SNL Season 6: Final cast and episode summary

The cast:

Denny Dillon and Gilbert Gottfried

Denny Dillon and Gilbert Gottfried

Denny Dillon: Dillon made a strong impression fairly early by carrying a lot of the sketches in the first two shows of the season, having the first recurring character of the new cast, and bringing needed energy to weaker sketches.  There was a little bit of a sameness to her performances that became more evident over the season, but she was a consistent, dependable performer.  She gave a lot of her castmates a boost whenever she shared sketches with them (Gail Matthius' Vickie was better once she had Dillon's Debbie to play off), and just seemed to exhibit a willingness and commitment in whatever she appeared in.  [MVP: Gould, McDowell]

Gilbert Gottfried: It's a little disarming to see Gofffried in these shows, especially since he was so young, with his eyes wide open and not speaking in that famous stilted squawk.  Where Dillon jumped in, Gottfried had a tendency to hold back: the legend goes that he didn't want to use his A-material on the show because he was concerned the network would claim ownership.  Gottfried's performances would end up being the clearest barometer of the Jean Doumanian era: early on, he's more lively and animated, if a little green, but toward the end of the season, he is a little more sullen and withdrawn.  His decrease in spark could have been because he got some of the most thankless jobs on the show that didn't go to featured players (having to wear the Master Po makeup all night in Carradine, playing a vegetable along the featureds in Dazola, and his nadir: being the corpse in a funeral sketch).  Like most of the cast, though, he was not without his moments: he worked well with Dillon as the Waxmans, and I thought his collaborations with writer Ferris Butler were particularly fruitful.  [MVP: Kellerman]

Gail Matthius

Gail Matthius

Gail Matthius: Matthius definitely had potential to be a great cast member, and hit the highest highs out of all three female leads, but she also had a few really frustrating moments on the show.  Impressions were her weakest point, and despite her efforts, she didn't really have the ability to rise above some of the material she was given.  She had a rough time on Weekend Update as well; fumbling a bit in her early shows at the desk and getting saddled with some of the worst jokes ever written.  These missteps seem even more disappointing because when she was actually given good material, she did quite well: I especially liked Francis Lively and the little girl character she played in "Lonely Old Lady", and thought she ended up going out on a strong note with "Same".  I can only wonder how she would have fared on a different incarnation of the show.  [MVP: Carradine, Harry]

Joe Piscopo

Joe Piscopo

Joe Piscopo: Piscopo ended up being one of the two castmembers that stole Charles Rocket's thunder by demonstrating he was a better fit for the characters and celebrity impressions that the show built its name on in the first five seasons.  Piscopo was consistent, well-rounded, and seemed to feel more natural in the prominent roles that Rocket was being schooled for.  I'd draw the line at calling Piscopo an MVP of the season: I believe the key to his relative success this year were clear and repeated hooks in his signature bits (SNL Sports and Paulie Herman; Sinatra developed more fully after Ebersol took over), but he was always more of a "safe" performer and didn't have the kind of charisma that demanded attention like what Eddie Murphy provided, a quality that was desperately needed this season. [MVP: Gould]

Charles Rocket and Ann Risley

Charles Rocket and Ann Risley

Ann Risley: I actually thought Risley handled the straighter roles fairly well.  Risley never managed to have a recurring character, and there were a few performances of hers that were pretty dodgy (mainly as the hosts of "Dying To Be Heard" and "Was I Ever Red"), but I wonder how much of it was actually her acting style (she's more of a straight actress) and how much of it was the writers not finding a breakout role for her (she did come close with the Toni Tenille sketch).  Some say that she was a poor fit for SNL, but I saw a few small glimpses of a potential Kristen Wiig-style performer whose true gift was understatement, although Wiig had the added benefit of being able to write for herself.  A key part of success on the show is either writing for yourself or finding the right writer to collaborate with; I don't know whether Risley had that support for herself.

Charles Rocket: Doumanian was banking too much on Rocket to be the breakout star: usually when something is pushed so heavily, it only helps build a backlash toward the performer.  Rocket was no exception, and he had a few liabilities that probably hurt him on the show: his impressions were weak, and whenever he tried to play big (like his February Updates or even in Billy-Gram), he chewed so much scenery it was distracting.  When he dialed it back, though, he was a decent utility player, and his strengths in those roles presage his respectable career as a character actor.  Rocket's true strength on the show, though, was catching people off-guard during The Rocket Report, where a different type of charm emerged than when he was doing sketches.  Unfortunately, Rocket became the public face for Jean Doumanian's mistakes on the show, and that one moment during the Charlene Tilton goodnights overshadowed pretty much everything he did since, even after he took his own life.  [MVP: Black]

Yvonne Hudson and Charles Rocket

Yvonne Hudson and Charles Rocket

Yvonne Hudson: SNL's first black female featured player was essentially doing the same types of roles she had been doing uncredited for the previous few seasons; aside from some increased prominence in sketches for a few episodes, she was still essentially an extra on the show.  There is actually one episode where she has less lines that SNL's resident "old man" extra, Andy Murphy.  Despite no longer being in the opening credits, she was kept around as an extra the next few seasons.

