Classic SNL Review: February 9, 1985: Harry Anderson / Bryan Adams (S10E13)

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

OPENING: CONGRESS

  • Robert Latta (Rich Hall) wanders into the State of the Union address to present Ronald Reagan a birthday cake.
  • This was short, just Rich Hall greenscreened into the scene to present a cake and drop Alka-Seltzer into Tip O’Neill’s water glass. Amusing, but nothing memorable other than the fact that they’re already bringing back the Latta impression just a week after it debuted.

** 1/2

MONOLOGUE

  • Prime-time star Harry Anderson disavows his earlier act and tries “good clean fun” with Skippy the Guinea Pig.
  • This was funny and right in line with Anderson’s better routines on the show. I love how the audience lets out a horrified groan when he says that Skippy does acrobatic tricks, and the punchline (“You don’t work, you don’t live!”) was well executed.
  • The original broadcast of this show has a promo for a Night Court episode (“Billie’s Valentine”) during the midnight network ID and station break; as well, SNL writer Kevin Kelton would later write for Night Court in its final two seasons.

****

COMMERCIAL: THE KATE & ALI VALENTINE'S DAY SPECIAL

  • The four-time Oscar winner (Martin Short) and three-time heavyweight champion (Billy Crystal) prepare for Valentine’s Day.
  • It wasn’t necessary to do a retread of Kate & Ali, but this has its moments (I like how this special is inexplicably three hours long), and the ending with them ending up in bed provided a bigger finish than the first sketch.

***

SHOW: AMERICAN PROFILES

  • Herb (Christopher Guest) and Al Minkman (Billy Crystal) live their dream by playing baseball with and pranks on former Mets greats during Dream Week ‘85.
  • While this is not going to make anyone forget the 60 Minutes sketch, and I think the Minkmans would have been best off as one-shot characters, this was well directed (by Guest) and the baseball related pranks sequences are fun (though my favorite part was the two taking credit for inventing The Wave).
  • The baseball sequences prominently use John Fogerty’s “Centrefield”; the album had just been released less than a month before this aired, while the single would be released a month afterward.

***

MISCELLANEOUS: DUELING MAGI

  • Doug Henning (Rich Hall) and Harry Anderson do battle with magic tricks.
  • Short; again, Hall’s Henning isn’t great but it is funny, and Anderson’s responses to Henning’s “illusions” were well done.

***

SKETCH: WHILE YOU WERE GONE

  • Delayed at the post office, Cecil (Jim Belushi) comes home to find his wife (Mary Gross) has remarried.
  • A funny premise which gets a little more surreal as it reveals all that happened in the space of his 20 minute delay. Jim Belushi has a good performance, but Mary Gross has the best line of the sketch (“Life is for the prompt!”)
  • Written by Kevin Kelton, Andrew Kurtzman and Eliot Wald.

*** 1/2

COMMERCIAL: RONALD REAGAN JEANS

  • Guaranteed to voluntarily shrink by five percent.
  • This is just footage of a Reagan press conference at Rancho del Cielo edited into the format of a Calvin Klein Jeans commercial. Pretty forgettable, but it hit with the audience.
  • Going to commercial, a young woman in the audience is captioned as a "celebrity in disguise".

** 1/2

SKETCH: OSCAR TALK

  • On a snowy day, Ricky (Billy Crystal) and Phil (Christopher Guest) play Trivial Pursuit and try to guess who will win this year’s Oscars.
  • Another set of characters that probably should have been left a one-off (appearing just two episodes after their first appearance together), but this one at least has some funnier bits than the first Ricky & Phil sketch (Phil not knowing the simple questions but demonstrating in-depth knowledge of foreign films, Ricky deciding the Best Actor Oscar winner because nobody else is named F.).

***

SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS

  • Best joke: Banning beer ads.
  • Christopher Guest’s hair is wet and dishevelled-looking; he also has a weaker set of jokes tonight including a lengthy photo-montage of the Reagans and other people being affectionate. That has a few funny moments, though.
  • Caspar Weinberger (Rich Hall) announces he is going to hold his breath until the defense department gets the full $285 billion budget increase he is asking for, and Guest returns to check in after every few jokes. It’s a little obvious, but I enjoyed the sight gags of the fake bugged-out eyes and the balloon Weinberger head deflating.
  • Buddy Young Jr. (Billy Crystal) does a routine about visiting a Hawaiian restaurant; Crystal is good as the character, but the funnier part is when he goes into the audience and confronts Waylon Jennings (“When did you go Hassid?”), Johnny Cash (who really seems to be enjoying the insult jokes) and Christopher Reeve. Jessi Colter, June Carter Cash and Marty Stuart (who was Cash’s son-in-law at the time) are also visible in the audience here.

***

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "SOMEBODY"

  • Harry Anderson has Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s head in a spinning box, and they both introduce Bryan Adams, who performs his current single off of Reckless.
  • This sounds very good live; maybe a little slick but compared to a lot of the thin-sounding musical performances of the last year or a so, this was one of the better performances of the season.
  • In the live show, the camera appears to have been bumped during one of the shots during the chorus; this is replaced in reruns with either an alternate angle or different footage edited in seamlessly.

