service Announcement]
  • Billy Crystal: 3 appearances [Rescue Mission, 60 Minutes, Bowling]
  • Mary Gross: 4 appearances [Rescue Mission, Me and Julio, You Can’t Put Too Much, Peter Pan]
  • Christopher Guest: 3 appearances [Rescue Mission, Ed Grimley Thanksgiving, 60 Minutes], 2 voice-overs [Me and Julio, Tippi Turtle]
  • Rich Hall: 4 appearances [Rescue Mission, Walking After Midnight (Wing Tips), Saturday Night News, You Can’t Put Too Much]
  • Gary Kroeger: 3 appearances [Rescue Mission, Me and Julio, You Can’t Put Too Much]; 1 voice-over [Tippi Turtle]
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 3 appearances [Rescue Mission, Me and Julio, You Can’t Put Too Much]
  • Harry Shearer: 1 appearance [60 Minutes]; 1 voice-over [Me and Julio]
  • Martin Short: 3 appearances [Ed Grimley Thanksgiving, 60 Minutes, Me and Julio]
  • Pamela Stephenson: 4 appearances [Rescue Mission, Ed Grimley Thanksgiving, Me and Julio, Saturday Night News]

crew and extras

  • Andy Breckman: 1 appearance [You Can’t Put Too Much]
  • Kevin Kelton: 1 appearance [Me and Julio]
  • Frederick Koehler: 1 appearance [Public Service Announcement]

guests

  • Ed Asner: 6 appearances [Rescue Mission, Monologue, Ed Grimley Thanksgiving, Saturday Night News, You Can’t Put Too Much, Peter Pan]
  • The Kinks: 2 appearances [“Do It Again”, “Word of Mouth”]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • January 5, 1985
  • July 13, 1985

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.