Matthew Laurance and Eddie Murphy

Matthew Laurance and Eddie Murphy

Matthew Laurance: Aside from Eddie Murphy, Laurance was the most prominent of the featured players.  I thought he was decent as a utility man, and served as a good counterpoint to the more exaggerated performances of Rocket and Piscopo, even if he didn't make a strong impression on his own.  I wonder how he would have done with one of Rocket or Piscopo's pitchman roles.

 

Eddie Murphy: From his first speaking role, Murphy demonstrated why he was full cast material.  There were a few appearances that betrayed his inexperience (particularly Newsbreak in Harry), but he had a confidence that the others in the cast seemed to lack, and made stronger impressions in less airtime than most of the cast did in more.   [MVP: Burstyn, Sharkey, Hays, Tilton]

Patrick Weathers

Patrick Weathers

Patrick Weathers: His Bob Dylan sketch in Carradine was the main thing that distinguished him; he might have made a bigger impact if he was given more to do.  I won't hold Ravi Sings against him.





Robin Duke

Robin Duke

Robin Duke: Out of Dick Ebersol's three full-cast hires, Duke made a smallest impression of the three, getting a band intro, a leftover Jane Curtin role, a decent part in a five-man sketch and a last-minute voice-over in the bag lady film.  None of these roles really showed what she was known for on SCTV, and viewers would get a better glimpse of her capabilities the next season.  Part of this can be attributed to the fact that Duke was a last-minute addition: Catherine O'Hara was originally slated to be on the show in her place (and was listed in news articles as late as five days before airtime), but O'Donoghue's first staff meeting seemed to justify her reticence towards joining the SNL cast.  O'Hara recommended old friend Duke for the show, and a month later, O'Hara was on the same network with the resurrected SCTV.  If the strike hadn't happened, Duke could have made an impact as soon as the next show.

Tim Kazurinksy and Tony Rosato

Tim Kazurinksy and Tony Rosato

Tim Kazurinsky: Kazurinsky seemed to fit SNL immediately, and ended up dominating the first Ebersol-produced show.  Part of Kazurisnky's strong first outing comes from his prominence in two of the longer pieces, but being a combination writer/performer, and coming from an improv background certainly helped him hit the ground running.  It was John Belushi's recommendation that got Kazurinsky hired on the show, and Belushi's instincts turned out to be correct.  [MVP: Finale]

Tony Rosato: Like Duke, Rosato came from SCTV, and like Kazurinsky, he was hired as a writer/performer and made a fairly strong impression in his first show.  He and Kazurinsky worked well together in their two main sketches, but he would find a stronger footing the following season.

Laurie Metcalf

Laurie Metcalf

Laurie Metcalf: One of the most successful people to have an incredibly brief SNL tenure, Metcalf's sole appearance on the show was a pre-filmed "man on the street" piece.   I can't assess how she would have fared if Ebersol kept her on based on that one segment.




Emily Prager

Emily Prager

Emily Prager: Prager didn't even appear on-camera during her only live show.  She has, however, appeared on the show before and after her tenure as a featured player: she was a girlfriend of Tom Davis' and appeared occasionally as an extra around 1977-78; she and Davis also appear in the Button film next season.

 

 

Strongest shows:

  1.  Karen Black / Cheap Trick, Stanley Clarke: (Average rating: 3.18/5) The show where everything seemed to go right.  It's not flawless (SNL rarely is) but the combination of an energetic host, more determined writing and a receptive audience worked wonders.  As much as Black and the audience kept things lively, the victory belongs to the cast and writers.
  2. Bill Murray / Delbert McClinton: (Average rating: 3.11/5) This is the textbook example of the host bringing a boost to the show.  The previous four shows were dispirited affairs, and the prior show in particular contained the moment that overshadowed the rest of the Doumanian-era.  Murray shows up and infuses what would be the final Doumanian-produced SNL with energy and the sense of fun that had all but vanished in the second half of the season.
  3. No Host / Jr. Walker & The All-Stars: (Average rating: 2.88/5) Ebersol takes over, cleans house (as much as the budget would allow), and makes an appeal to nostalgia with his first show.  It's weighed down by Chevy Chase's disappointing Weekend Update return engagement, but this one remains consistently watchable if not an all-out return to form.

