Classic SNL (sorta-)Review: March 2, 1985: SNL Film Festival

Classic SNL (sorta-)Review: March 2, 1985: SNL Film Festival

Billy Crystal hosts a selection of SNL’s filmed segments from the past few seasons; Siskel & Ebert are on hand to give their reviews. Films include “Synchronized Swimming”, “Kannon AE-1”, “Walking After Midnight”, “Buddweiser Light”, “Lifestyles of the Relatives of the Rich & Famous”, “Needleman”, “Prose and Cons”, “Hitchhiker”, “Video Victims”, “Ballplayers” and “White Like Eddie”.

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Classic SNL Review: February 16, 1985: Pamela Sue Martin / The Power Station (S10E14)

Classic SNL Review: February 16, 1985: Pamela Sue Martin / The Power Station (S10E14)

Sketches include “The Joe Franklin Show”, “That White Guy & His Wife”, “Night of 100 Stars”, “Plexiglass Stand-up”, “Called Shot”, “Do You Know What I Hate (V)”, “First Draft Theatre”, “Dynasty’s Greatest Fights”, “Tom, Dick, & Horny”, and “Shootout at the Zepplin Chorale”. The Power Station performs “Some Like It Hot” and “Get It On (Bang A Gong)”.

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

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

Sketches include “Congress”, “The Kate & Ali Valentine’s Day Special”, “American Profiles”, “While You Were Gone” “Ronald Reagan Jeans”, “Oscar Talk”, “Salem Witch Trials”, “Hats” and “Small Time Agency”. Bryan Adams performs “Somebody” and “Run To You”.

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Classic SNL Review: February 2, 1985: Alex Karras / Tina Turner (S10E12)

Classic SNL Review: February 2, 1985: Alex Karras / Tina Turner (S10E12)

Sketches include “Backstage”, “Ed Grimley and Miss Malone”, “Time”, “A Couple of White Guys”, “Kelly Cola”, “Power From Giving”, “New York on Five Dollars a Day”, “Fritz’s Bait & Tackle”, “Tuesday Night Titans” and “New Auctioneer”. Tina Turner performs “What’s Love Got To Do With It”, “Better Be Good To Me”, and “Private Dancer”.

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

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

Sketches include “Inauguration”, “Super Sunday”, “Scalper”, “In Praise of Women”, “The Flaming Parrot”, “Good Cop, Bad Cop” and “Mental Hospital. Billy Ocean performs “Caribbean Queen” and “Loverboy”. Steven Wright also performs.

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Classic SNL Review: December 15, 1984: Eddie Murphy / Robert Plant & The Honeydrippers (S10E09)

Classic SNL Review: December 15, 1984: Eddie Murphy / Robert Plant & The Honeydrippers (S10E09)

Sketches include “Buckwheat Lives!”, “White Like Eddie”, “Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood”, “Milestones”, “Lifestyles of the Relatives of the Rich & Famous”, “The End of Buckwheat”, “Broadway Gumby Rose”, “Newsmakers”, “Black History Minute”, and “Climbing the Stairs.” Robert Plant & The Honeydrippers perform “Rockin’ At Midnight” and “Santa Claus is Back in Town”.

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Classic SNL Review: December 8, 1984: Ringo Starr / Herbie Hancock (S10E08)

Classic SNL Review: December 8, 1984: Ringo Starr / Herbie Hancock (S10E08)

Sketches include “Beatles Auction”, “Unlucky Man”, “Do You Know What I Hate?”, “Ringo’s Buyers”, “Strictly From Blackwell”, “Massacre on 34th Street”, “Reverse Psychology”, “Fernando’s Hideaway” and “Draft Dodger”. Herbie Hancock & The Rockit Band perform “Junku” and “Rockit”.

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Classic SNL Review: December 1, 1984: Ed Begley, Jr. / Billy Squier (S10E07)

Classic SNL Review: December 1, 1984: Ed Begley, Jr. / Billy Squier (S10E07)

Sketches include “Adopted Son”, “Kate & Ali”, “Book Beat”, “Seventh Wedge”, “Let’s Watch T.V.”, “Marty”, “Vaudeville Funeral”, “Eyeball to Eyeball”, and “Elevator Stool”. Billy Squier performs “Rock Me Tonite” and “All Night Long”.

