Classic SNL Review: January 19, 1985: Roy Scheider / Billy Ocean (S10E11)

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

OPENING: INAUGURATION

  • In a preview of the coming inauguration, Nancy Reagan (voice of Pamela Stephenson) prompts Ronald Reagan with the correct words.
  • Instead of recasting the Ronald Reagan role after Harry Shearer’s firing, SNL decided to go the Not Necessarily The News route and use found footage for their Reagan sketches. This particular sketch is pretty much one joke (footage of the first inauguration with Stephenson’s voice added whispering the lines before the chief justice says them) and doesn’t really have much of a punchline.

* 1/2

MONOLOGUE

  • New Yorker Roy Scheider can’t say it’s great to be back in the city because he lives 20 blocks from the studio.
  • Not a particularly memorable monologue, but Scheider is likable and relaxed, and the last bit about the city being nice and quiet due to the lack of Dolphins, 49ers and Republicans was a good ending.

***

SKETCH: SUPER SUNDAY

  • Ricky (Billy Crystal) and Phil (Christopher Guest) trade insults and prepare to watch the Super Bowl.
  • Not my favorite characters, but this was still fairly enjoyable (Crystal and Guest seem to be trying to crack each other up by the end) and there were still some funny bits like the mini-waffles with the faces of lesser stars and the names of the porno movies they rented.
  • I’m surprised they got away with using the word “smegma”, especially as an original cast-era sketch had a character named Smegma changed to Phlegma before making it to air. Even more amazing: that word is unbleeped in the repeat.

***

SKETCH: SCALPER

  • Glenn (Roy Scheider) won’t settle for less than the full $5,000,000 value of two 50-yard-line Super Bowl tickets he won in a raffle.
  • It’s a little slow in places, but very well written and acted (particularly the twist that Glenn is a poor man who thinks he let his family down by accepting less than full price), and the escalating but insufficient offers were pretty funny: one having a suitcase full of securities, and the other bring a friend with a painting worth $2 million.
  • The long haired scalper at the beginning is future Tonight Show with Jay Leno announcer Edd Hall, who worked in the building at the time as a visuals producer for Late Night with David Letterman. Writer Rob Riley also makes another speaking appearance as Gus, the friend of Jim Belushi’s character with the valuable painting.
  • There’s a small technical error in the live broadcast where the graphic of Glenn’s house is up for a half-second before cutting back to Roy Scheider walking away from his spot on the other set. This is fixed in the rerun.
  • Written by Jim Downey; Kevin Kelton calls this a quintessential Downey sketch.

****

GUEST PERFORMANCE

  • Steven Wright dryly states some more surrealistic one-liners and imitates bowling.
  • This is one of Wright’s better appearances on the show and an improvement over his underwhelming set the previous year. Favorite jokes were the new shadow, being afraid of widths, the balsa wood house, and powdered water (“I don’t know what to add.”)

****

COMMERCIAL: FOLDGER'S CRYSTALS (repeat from 04/07/84)

SHOW: IN PRAISE OF WOMEN

  • Julio Iglesias (Gary Kroeger) is more interested in touching than talking with Dame Peggy Ashcroft (Pamela Stephenson), Simone de Beauvoir (Mary Gross) and Dr. Helen Caldicott (Julia Louis-Dreyfus)
  • It’s a little one-note, but there’s a particularly great performance by Kroeger here, who goes all-in making Iglesias into a horny creep who can’t keep his hands to himself. I also got a bit of satisfaction out of seeing Gross slap him after he motorboats her breasts. Louis-Dreyfus, Gross, and Stephenson mainly play straight here (though do well with the non-verbal disdain), but the latter (who is unrecognizable under the old-age makeup) does some funny horrified facial reactions after Kroeger picks her up.

*** 1/2

SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS

  • Best jokes: Muggers poll, Dunces Precision Drill Team
  • Christopher Guest gets more jokes to do this week; it’s a mixture of good and bad (the NASA/ET one was weak), but he’s coming into his own as an anchor despite being a little too dry for the role.
  • Ann Landers (Mary Gross) returns to read a letter from “Slam Bam, Thank You Ann” and give results of a poll about whether tenderness is preferred to the actual act of intercourse. This was short, somewhat predictable, but with a few good lines.
  • Paul Harvey (Rich Hall) returns to discuss Russia and free enterprise, but when Guest puts the kibosh on a plug for Roach Prufe, Harvey decides to speak (and plug) directly to the Russians. It’s a little too derivative of the last Paul Harvey bit, but I did like the Pep Boys style picture of Lenin, Stalin and Marx.
  • Angela Bradleigh (Pamela Stephenson) stops by on the way to the Super Bowl to discuss the game, specifically Dan Marino’s buttocks and Joe Montana having “the massive progenitive organs of a prize Angus bull”. It doesn’t really hit, but Stephenson’s skilled at switching between the mushmouth and being able to articulate the lines.
  • Critic-at-large Jim Belushi discusses the main problem with the movies (theatre-goers who don’t know how to behave) and how he responds to it (with an airhorn). It’s not the smartest or most subtle bit, but it works, and Belushi has a funny fake-out with a doll toward the end.

** 1/2

SKETCH: THE FLAMING PARROT

  • Transvestite piano bar entertainer Penny Lane (Billy Crystal) chats with a straight patron (Roy Scheider).
  • This ended up being quite a surprisingly sweet character piece; Billy Crystal did well with his character and really seemed to find the right mix of brass and dignity, and Roy Scheider worked well in his role as the somewhat oblivious married man chatting her up.