Weakest shows:

  1. Robert Hays / Joe "King" Carrasco & The Crown, 14 Karat Soul: (Average rating: 2/5) The string of mediocre-to-bad sketches that come after Weekend Update is the air seeping out of the SNL '80 tire that they finally were able to inflate the week before.
  2. Jamie Lee Curtis / James Brown: (Average rating: 2.22/5) The first three shows of the season had enough highlights to counteract the weaker material.  Here is where the good to bad ratio finally tips to to the other side; while nothing in this show is as bad as "Commie Hunting Season", a significant number of sketches were underdeveloped and uninspired. 
  3. Charlene Tilton / Todd Rundgren, Prince: (Average rating: 2.26/5) A fair amount of OK material here, but the backstage runner that culminates in "Who Shot C.R." is underwhelming, and the highs don't really offset the lows enough.

Best sketches:

  1. The Writer (03/07/81) Bill Murray is in front but playing it straight, while the new cast gets the fun of acting out the revisions he makes to his story.  Just a good sketch done well.
  2. Hospital Bed (01/17/81) Probably one of the saddest sketches the show has ever done, with Gilbert Gottfried's disembodied voice communicating the thoughts of a stroke victim.  It's punctuated enough with humor to avoid mawkishness, but the writers wisely put the emotion of the scene first.
  3. Mister Robinson's Neighborhood (02/21/81) The debut of one of Eddie Murphy's signature sketches, pretty much fully-formed.  The audience is on board by the end of the theme song.

Honorable mention: The Rocket Report - Fifth Avenue Charles Rocket's signature piece remains the place where his talents were best put to use.

Worst sketches:

  1. Commie Hunting Season (11/22/80) SNL tries to make a pointed statement about the Greensboro Massacre acquittals; it's uncomfortable and alienating, but without the humor to redeem it.
  2. Ravi Sings (01/24/81) The only joke in the sketch: a cartoonish portrayal of an Indian musician singing American love songs.
  3. Badgers (12/13/80) A grating, amateurish sketch that hinges on a pun.

Best musical guests:

  1. James Brown His sweat-drenched eight-minute medley of classics is a high point of both the season and the series, especially when taking into consideration that the band exceeded their allotted time.
  2. 14 Karat Soul Five young singers with no instrumental accompaniment get one of the biggest reactions from the audience this season.
  3. Stanley Clarke Trio Instrumental jazz-fusion that rocks as hard as any other musical guest this year.

Worst musical guests:

To be honest, I couldn't really say that there were any truly bad musical guests.  Joe "King" Carrasco may have had a rough and raw sound but it was clear the band was going for energy over technique, and the worst I could really say about Ellen Shipley is that she was decent but a little generic-sounding.  The other musical guests only really pale in comparison to the stellar choices Doumanian (and whoever else was involved in snagging musical guests) made this year.  I wonder how much of the booking strategy was intentional and how much of it was necessity, but this was where the Jean Doumanian show had some of their biggest victories.

Writer tally and turnover:

(*) indicates the writer returned the next season, (~) indicates a previous writer returning to SNL.

Aside from Ferris Butler's contributions (special thanks goes to Butler for providing a lot of insightful information about the season, by the way), knowledge of Blaustein & Sheffield's partnership with Eddie Murphy and a handful of other sketches whose writers have been identified, I don't really know what each specific writers' voices are in the show and whether any shifts in quality were from writers joining or leaving, or being favored or disfavored.  If anyone has more information regarding who was responsible for any sketches, please feel free to drop me a line.

Full season:

  • Barry W. Blaustein*
  • Billy Brown & Mel Green
  • Patricia Marx
  • Douglas McGrath
  • Pamela Norris*
  • David Sheffield*
  • Terrence Sweeney

Full Doumanian run:

  • Larry Arnstein & David Hurwitz
  • Ferris Butler
  • John DeBellis
  • Jean Doumanian
  • Brian Doyle-Murray*~
  • Leslie Fuller

Shorter tenure:

  • Mason Williams (head writer, Gould through Carradine)
  • Jeremy Stevens & Tom Moore (head writers, Sharkey through finale)
  • Nancy Dowd (Gould and McDowell only)
  • Sean Kelly (Gould and McDowell only)
  • Mitchell Kreigman (Gould through Carradine)
  • Mark Reisman (Harry through finale)

Post-hiatus hires:

  • Mitchell Glazer
  • Judy Jacklin
  • Tim Kazurinsky*
  • Matt Neuman~
  • Michael O'Donoghue*~
  • Tony Rosato*
  • Dirk Wittenborn

An essay regarding the season as a whole will follow in a subsequent post.

Classic SNL Review: March 7, 1981: Bill Murray / Delbert McClinton (S06E12)

Classic SNL Review: March 7, 1981: Bill Murray / Delbert McClinton (S06E12)

Sketches include: "Dressing Room", "Formula for the Good Life", "The Writer", "Altered Walter", "ChapStick", "Nick Rivers", "Cut Flowers", "No Sex With Mary", "Cat's Name" and "Bubba's Wash, Fayetta's Dry".Delbert McClinton performs "Givin' It Up For Your Love" and "Shotgun Rider" with Bonnie Bramlett.Mark King also appears.