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

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

Sketches include “Rescue Mission”, “Walking After Midnight (Wing Tips)”, “Thanksgiving”, “60 Minutes”, “Me and Julio”, “Bowling”, “Tippi Turtle”, “You Can’t Put Too Much”, “Public Service Announcement”, and “Peter Pan”. The Kinks perform “Do It Again” and “Word of Mouth”.

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Classic SNL Review: November 10, 1984: George Carlin / Frankie Goes To Hollywood (S10E05)

Classic SNL Review: November 10, 1984: George Carlin / Frankie Goes To Hollywood (S10E05)

Sketches include “Mondale Impression”, “Do You Know What I Hate? (II)”, “Profiles in Sports”, “The Joe Franklin Show”, “Rich Hall’s Election Report”, “Strategic Airborne Contraceptive”, “Ye Olde Comedy Shoppe”, “The Ghostbuster Show”, “Ted’s Book of World Records”, “Alan Thicke’s In Thickeness and In Health”, “International Star Health”, and “Not A Cop”. Frankie Goes To Hollywood performs “Two Tribes” and “Born To Run”.

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Classic SNL Review: November 3, 1984: Michael McKean / Chaka Khan (S10E04)

Classic SNL Review: November 3, 1984: Michael McKean / Chaka Khan (S10E04)

Sketches include “Gerry and the Mon-Dells”, “The Chosen Pray”, “Baby Double”, “Fernando’s Hideaway”, “The Folksmen”, “Buddy Young Jr. is Back!”, “First Draft Theatre”, “Madonna Navel Accessories”, “PBS Pledgebration”, “Rabbi”, “Mondale Headquarters” and “SNL Fashion Report”. Chaka Khan performs “I Feel For You” and “This Is My Night”.

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Name the SNL Extras #4

As part of my research for my reviews, I try to identify bit parts or recurring extras in sketches because they are often show staff like writers, production assistants, and even sometimes technical crew; I've helped Joel Navaroli, the webmaster of SNL Archives, fill in a lot of this information on his site. I've done several of these posts before (and am still looking for answers on the first, second, and third ones), but for the past little while, I've been re-sharing my old reviews on social media, and thought I'd try to get some names put to faces that have been bugging me since I originally wrote them. 

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Classic SNL Review: October 20, 1984: Rev. Jesse Jackson / Andrae Crouch, Wintley Phipps (S10E03)

Classic SNL Review: October 20, 1984: Rev. Jesse Jackson / Andrae Crouch, Wintley Phipps (S10E03)

Sketches include "Advice", "Do You Know What I Hate?", "The Question Is Moot!", "Refrigerator Magnet Safety Advisory Board", "Just Kidding", "First Class", "Tippi Turtle", "Wrong Voice, Right Face", "Funny Black People", "Jeane", "Rich Hall's Election Report", "Fashion Report" and "Rainbow Coalition". Andrae Crouch performs "Right Now" and Wintley Phipps performs "Tell Me Again".

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Classic SNL Review: October 13, 1984: Bob Uecker / Peter Wolf (S10E02)

Classic SNL Review: October 13, 1984: Bob Uecker / Peter Wolf (S10E02)

Sketches include "Password", "Snap, Crackle & Pop", "An American Portrait", "Little League Trade", "Brokaw's Complaint", "The Mamie Eisenhower Center for the Dull", "7x4", "Ballplayers", "Lost & Found", "Tippi Turtle", "SNL Mailbag", "Fresh Squeezed", and "NBC Sports Update". Peter Wolf and the House of Hits All-Stars perform "Lights Out" and "I Need You Tonight".

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Classic SNL Review: October 6, 1984: (no host) / Thompson Twins (S10E01)

Classic SNL Review: October 6, 1984: (no host) / Thompson Twins (S10E01)

Sketches include: "Lifestyles of the Relatives of the Rich & Famous", "Return of the Torch", "Rich Hall's Election Report", "Wheel of Fortune Interview", "Grandpa Howard", "Synchronized Swimming", "Mondale & Ferraro", "The Bulge", "First Draft Theater", and "Book Beat". Thompson Twins perform "Hold Me Now" and "The Gap".