*** 1/2

SKETCH: GOOD COP, BAD COP

  • Lawrence Orbach (Martin Short) can’t grasp the concept of good cop-bad cop when his partner (Roy Scheider) wants to interrogate a suspect (Jim Belushi).
  • Short’s only appearance tonight, and the last SNL appearance of Lawrence Orbach; while nothing can touch Synchronized Swimming, I thought this was better than the Climbing the Stairs sketch. I’ve always liked sketches where characters can’t correctly grasp something, yet can fully excecute their own incorrect interpretation (Melissa Villasenor’s Dirty Talk Girl character is another one). Jim Belushi in particular get some funny reactions when Scheider’s trying to demonstrate how good cop-bad cop works.
  • Written by Kevin Kelton, Andrew Kurtzman and Eliot Wald.

*** 1/2

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "CARIBBEAN QUEEN"

  • Unfortunately, this song didn’t really translate well from the studio version of Suddenly to the live stage; the main synth riff sounds particularly tinny from the Yamaha DX7, and Ocean seeming pretty reticent in his performance. The sax solo was an exception, though.
  • I don’t know which musicians are backing up Ocean tonight.
  • In the live show, Scheider starts his introduction a few seconds too early, then restarts after a little bit of applause from the audience. The repeat cuts the first part.
  • For the second week in a row, the first musical performance of the night is pushed far back into the show past the 12:30 network ID and station break.

SKETCH: MENTAL HOSPITAL

  • Consuela (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) visits Chi Chi (Mary Gross), who self-committed to a mental hospital.
  • Probably the best use of Louis-Dreyfus and Gross’s pop culture-obsessed characters from The Ghostbuster Show, this at least gives them a bit of a life outside their TV shows. Gross’s reason for checking herself into the hospital was funny (she was upset about how much money Francis Ford Coppola was going to lose on The Cotton Club), as was Louis-Dreyfus’s weak cover (telling co-workers Chi Chi was having warts removed at “the hospital for the insane”), but Gary Kroeger steals the whole sketch as the patient who thinks he’s John Oates.
  • Kevin Kelton plays one of the mental patients in the background; looks like some of the others were also extras in the Scalper sketch (including the bearded, bespectacled guy with a cigar in his mouth in both sketches who may or may not be Andy Breckman. Doesn’t look enough like him to list him as such).

***

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "LOVERBOY"

  • Before introducing Billy Ocean again, Roy Scheider asks the audience “Don’t you think he’s great?”
  • This song’s driving riff works better with the live band than “Caribbean Queen” (though the synthesizer is still a little tinny), and Ocean seems a little more into his performance here.

GOODNIGHTS

  • Roy Scheider says “all these people are terrific!”. Martin Short is late to appear on stage and grins to the audience when he finally arrives partway through the closing credits (which no longer include Harry Shearer as a writer).
  • Ron Richards and Rosie Shuster are credited with additional sketches this week.

Final Thoughts:

This may not have looked like the most exciting show on paper, but aside from a weak start with the cold opening, tonight’s show had a lot of good or better material. Crystal, Guest and Short have prominent sketches tonight, but for most of the evening they take a backseat to the rest of the cast, including Mary Gross, Gary Kroeger and the returning Jim Belushi; even Pamela Stephenson has a better week than usual. As a host, Roy Scheider wasn’t the most memorable, but he was relaxed and he got the job done; Billy Ocean was underwhelming as a musical guest, but Steven Wright’s stand-up set made up for it.

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Scalper
  • Guest Performance
  • Good Cop, Bad Cop
  • The Flaming Parrot

SHOW LOWLIGHTS:

  • Inauguration

MVP:

  • (tie) Jim Belushi/Gary Kroeger

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN

cast

  • Jim Belushi: 3 appearances [Scalper, Saturday Night News, Good Cop, Bad Cop]
  • Billy Crystal: 2 appearances [Super Sunday, The Flaming Parrot]
  • Mary Gross: 4 appearances [Scalper, In Praise of Women, Saturday Night News, Mental Hospital]
  • Christopher Guest: 2 appearances [Super Sunday, Saturday Night News]
  • Rich Hall: 3 appearances [Scalper, Saturday Night News, Good Cop, Bad Cop]
  • Gary Kroeger: 3 appearances [Scalper, In Praise of Women, Mental Hospital]
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 2 appearances [In Praise of Women, Mental Hospital]
  • Martin Short: 1 appearance [Good Cop, Bad Cop]
  • Pamela Stephenson: 3 appearances [In Praise of Women, Saturday Night News, Mental Hospital]; 1 voice-over [Inauguration]

crew and extras

  • Edd Hall: 2 appearances [Scalper, The Flaming Parrot]
  • Kevin Kelton: 1 appearance [Mental Hospital]
  • Rob Riley: 1 appearance [Scalper]

guests                                                       

  • Roy Scheider: 4 appearances [Monologue, Scalper, The Flaming Parrot, Good Cop, Bad Cop]
  • Billy Ocean: 2 appearances [“Caribbean Queen”, “Loverboy”]
  • Steven Wright: 1 appearance [Guest Performance]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • July 6, 1985

Known alterations:

  • Minor edits to Scalper and Roy Scheider’s intro to “Caribbean Queen”

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.