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SNL Season 7: Final cast and episode summary

The cast

Mary Gross, Christine Ebersole and Robin Duke

Mary Gross, Christine Ebersole and Robin Duke

Robin Duke: Despite a strong start, Duke seemed to have a slightly rougher go this year than her fellow female players.  She didn't have the advantage of anchoring SNL Newsbreak that Mary Gross and Christine Ebersole had, which gave both significant screen time and the privilege of appearing as "themselves", both things that make connecting to a performer easier for the audience.  She was barely featured in several shows (James Coburn, Johnny Cash, Robert Culp) and also visibly missed a cue in a sketch.  Despite this, I find it hard not to root for her or enjoy her performances.  Duke also added small little details in sketches that really add to her enjoyability once you notice them (the change in vocal tone in The New Celibacy coming to mind).  She reminds me quite a bit of either Cheri Oteri or Almost Live's Nancy Guppy, two other sketch comedy performers of similar physical qualities and ability to pull off more manic and fearlessly abrasive characters.  

Christine Ebersole: A one-seasoner who had some outstanding moments on the show (particularly musical numbers and the acting challenges of a Marilyn Suzanne Miller piece), and no bad performances.  Even her tenure on SNL Newsbreak was adequate at the very least.  Once the show started getting away from the musical numbers and the sadder slice-of-life material, Ebersole just seemed relagated to being a support player.  A very good one, mind you, but it felt like the changed creative direction of the show was selling her talents as a performer short.

Mary Gross: Gross seemed to have the reverse of Duke's season on some level: in her first few shows she still seems very green and her performances lack the confidence that the other two have, but she doesn't take long to come into her own.  Towards the end of the year, she was cast more successfully as a ditzy persona (add in a little bit of delusion and that is where Gross rocked), but I also felt that she really did well with sarcastic delivery, and they tapped into one of her other strengths the next year (manic mode, hints of which can be seen in the Blythe Danner monologue) when she would start rattling off the lists of things that piss her off.  She would evetually grow into the most well-rounded female performer of the Ebersol era.

Tim Kazurinsky

Tim Kazurinsky

Tim Kazurinsky: Kazurinsky seemed the castmember most likely to be mesh with one of the Lorne Michaels seasons' casts: there was a sarcasm and bite to some of his commentaries on SNL Newsbreak that was sorely lacking elsewhere.  Kazurinsky's specialty is slightly weird, obnoxious characters (kind of like Robin Duke: they both also excel at old geezers), but is a good straightman and benefits from being able to play off the other cast members' reactions in a sketch (must be that Second City training).  "I Married A Monkey" had diminishing returns but these qualities made Kazurinsky the only one in the cast that could make that idea work.

Eddie Murphy: The performer that shone brightest this year was undoubtedly Murphy, who had started off without any lines in his first show the previous year; by the start of this season, he led the first real sketch of the year, and by year's end, he was the star, receiving significantly more cheers from audience than the other players as their pictures flashed in the opening montage.   Next year he would only be bigger: he wasn't quite at the level of fame as he attained following 48 Hrs, and seeing him playing support in a sketch alongside Robin Duke or Tim Kazurinsky is interesting, if a little odd.  He may not have been an impressionist on the level of Piscopo, but Murphy could just appear on home base as himself and you would know something funny was going to happen.  

Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo

Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo

Joe Piscopo:  Piscopo was dominant this season, largely benefiting from the recognition he received as a bright spot the previous season.  I would actually argue that Piscopo was a more dominant presence this season than Eddie Murphy: both were in a class of their own but Piscopo seemed more woven into the fabric of the cast at times.  Looking back, Piscopo was a good, if somewhat overrated performer: his solid Frank Sinatra and Saturday Night Sports were able to bring the audience to life, and he was a very effective sketch performer, but sometimes an impression would merely be passable and there are times when he wouldn't necessarily be as funny as some of the lesser acknowledged cast members.  Still, 1981-82 was undoubtedly Joe Piscopo's year as much as Eddie Murphy's, if not more so: the season remains a document of the period before Murphy would begin to eclipse him the next year.

Tony Rosato: Rosato ended up being the biggest surprise for me; his short tenure on the show in the time when SNL was "The Joe and Eddie Show" made him easy for me to overlook, and I had written him off based on a few of his more cartoonish roles (usually as a wacky Italian but once as an Indian).  However, I found that he was solid in sketches and could do a wide variety of roles.  Late in the season I figured out he was 1981-82's Jason Sudeikis: a confident performer who usually delivered whether it was carrying a sketch (Table Talk, The Vic Salukin Show) or in a support or bit part, faring best when he was either playing a gregarious sleaze or the reality anchor in a sketch.  Rosato was fired after this season reportedly because he was not one to shy from challenging Dick Ebersol, and never got his due as a cast member, but managed to keep busy as a supporting actor in the time since SNL.  Sadly, in recent years he had a few mental health issues and suffered a miscarriage of justice that led him to spend several years in prison.