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SNL Up Close: 1984-85

Saturday Night Live executive producer Dick Ebersol and producer Bob Tischler had more or less righted the ship by 1984, but Eddie Murphy’s departure that February meant the show had lost its biggest star and a crucial factor in the show’s survival to that point. Despite this loss, the show made it to the end of the season, but SNL’s future was uncertain; the season finale featuring five hosts could have would up being the last show, but was successful enough to earn the show another season and its first Emmy nomination since 1980.

Breaking with the show’s tradition of breaking undiscovered talent, Ebersol and Tischler signed a number of established comedy performers, many to higher-priced one-season contracts: Billy Crystal, already a two-time host the previous season; Martin Short from the just-ended SCTV; Christopher Guest and one-time SNL regular Harry Shearer, fresh off acclaim (and an SNL musical guest gig) for This Is Spinal Tap; Rich Hall from Fridays and Not Necessarily The News, and Pamela Stephenson from NNTN’s British progenitor Not The Nine O’Clock News. All but Stephenson were also credited as writers.  

To make room for the new group, Ebersol and Tischler cleaned house: Joe Piscopo, whose impact on the show slowly waned over the course of the previous season, was out, as were Tim Kazurinsky, Robin Duke and Brad Hall.  In the writers’ room, rookies Adam Green and Michael McCarthy were gone; Pam Norris, Margaret Oberman and head writer Andrew Smith had also departed as full-time writers, though the latter two would still occasionally contribute to SNL on a freelance basis over the coming year. Joining the writing staff that year were Fridays regular Larry David, Second City alum Rob Riley, and returning SNL writer Jim Downey, as well as a number of guest writers over the course of the season.

Despite these big changes, returning players Jim Belushi, Mary Gross, Gary Kroeger and Julia Louis-Dreyfus helped lend the show some continuity. Many key writers from the previous seasons also remained: Andy Breckman and Kevin Kelton returned for their second year, Andrew Kurtzman his third, Bob Tischler, Eliot Wald and Nate Herman their fourth; original SNL writer Herb Sargent also remained on board. Like in previous years, Ebersol and Tischler prioritized sketches featuring the bigger stars, leaving the remaining cast and writers to compete for the remaining airtime; beside the new group of writer-performers, Breckman and the team of Kelton, Kurtzman and Wald contributed a lot of this year’s scripts.

SNL in 1984-85 featured a growing reliance on pre-taped sketches (most directed by Guest, Breckman, Claude Kerven or John Fox), and an even stronger reliance on recurring characters: on any given show, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest and Martin Short usually dominated the first half hour with immediately recognizable characters. Crystal in particular thrived this year, owing much to his professionalism and willingness to collaborate with the other writers, while Harry Shearer’s relationship with the show soured almost immediately. A talented but exacting writer and performer, Shearer’s strengths were less compatible with Dick Ebersol’s more commercial direction for the show, and backstage tensions grew so toxic that Ebersol cut him loose mid-season.

Saturday Night News continued to limp along with guest anchors until Christopher Guest was installed as permanent anchor in December, with mixed results; Guest’s versatility made him a valuable addition to sketches, but on-camera as himself, his aloof demeanor tended to cross over into outright dullness. An SNL staple since the first show, the news parody had de-emphasized political satire in favor of guest commentary pieces by this point, and several shows this season dispensed with the news segment altogether.

A writers’ strike briefly interrupted the season in March, but the show returned for a final three-episode stretch, ending the year a month earlier than normal on April 13. By that point, Ebersol had grown tired of SNL’s grueling production schedule, and opted to focus his energies on Friday Night Videos and Saturday Night’s Main Event, a series of wrestling specials that ran in the SNL timeslot.

As usual, I will be posting sketch-by-sketch reviews, with new posts uploaded every weekend. Any information regarding the sketches (such as sketch authorship) and shows is certainly welcome, and will be incorporated into my reviews with acknowledgement

The episodes (with links to episode summaries in the SNL Archives):