Classic SNL Review: January 12, 1985: Kathleen Turner / John Waite (S10E10)

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

OPENING: GREEN ROOM

  • Fernando (Billy Crystal) visits new studio neighbor Donahue’s green room, and encounters dwarf transvestites (Butch and Pepe), a pleasant Nazi (Rob Riley), and subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz (Rich Hall).
  • A new setting for Fernando, which gives him a chance to interact with more people, and a topical sketch referencing the subway shooting of three weeks before (the part where Fernando asks Goetz for a quarter and he approaches him menacingly get laughter and applause from the audience).
  • I always thought it was interesting they gave a fairly big speaking role to one of the writers here. This also ended up being the last SNL appearance of the show’s recurring dwarf extras Butch and Pepe.

*** 1/2

MONOLOGUE

  • Kathleen Turner introduces “Jack Nicholson” in the audience and shows stills from her film roles that show her growing sexier with each new part.
  • This was pretty weak; it feels like the “stills from previous roles” thing is the show’s crutch this season whenever they’re having trouble coming up with a monologue for the host.
  • Kathleen Turner exclaims “It’s about time they had a woman hosting this show!” at the beginning; I didn’t think about it beforehand, but Turner was the first woman to host since last year’s season finale where Betty Thomas was one of the five hosts. There were also no women credited as part of the regular writing staff this season, though a number of former writers (Margaret Oberman, Rosie Shuster and Anne Beatts) had “additional sketches” credits on various shows.

**

COMMERCIAL: MACDOUGLASS-DRUMMOND

  • Pitchman (Harry Shearer) shows the defence contractor’s rudimentary yet overpriced line of products.
  • A concise, smart and cutting indictment of military spending that kills with the audience. Harry Shearer’s particularly good here (I love “It boils, it boils, it even boils!” for the coffee pot), though I did notice a small slip where he starts to say “MacDonnell Douglass.”

****

SKETCH: DO YOU KNOW WHAT I HATE? (IV)

  • On vacation, Willie (Billy Crystal) and Frankie (Christopher Guest) discuss more self-injury as they participate in a waterski pyramid.
  • Pretty much the same Willie and Frankie formula as usual, although this one is dominated by the use of a green screen and stock footage, punctuated by the occasional shout of “White caps!” or “Choppy waters!”, and Billy Crystal has an extended bit where him imitates his tongue getting stuck in the garbage disposal. The mention of the iguana from a trained lizard show with no further elaboration needed was funny, but overall this was a weaker installment.

** 1/2

SKETCH: NOSE HAIR TRIMMER

  • Walter (Gary Kroeger) justifies the importance of professional nose hair trimming to the building manager (Christopher Guest) seeking to kick his stand out.
  • A very silly sketch written by Kroeger, featuring his underrated Walter character. Kathleen Turner was a good sport here, allowing Kroeger to dig into her nostril with his finger, while Billy Crystal and Chris Guest have particularly interesting characters of their own here (the latter seems to be channelling Morty Schmegman in his building manager character).

***

COMMERCIAL: SAFECO

  • Safeco’s Dura-Guard II plate glass is tough enough to withstand the impact of Joan Collins (Pamela Stephenson) being used as a battering ram.
  • The underused Stephenson (who only appears in this pre-tape tonight) gets some laughs from her protests as she’s used to test the glass, but this wasn’t particularly memorable.
  • Directed by John Coles, who also helmed the season-opening Lifestyles of the Relatives of the Rich & Famous sketch.

** 1/2

SKETCH: FIRE DANCE

  • Overprotective father Brad Allen (Martin Short) uses his fireplace to hypnotize his daughter’s date (Billy Crystal).
  • This sketch is probably best known for the blooper where Crystal’s wig gets knocked out of place when Martin Short hits it, which causes Julia Louis-Dreyfus (making her only appearance tonight) to start to lose her composure, then she and Short grab the wig and fix it, which causes Billy Crystal to start giggling. Other than that, though, I thought this sketch was overlong and forgettable, despite Short and Christopher Guest’s characters.
  • Short is playing one of his lesser known SCTV characters here, a boorish scrap metal magnate and host of “Artistans and Their Art” (which his company underwrites); it was an interesting (but not particularly successful) way to get him in a new context. I don’t think he used as much padding on SCTV as he did here.