42ndstreet17
42ndstreet17

Brian Doyle-Murray: Doyle-Murray has the reputation of being one of the weakest news segment anchors SNL has ever had, largely because SNL Newsbreak was nowhere as well-written as the best Weekend Updates, relying too much on lengthy crawls and photo montages to fill time.  His delivery was underwhelming but he served as an "anchor" for both the news and the show, but only really started appearing more prominently in sketches after the March hiatus (notable exception: the Bill Murray episode).   Not really a great cast member by any stretch (more of an ascended writer), he would do better as a character actor.

Strongest shows

  • Tim Curry / Meat Loaf & The Neverland Express: Tim Curry was by far the best host of the entire season and was able to bring the show to a certain level just by showing up, but this show also shows a more confident cast and writing staff emerging from the shadows of the original show, proving they can come up with something just as good.  Even so, this is Curry's show through and through, from the Mick! variety special to the Zucchini Song.
  • Bill Murray / The Spinners, The Whiffenpoofs of Yale 1982: A little underwhelming considering who's hosting, but Murray brings a jolt of cheer to the show, and the resulting show doesn't have any truly bad sketches.  "At Home With The Psychos" is O'Donoghue's last attempt at asserting himself on the show, and while what aired was a compromised version, it was a good swan song for the self-styled "Reich Marshall's" tenure.
  • Danny DeVito / Sparks: SNL gets itself a new "great host" after a year filled with more than a few bookings of questionable fit and relevance: Danny DeVito has the most enthusiasm of any host in a long time.  The show is a return to form after a few odd or lackluster outings, and hints at what the show would become next season.

Weakest shows

  • John Madden / Jennifer Holliday: Surprisingly, Madden didn't weigh down the show too much; in fact, he provided the funniest moment all night with his locker room story.  This particular show just felt like Michael O'Donoghue's firing took the creative wind out of everyone's sails, and the cast and crew had yet to regain their bearings.  Most of the material was forgettable at best (the surprisingly melancholy Solomon & Pudge and the recasting of Tom Snyder as kiddie-show host being the exceptions) and the cast seemed to be having a bad night in general.
  • Robert Conrad / The Allman Brothers Band: The first post-O'Donoghue show wasn't much better than the second: this one benefits from the meta-sketch about overexposed characters and an excuse to have Tony Rosato bring his Lou Costello out of mothballs, but this show was weak for a number of reasons.  First, Conrad was a bad host that was front and center in quite a few sketches.  Second, between a mess of a 10-minute sketch, a 12-minute sketch that didn't quite justify the length, and three performances by the Allman Brothers Band (featuring Gregg in very rough shape), it was apparent that they were struggling to fill 66 minutes of airtime.  I've said this in my review, but Conrad and the Allmans seem to be the kind of booking that cemented that SNL was no longer as cool as it was a few years before.
  • Donald Pleasence / Fear: I had to choose between this and Robert Culp as my third place choice.  Culp was more all-around mediocre, weighed down heavily by a long, terrible sketch, but this episode was a larger mess.  Yes, there were some daring moments such as the Vic Salukin Show (easily the most fucked up thing that made it to air that season), and Michael Davis; makes a  welcome return appearance, but Brian Doyle-Murray solo on Newsbreak is painful, Pleasence was easily a worse host than Culp, and the whole episode seemed disorganized and felt like an uneasy compromise between the kind of show O'Donoghue wanted to do and the kind of show Ebersol found acceptable.

Best sketches

  • Ebony & Ivory: Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy at the same level and the top of their respective games.  Deservedly a classic and one of the token Ebersol-era clips that always seem to make the compilation specials.  It mixes topicality with great impressions, but just feels like an inspired idea from the get-go.  The execution couldn't be better as well.
  • Mick!: A supersized sketch carried by Tim Curry's impression of the Rolling Stones' frontman, with significant screen time for a lot of the cast, and appearances by the two big stars' signature characters: Eddie Murphy's Buckwheat and Joe Piscopo's Sinatra.
  • Tuna Melts & Typing / The Party (tie): Marilyn Suzanne Miller filled a niche on SNL that the show really hasn't been featured in the last 25 years with her low-key, bittersweet one-act plays.  Her style would eventually be forced out of the show (she was gone by year's end) but both these sketches have to be her work.  I couldn't decide which was better: Tuna Melts & Typing creates two very real characters and is just a beautiful sketch all around, while The Party is a sketch that reveals itself halfway and has an excellent payoff.