SKETCH: SALEM WITCH TRIALS

  • 20th Century-style public defender Larry Grosvenor (Martin Short) represents Edward Abbey Manning (Gary Kroeger) using in the 1690s.
  • This is a sketch I’ve always liked; good premise, great performance by Martin Short, and peppered with memorable bits throughout (particularly Jim Belushi as the prosecutor delivering the evidence, arguments and proof: he prepares to read from notes, then just points at Kroeger and screams “WIIIIIIITCH!”).
  • Pamela Stephenson also gets one of her better roles of the season as the adulteress who claims Manning impregnated her with Satan’s child while in the form of a goat (“He took me to a restaurant!”)
  • Future award-winning composer Marc Shaiman, then SNL’s rehearsal pianist, can be seen as one of the courtroom spectators.
  • Written by Kevin Kelton, Andrew Kurtzman and Eliot Wald; according to Kelton, Short’s character was originally intended to be in 20th century dress, but Dick Ebersol and Dave Wilson insisted he be in period costume as well.

*** 1/2

MISCELLANEOUS: HATS

  • Harry Anderson recalls how a man named Morris taught him how to make a wide variety of hats using a felt donut.
  • This is actually a pretty impressive example of chapeaugraphy, and Anderson tells a good story while showing off his skills.

****

SKETCH: SMALL TIME AGENCY

  • Georgeanna (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has the talent to go solo but owes her untalented Aunt Helen (Mary Gross) for saving her life twice.
  • One of the unsung gems of the season, with good work from Louis-Dreyfus and Gary Kroeger, and one of Gross’s best performances (particularly her alternate lyrics to “Summertime”); what really makes this for me is the obvious stock-footage “threats” that Aunt Helen saves Georgeanna from (“Duck, Georgeanna, a gangster!”).
  • Marc Shaiman appears again here, this time as Sid the pianist.

****

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "RUN TO YOU"

  • Good performance of the lead single from Reckless; this also makes prominent use of a dutch angle on one of the camera’s shots.

GOODNIGHTS

  • Harry Anderson holds Skippy and says they were just kidding about the monologue, “thanks to Chris (Cluess) and Stu (Kriesman)” (Night Court’s story editors that season), and “I love you” to wife Leslie and daughter Eva before bringing Carol Burnett on stage, introducing her as “one of the reasons we’re all in this business”. Robert Latta (Rich Hall) wanders in front of home base before Bryan Adams brings him onstage.
  • Eva Anderson is now a TV writer, having written for Comedy Bang! Bang! and You’re The Worst.
  • Margaret Oberman and Bruce Vilanch are credited with additional sketches.
  • Don Pardo teases next week’s show with Pamela Sue Martin by mentioning “the mysterious disappearance of Dynasty’s Fallon” and the American debut of Power Station, “featuring members of Duran Duran”.

Final Thoughts:

A consistent but somewhat forgettable show that improves as it goes on. The first part of the show was weighed down with a lot of the second-tier recurring characters; given the talent and professionalism of this cast and writers, these sketches were still funny, just not particularly memorable. However, as the night went on, the more interesting original sketches made more of an impact. Anderson was an OK host, though his appearances as himself were stronger than his sketch work. Fitting with the theme of the show, Bryan Adams was also solid, if not particularly electrifying.

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Small Time Agency
  • Monologue
  • Hats
  • Salem Witch Trials

SHOW LOWLIGHTS:

(none)

MVP:

(tie) Rich Hall/Martin Short

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN:

cast

  • Jim Belushi: 2 appearances [While You Were Gone, Salem Witch Trials]
  • Billy Crystal: 4 appearances [The Kate & Ali Valentine’s Day Special, American Profiles, Oscar Talk, Saturday Night News]
  • Mary Gross: 2 appearances [While You Were Gone, Small Time Agency]
  • Christopher Guest: 4 appearances [American Profiles, While You Were Gone, Oscar Talk, Saturday Night News]; 1 voice-over [The Kate & Ali Valentine’s Day Special]
  • Rich Hall: 5 appearances [Congress, Dueling Magi, Saturday Night News, Salem Witch Trials, Goodnights]; 1 voice-over [Ronald Reagan Jeans]
  • Gary Kroeger: 2 appearances [Salem Witch Trials, Small Time Agency]
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 2 appearances [American Profiles, Small Time Agency]
  • Martin Short: 2 appearances [The Kate & Ali Valentine’s Day Special, Salem Witch Trials]
  • Pamela Stephenson: 2 appearances [Dueling Magi, Salem Witch Trials]

crew and extras

  • Marc Shaiman: 2 appearances [Salem Witch Trials, Small Time Agency]

guests

  • Harry Anderson: 5 appearances [Monologue, Dueling Magi, While You Were Gone, Salem Witch Trials, Hats]
  • Bryan Adams: 2 appearances [“Somebody”, “Run To You”]
  • Carol Burnett: 1 appearance: [Goodnights]
  • Johnny Cash: 1 appearance [Saturday Night News]
  • June Carter Cash: 1 appearance [Saturday Night News]
  • Jessi Colter: 1 appearance [Saturday Night News]
  • Waylon Jennings: 1 appearance [Saturday Night News]
  • Christopher Reeve: 1 appearance [Saturday Night News]
  • Marty Stuart: 1 appearance [Saturday Night News]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • May 25, 1985

Known alterations:

  • Ronald Reagan Jeans removed
  • Small edit in “Somebody” to fix camera bump

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.