** 1/2

SKETCH: PREDICTIONS

  • Jeane Dixon (Mary Gross) makes her predictions for the coming year.
  • This was Gross’s only on-camera appearance tonight (sense a trend?), and unfortunately this was also the weakest segment of the evening. I did laugh at the off-screen voice (which sounded like Larry David) yelling “That already happened!” at Dixon’s “prediction” about Elvis’s 50th birthday.
  • The hose filling the set with smoke can be seen on-camera at the very beginning.

**

SHOW: THE JOE FRANKLIN SHOW

  • Joe’s (Billy Crystal) guests are Alan Arkin (Christopher Guest), rising actress Daphne Clayton (Kathleen Turner), and Doug Henning (Martin Short).
  • This was even funnier than the first Joe Franklin sketch, with Turner’s character getting laughs with her show’s inherent awfulness (“Please come, it’s free!”) and Martin Short’s Henning annoying Guest’s grumpy Arkin with his tricks (“What are you doing?”).
  • Favorite part: When Franklin asks Henning about his New Year’s resolution: “I resolve that each day will be filled with magical possibilities! And these possibilities, because they are magic, will be only illusions!”, to which Arkin can only respond with “What are you talking about?”

****

SKETCH: BOXER

  • Boxing match peanut vendor Tony Minetti (Billy Crystal) recalls his own days in the ring.
  • More solid character work from Crystal here, but I didn’t think this was as engaging as his previous solo monologue piece in the Asner show.

** 1/2

SKETCH: SCARY LADY

  • Victoria (Kathleen Turner) plots out a future with newly single Adam (Martin Short) just after they meet at a loft party.
  • The writing definitely felt liked a throwback to the more realistic sketches of the original cast era, though I thought Turner’s performance was the weak link here; I don’t think she really sold the desperation in her aggressiveness. I wonder how it would have worked if one of the regulars played Victoria.
  • Written by Rosie Shuster.

***

SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS

  • Christopher Guest is actually improving as an anchor; he only has two jokes tonight, but the cabinet shuffle summary lands well and the Elvis joke also works. He still does better playing off the guest commentaries, though, particularly his “that’s very sad” after Gary Kroeger’s bit.
  • Gary Kroeger discusses the trend of beefcake calendars, and hops on that bandwagon with his own “Kroeger-A-Month” calendar (which he’s selling in the lobby at a discount). This is the stuff Kroeger does very well, with some nice self-deprecation in there (the first anniversary of him losing his virginity).
  • Rich Hall takes over the role of Doug Henning, who is now Reagan’s new financial advisor (tying in nicely to the cabinet shuffle joke at the beginning), and has Guest help him make the deficit disappear. Hall’s impression isn’t as good as Short’s (then again, Hall’s impressions have an “I’m not under any pretense that I’m an impressionist” quality to them I like, similar to Norm Macdonald), but this piece is still pretty funny, and not just only for the blooper where Hall’s fake buck-teeth fall out of his mouth.

***

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "SATURDAY NIGHT"

  • Instead of doing his big hit “Missing You”, Waite plays the high-energy hard rocking lead track from No Brakes; I thought this was a wise choice. Unfortunately, this wasn’t shot very well (you don’t see keyboard player Tommy Mandel at all until the very end). Waite also seems to screw up and sing the “Monday, Tuesday…” part at the wrong point in the song; he also adds in a spoken “bollocks” later in the song.
  • Aside from Mandel, Waite’s band includes Earl Slick (guitar), Carmine Rojas (bass) and Alan Childs (drums). Childs’ bass drum has “We Love U Dee” stencilled on it.

SKETCH: STRICTLY FROM BLACKWELL

  • Mr. Blackwell (Harry Shearer) interviews Bobby Bouchet (Martin Short), star of a dinner theatre production of Irma La Douce.
  • A low key sketch with good work from Shearer and Short, and the details of the show itself are pretty hilarious in themselves (a seven-person cast compared to 40-50 on Broadway, the score is for piano, organ and harp).
  • According to Raj Kaup, Shearer imported this from his radio show, where Tom Leopold (who also co-wrote this piece) portrayed Bobby Bouchet. During the goodnights, Shearer holds a “Thanks, Tom” sign as a shout-out to his collaborator.
  • It also seems like there’s a technical error at the very beginning of the sketch, where there is no music playing during the title screen like last time; after a few seconds of silence, Shearer begins speaking.
  • This would be Shearer’s final SNL appearance. Following this show, Dick Ebersol fired him. (Technically, Shearer was released from his contract and would continue to be credited and paid for the remainder of the season.) In Live From New York, Ebersol says that “[Shearer was] just so demanding on the preciseness of things and he’s very, very hard on the working people . . .” According to writer Kevin Kelton, this came to a head between dress rehearsal and air that night, when Shearer allegedly reduced a production assistant to tears. Ebersol and Bob Tischler decided Shearer was more trouble than his star power and creative input were worth. An NBC press release was issued about Shearer’s departure citing “creative differences,” to which Shearer quipped “I was creative and they were different.”