Honorable mention: Any appearance by Michael Davis would usually end up being the highlight of the show he was featured in.

Worst sketches

  • Sunken Submarine: Let me say once again that I hate this sketch, which is easily the biggest turd of the Ebersol era by a long shot.  The sketch has a lethal combination of a 10-minute-plus running time, a dead audience, an endless string of material that just fails and an atmosphere of desperation throughout.  Whatever the Doumanian eras' weaknesses are, they never let a sketch bloat so long as this one did.  The set also didn't seem to help matters, as the longer you spent time watching the sketch, the more you really wanted to get the hell off that sub and just drown already.
  • Wild Wild Wild West: Dreadful for a lot of the same reasons as Sunken Submarine: a very long running time, an unresponsive audience, too many diverse elements that fail to combine into a cohesive whole (really, an atom bomb?).  Actually, come to think of it, both of them featured a lackluster host (I'd say Conrad was more painful to watch than Culp), and both had the main laughs come from Eddie Murphy.  It doesn't help the women ended up playing prostitutes, the old cliché role for a woman in sketch comedy (at one point, Velvet Jones calls out "Sing, you hos!"  I wonder what was going through the female cast's mind when they were doing this sketch).  This had a few more funny moments than Sunken Submarine (from Tony Rosato) and was commendable in its ambitions, but overall, it was just a mess onscreen.  
  • Mafia Name Giver: Aside from a few clever in-jokes mainly aimed at Second City fans and SNL buffs, I still can't tell what the point of this sketch is.  Besides a general pointlessness to it, the sketch was weighed down by everyone just seeming off (Tim Kazurinsky speaking in an irritating high voice, Robin Duke actually blowing her cue in the live show).  It was down to this or "Papal Tour", and while I find that 9-minute plus sketch painfully boring, it did have more coherent concept and a decent enough performance from Joe Piscopo. 

Dishonorable mention: Andy Warhol's TV: These weren't long enough to make any significant dip in the quality of episodes, but even at their best, they felt like hipster wanking, with an atmosphere of "Andy Warhol's in it so it must be good"  instead of actual entertainment value.  I have a feeling if Andy Warhol agreed to shoot one of him talking about his favorite pinecones while taking Number 2, it would have still made it on the air.

Best musical guests

  • Rick James & The Stone City Band: Before James' behavior and legal problems made him a punchline, he was a hell of a performer.  His two numbers are some of the tightest, funkiest R&B the show's ever had.
  • Jennifer Holliday: "And I Am Telling You That I'm Not Going" ended up being a cockroach of a song that just will not go away (largely due to the prevalence of people thinking that singing that song automatically makes them a good singer), but you can't deny that Holliday's performance was not only a highlight of an otherwise bad show, but one of the entire season.
  • Luther Vandross: Two outstanding performances that demonstrate his full talent as a singer.

Worst musical guests

  • The Go-Go's: The band's playing seemed amateurish and sloppy.  Even Belinda Carlisle considers this the worst performance they ever did, largely because she admits to being very fucked up on coke and booze that night in her autobiography.
  • The Allman Brothers Band: A band long past their commercial decline at the time of their appearance, and despite a better than average second number, they didn't seem to be at their best that night.  
  • Miles Davis: Only in comparison to some of the others, and largely because he seemed to be having an off night compared to his sidemen.  His rough physical shape made him saunter stiffly around the stage, and he often had his back to the camera.

Classic SNL Review: May 22, 1982: Olivia Newton-John / The SNL Band (S07E20)

Classic SNL Review: May 22, 1982: Olivia Newton-John / The SNL Band (S07E20)

Sketches include "The Pig Meets Olivia", "Ebony & Ivory", "I Married A Monkey IV", "Pearly Gates", "Not A Record Ad", "Buzz Words", "Sandy's Curse" and "Sports Organ Classics".Olivia Newton-John and the SNL Band perform "Physical", "Make A Move On Me", and "Landslide".Michael Davis also appears.

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Classic SNL Review: May 15, 1982: Danny DeVito / Sparks (S07E19)

Classic SNL Review: May 15, 1982: Danny DeVito / Sparks (S07E19)

Sketches include "Taxi", "Whiners", "Stress Out", "Old Friends", "Enzo", "Table Talk", and "Looks At Books". Sparks perform "Mickey Mouse" and "I Predict". Andy Kaufman appears with footage of his wrestling match with Jerry Lawler.

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Classic SNL Review: April 24, 1982: Robert Culp / The Charlie Daniels Band (S07E18)

Classic SNL Review: April 24, 1982: Robert Culp / The Charlie Daniels Band (S07E18)

Sketches include: "Tennis Club", "Middle Age of Aquarius", "Egg & Sperm", "Party Girl", "James Brown Is Annie", "Babies In Make-Up", "Happy's Mayonnaise Palace", and "Sunken Submarine". The Charlie Daniels Band performs "Still In Saigon" and "The Devil Went Down To Georgia".

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Classic SNL Review: April 17, 1982: Johnny Cash / Elton John (S07E17)

Classic SNL Review: April 17, 1982: Johnny Cash / Elton John (S07E17)

Sketches include The Honeyrooneys, Last Request, Hail To The Chief, Jay Clay Gets Depressed, Tegrim, Train Poet and Black Talk. Johnny Cash performs "Man In Black", "I Walk The Line", "Folsom Prison Blues", "Ring of Fire", and "Sunday Morning Coming Down". Elton John performs "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)" and "Ball and Chain".

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Classic SNL Review: April 10, 1982: Daniel J. Travanti / John Cougar (S07E16)

Classic SNL Review: April 10, 1982: Daniel J. Travanti / John Cougar (S07E16)

Sketches include: "Ridealong", "Whiners", "The Merman Zone", "Hill Street Blues", "Bavarian Butterfly", "Career Corner" and "Reagan Brand Economics". A 1-900 number phone-in vote is held to determine the fate of Larry The Lobster. John Cougar performs "Hurt So Good" and "Ain't Even Done With The Night". Bruce Weitz also appears.

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Classic SNL Review: March 27, 1982: Blythe Danner / Rickie Lee Jones (S07E15)

Classic SNL Review: March 27, 1982: Blythe Danner / Rickie Lee Jones (S07E15)

Sketches include "Lorne Greene: The Meat Dogs Love", "Come On Out America", "The New Celibacy", "20/20", "The Khaddaffi Look", "Poets", "Fab Fifties", "The Uncle Tom Show", "Meet The People" and "Blythe's Plea". Rickie Lee Jones performs "Pirates (So Long Lonely Avenue)", "Lush Life", and "Woody & Dutch On The Slow Train To Peking". Juggler Michael Davis also appears.

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Classic SNL Review: March 20, 1982: Robert Urich / Mink DeVille, Buh-Weet And De Dupreems (S07E14)

Classic SNL Review: March 20, 1982: Robert Urich / Mink DeVille, Buh-Weet And De Dupreems (S07E14)

Sketches include "Backstage", "Buh-Weet and De Dupreems", "Reach Out and Touch Someone", "Paul Harvey News & Comment", "Focus On Film", "Buy A Bullet For A Hungry Kid", "Hail To The Chief", "Fur: You Deserve It!", "Golden Age School of Obedience", "The Embryo", "Headline Challenge", "Low Class Italian Theatre" and "The Thing That Destroyed Tokyo". Mink DeVille performs "Maybe Tomorrow" and "Love & Emotion". Brian Doyle-Murray pays tribute to John Belushi.

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Classic SNL Review: February 27, 1982: Elizabeth Ashley / Daryl Hall & John Oates

Classic SNL Review: February 27, 1982: Elizabeth Ashley / Daryl Hall & John Oates

Sketches include: "CBS Evening News with Dan Rather", "Big Damn Plastic Bubble", "Speaking As A Woman", "The Party", "Hostage Audition", "Papal Tour" and "Lowembrau". Daryl Hall & John Oates perform "You Make My Dreams", "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)", and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'". Comedian Harry Anderson appears, Joseph Papp also cameos.

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Classic SNL Review: February 20, 1982: Bruce Dern / Luther Vandross (S07E12)

Classic SNL Review: February 20, 1982: Bruce Dern / Luther Vandross (S07E12)

Sketches include "Backstage", "Ski Trip", "Who Do You Hate?", "Focus On Film", "The Bizarro World", "Songwriters", "The Mild One", "Fracas", "The Flight" and "Melina's Cafe". Luther Vandross performs "Never Too Much" and "A House Is Not A Home"

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Classic SNL Review: February 6, 1982: James Coburn / Lindsey Buckingham & The Cholos (S07E11)

Classic SNL Review: February 6, 1982: James Coburn / Lindsey Buckingham & The Cholos (S07E11)

Sketches include: "The President's 71st Birthday", "Reach Out and Touch Someone", "I Married A Monkey", "Mister Robinson's Neighborhood", "Jesus In Blue Jeans", "Crazy Mary, Gay Jim", "Victims", "Magnificent Analyst", "The Khaddaffi Look", "Unique Perspectives" and "Those Crazy Taboosters". Lindsey Buckingham and The Cholos (an early version of Mick Fleetwood's Zoo) perform "Bwana" and "Trouble". Christine Ebersole performs "Don't Let It Show". Marc Weiner also appears.