*** 1/2

MISCELLANEOUS: KILLING TIME

  • With only seconds available between commercial breaks, Kathleen Turner tells viewers to stay tuned.
  • No rating as this is only 10 seconds long maximum. I wonder if this was supposed to be where the second musical performance was scheduled.
  • According to Nate Herman, one of the sketches cut after dress rehearsal was about a woman trying to score an apartment at a shiva, written by Larry David.

GOODNIGHTS

  • Kathleen Turner says she had a great time; Butch and Pepe are on stage with the cast. Harry Shearer holds his “Thanks Tom” sign.
  • Don Pardo announces the next show lineup with Roy “Jaws” Scheider and Billy “Loverboy” Ocean, before signing off as Don “Loverjaws” Pardo.
  • Bruce Feirstein (Goldeneye, The World is Not Enough and Tomorrow Never Dies), Ron Richards (Not Necessarily The News) and Rosie Shuster are credited with additional sketches.

Final Thoughts:

A bit of a noticeable drop down in quality from the first half of the season; while the cast and writers’ professionalism prevents things from getting unwatchable, the first half of the show has quite a few duller pieces and a recurring sketch that’s starting to lose steam. As a host, Kathleen Turner was game, but she didn’t really bring too much to the sketches (aside from maybe the Joe Franklin Show), and the women in the cast didn’t get much to do tonight. However, there are a few funny unplanned moments this week, one of which livens up an otherwise overlong sketch, and Harry Shearer gets two of the better pieces into what ended up being his final show. As well, even though he only appears in the weaker first half of the show, Billy Crystal demonstrates that he has become the reliable backbone of the cast by this point in the season, doing an impressive six appearances in that span.

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:             

  • The Joe Franklin Show
  • MacDouglass-Drummond
  • Strictly From Blackwell
  • Green Room

SHOW LOWLIGHTS:

  • Monologue
  • Predictions

MVP:

Billy Crystal/Harry Shearer

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN

cast

  • Jim Belushi: absent
  • Billy Crystal: 6 appearances [Green Room, Do You Know What I Hate? (IV), Nose Hair Trimmer, Fire Dance, The Joe Franklin Show, Boxer]
  • Mary Gross: 1 appearance [Predictions]; 1 voice-over [Fire Dance]
  • Christopher Guest: 5 appearances [Do You Know What I Hate? (IV), Nose Hair Trimmer, Fire Dance, The Joe Franklin Show, Saturday Night News]
  • Rich Hall: 3 appearances [Green Room, Nose Hair Trimmer, Saturday Night News]
  • Gary Kroeger: 3 appearances [Nose Hair Trimmer, Safeco, Saturday Night News]
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 1 appearance [Fire Dance]
  • Harry Shearer: 2 appearances [MacDouglass-Drummond, Strictly From Blackwell]; 1 voice-over [Predictions]
  • Martin Short: 4 appearances [Fire Dance, The Joe Franklin Show, Scary Lady, Strictly From Blackwell]
  • Pamela Stephenson: 1 appearance [Safeco]

crew and extras

  • Andy Breckman: 1 appearance [Scary Lady]
  • Butch: 1 appearance [Green Room]
  • Larry David: 1 appearance [Scary Lady]; 1 voice-over [Predictions]
  • Barry Nichols: 1 appearance [Scary Lady]
  • Pepe: 1 appearance [Green Room]
  • Rob Riley: 2 appearances [Green Room, Scary Lady]
  • Rosie Shuster: 1 appearance [Scary Lady]
  • Dave Wilson: 1 voice-over [Monologue]

guests

  • Kathleen Turner: 5 appearances [Monologue, Nose Hair Trimmer, The Joe Franklin Show, Scary Lady, Killing Time]
  • John Waite: 1 appearance [“Saturday Night”]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • April 27, 1985

Known alterations:

  • Safeco and Killing Time removed
  • Jogger Motel (from 10/31/81) added

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.