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Classic SNL Review: January 30, 1982: John Madden / Jennifer Holliday (S07E10)

Classic SNL Review: January 30, 1982: John Madden / Jennifer Holliday (S07E10)

Sketches include: "Loser's Locker Room", "The Johnny Carson School of Acting", "Jogger Motel", "Betty Beer", "Poetry Corner", "The Lou Grant Show", "Next Week", "SNL Newsbreak", "The Uncle Tom Show", "Madden Story", "Mafia Name Giver", "From Super Bowl to Saturday Night Live", "Old Friends". Jennifer Holliday performs "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" and "One Night Only". Comedian Andy Kaufman also appears.

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Classic SNL Review: January 23, 1982: Robert Conrad / The Allman Brothers Band (S07E09)

Classic SNL Review: January 23, 1982: Robert Conrad / The Allman Brothers Band (S07E09)

Sketches include "The People's Court", "In The News", "Wild Wild Wild West", "Babies In Makeup", "Overexposure", "Battle Of The Week", "A Few Moments With Andy Rooney", "Nixon Vs. FDR", and "Sister". The Allman Brothers Band perform "Midnight Rider", "Southbound", and "Leavin'".

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Classic SNL Review: December 12, 1981: Bill Murray / The Spinners, Yale Whiffenpoofs of 1982 (S07E08)

Classic SNL Review: December 12, 1981: Bill Murray / The Spinners, Yale Whiffenpoofs of 1982 (S07E08)

Sketches include: "The Phone Company", "Tales Of The Unlikely", "No Tomorrow", "MX-5 Tampons", "SNL Newsbreak", "Fairytale", "Sarducci's Predictions", "At Home With The Psychos", and "Supply Side Christmas". The Spinners perform a medley of "Then Came You", "I'll Be Around", "Working My Way Back To You". The Yale Whiffenpoofs of 1982 perform a medley of "The Whiffenpoof Song", "Boar's Head Carol", "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman", "Jingle Bells". Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello) and Juggler Michael Davis make guest appearances.

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Classic SNL Review: December 5, 1981: Tim Curry / Meat Loaf & The Neverland Express (S07E07)

Classic SNL Review: December 5, 1981: Tim Curry / Meat Loaf & The Neverland Express (S07E07)

Sketches include: "Texxon", "Mick!", "Poppa I Love You", "The Trouble With Fred", "Father and Son", "SNL Newsbreak", "Tim and Meat's One Stop Rocky Horror Shop" "The Zucchini Song" and "A CBS Special Report: If Reagan Had Survive The Assassination". Meat Loaf and The Neverland Express perform "Promised Land" and "Bat Out Of Hell". Frank Nelson cameos.

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Classic SNL Review: November 14, 1981: Bernadette Peters / The Go-Gos, Billy Joel (S07E06)

Classic SNL Review: November 14, 1981: Bernadette Peters / The Go-Gos, Billy Joel (S07E06)

Sketches include "Texxon", "Johnny Keep Your Gun Clean", "Escape From Escape From New York", "I Married A Monkey", "A Message From Eddie Murphy", "Hidden Photo", "Bedtime Story", "Man Ray And Mic", "Sketch In The Dark", "42nd Street", "Nick The Knock", and "Rock 'N Roll Heaven, Incorporated". The Go-Gos perform "Our Lips Are Sealed" and "We Got The Beat". Billy Joel performs "Miami 2017" and "She's Got A Way". Bernadette Peters performs "Making Love Alone".

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Classic SNL Review: November 7, 1981: Lauren Hutton / Rick James & The Stone City Band (S07E05)

Classic SNL Review: November 7, 1981: Lauren Hutton / Rick James & The Stone City Band (S07E05)

Sketches include "Exxico", "Here's Cos", "Dressing Room", "Hail To The Chief", "Transeastern Airlines", "Whisper", "The Khaddaffi Look", "Cheap Laffs: Macho Wipe", "Harlequin Romance Novels For Men", "Reach Out", "Velvet Jones School Of Technology", "Reality '81", "Blowing Up A Building", Bitter People" and "Art Is Ficial". Rick James & The Stone City Band perform "Give It To Me Baby" and "Super Freak". William S. Burroughs also appears.

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Classic SNL Review: October 31, 1981: Donald Pleasence / Fear (S07E04)

Classic SNL Review: October 31, 1981: Donald Pleasence / Fear (S07E04)

Sketches include "Eddie's Preparation Techniques", "Profiles In British Courage", "Jogger Motel", "Two Faces of Jerry", "I'm So Miserable", "Pumpkin", "Guardian Angel", "Tales From The Hip", "The Clams", "Intermission", "Sugar Breakfast", "Andy Warhol's TV: Costumes", "Home Movie Critique", "The Vic Salukin Show" and "Prose and Cons". Fear performs "I Don't Care About You", "Beef Balogna", "New York's Alright If You Like Saxophones" and "Let's Have A War". Juggler Michael Davis also appears.

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