Classic SNL Review: May 5, 1984: Barry Bostwick / Spinal Tap (S09E18)

Classic SNL Review: May 5, 1984: Barry Bostwick / Spinal Tap (S09E18)

Sketches include "Simulated Cat Fight", "Lie Detector", "Iceman", "2 On the Town", "Spinal Tap Interview", "The Turkey Lady", "La Cage aux Folles", "Unanswered Questions of the Universe", and "Dog Day P.M." Spinal Tap performs "Christmas With The Devil" and "Big Bottom". Comedian A. Whitney Brown also appears.

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Classic SNL Review: April 14, 1984: George McGovern / Madness (S09E17)

Classic SNL Review: April 14, 1984: George McGovern / Madness (S09E17)

Sketches include "60 Minutes", "Midtown Open", "White House Foods", "Trampoline", "Direct Hits", "I Didn't Realize", "Cosmos", "Book Beat", and "Brother in Law". Madness performs "Our House" and "Keep Moving". Clara "Where's The Beef?" Peller and comedian Frankie Pace also appear. 

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Classic SNL Review: April 7, 1984: Michael Douglas / Deniece Williams (S09E16)

Classic SNL Review: April 7, 1984: Michael Douglas / Deniece Williams (S09E16)

Sketches include "Lost Script", "MTV News (two parts)", "Foldger's Crystals", "Price Waterhouse", "4 Minutes To Live", "Audition", "Footless", "Soundtrack", "TV's Foul-Ups, Bleeps, Blunders, Bloopers, Practical Jokes and Political Debates", and "Sugar or Plain". Deniece Williams performs "Let's Hear It For The Boy" and "Wrapped Up".

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Classic SNL (sorta-)review: March 24, 1984: The Best of Saturday Night Live

Classic SNL (sorta-)review: March 24, 1984: The Best of Saturday Night Live

Sketches include "Mister Robinson's Neighborhood", "News Bar", "Buckwheat Jeans", "Larry's Corner", "Buckwheat Buys The Farm", "The Real Story", "Mr. & Mrs. T Bloody Mary Mix", "Stevie Experience", "Firing Line", "Swan Break", "Dr. Jack Badofsky", "What's New", "Buckwheat Dead", "Caribbean Vacation", "Michael's Message", "Good Morning America", "The Forum", "Singing In The Stall", and "James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party".

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Classic SNL Review: March 17, 1984: Billy Crystal / Al Jarreau (S09E15)

Classic SNL Review: March 17, 1984: Billy Crystal / Al Jarreau (S09E15)

Sketches include "St. Patrick's Day Wrap-Up", "Hung Like Me", "Winston University", "Family in the Attic", "Sammy & Reagan", "Unanswered Questions of the Universe", "Bad Career Moves", "God's Place", "The Womb", and "The First Show". Al Jarreau performs "Mornin'" and "Trouble In Paradise".

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Classic SNL Review: February 18, 1984: Jamie Lee Curtis / The Fixx (S09E13)

Classic SNL Review: February 18, 1984: Jamie Lee Curtis / The Fixx (S09E13)

Sketches include "Rappin' Jimmy B", "Tag", "Jake's Video Hut", "El Dorko", "The Julia Show", "Reagan Workout", "Rehearsal", "Persons Express", "Heart Tartare", and "Where Are They Now?". The Fixx perform "One Thing Leads To Another" and "Red Skies". Joel Hodgson also appears.

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Classic SNL Review: February 11, 1984: Robin Williams / Adam Ant (S09E12)

Classic SNL Review: February 11, 1984: Robin Williams / Adam Ant (S09E12)

Sketches include "Winter Olympics", "Buddweiser Light", "Rock & Roll and then some", "Wild Kingdom of Heaven", "Gandhi and the Bandit", "Mime Roommate", "New Bad Babies", "MTV News", "Siamese Twins", and "Patty's Place". Adam Ant performs "Strip" and "Goody Two Shoes". Paula Poundstone also appears.

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Classic SNL Review: January 28, 1984: Don Rickles / Billy Idol (S09E11)

Classic SNL Review: January 28, 1984: Don Rickles / Billy Idol (S09E11)

Sketches include "TV President", "I Married A Monkey", "The Hamlisch Maneuver", "Fascinating People and Their Friends", "Witness Protection", "Saint Don of Verona", "Sympathy Date", "This Is Your Afterlife", and "Anniversary Special". Billy Idol performs "White Wedding" and "Rebel Yell".

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Classic SNL Review: January 21, 1984: Michael Palin and his mother / The Motels (S09E10)

Classic SNL Review: January 21, 1984: Michael Palin and his mother / The Motels (S09E10)

Sketches include "Donahue", "Boy George Burns: The Man and His Music", "Mister Robinson's Neighborhood", "Powerful Living Snaps", "Man On A Chain", "Mick Pitwhistle Does It All", "That's Okay", "Shoplifter", "Would You Believe It (3 parts)", "House Of Mutton", "Save Lots of Plankton", and "A Boy's Life on the Mississippi". The Motels perform "Suddenly Last Summer" and "Remember The Nights".

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Classic SNL Review: January 14, 1984: Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello) / Huey Lewis and the News (S09E09)

Classic SNL Review: January 14, 1984: Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello) / Huey Lewis and the News (S09E09)

Sketches include "Tasteless Choice", "What's New", "Buckwheat's Ghost", "The Man Who Loved Swimmin'", "Michael's Message", and "Airport". "Countdown '84", a phone-in Democratic primary, appears throughout the show. Huey Lewis and the News perform "Heart and Soul" and "I Want A New Drug". Steven Wright also appears.

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Classic SNL Review: December 10, 1983: Flip Wilson / Stevie Nicks (S09E08)

Classic SNL Review: December 10, 1983: Flip Wilson / Stevie Nicks (S09E08)

Sketches include "Dion's", "Unrequited Sex", "Airplane Restroom", "Unanswered Questions of the Universe", "Hello, Trudy!", "Older Sisters of the Young", "Pudge & Solomon", "Reverend Leroy", "Crazy Weinstein", "Shoe Tier", and "Subterraneans". Stevie Nicks performs "Stand Back" and "Nightbird". Joel Hodgson also appears.

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Classic SNL Review: November 12, 1983: Teri Garr / Mick Fleetwood's Zoo (S09E05)

Classic SNL Review: November 12, 1983: Teri Garr / Mick Fleetwood's Zoo (S09E05)

Sketches include: "Cheer Squad", "Mister Robinson's Neighborhood", "Thirsty Guy", "History: The Real Story", "Dion's", "Coronet Man", "Dopeball", "Caffeine Achievers", "Kennedy: The Man Behind The Woman!", "Sarcastic Mother Superior", "Help Me - She's A Witch", and "Man On The Street". Mick Fleetwood's Zoo performs "Tonight" and "Way Down". Joel Hodgson also appears.

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Classic SNL Review: November 5, 1983: Betty Thomas / Stray Cats (S09E04)

Classic SNL Review: November 5, 1983: Betty Thomas / Stray Cats (S09E04)

Sketches include: "Astronaut", "Memorex", "James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party", "Curly Audition", "Special Report", "Unanswered Questions", "You Win A Dollar", "Perfectly Frank", "Swan Break", "Jane Fonda", "The Gumby Story", "Crisis '83 Update" and "Misfits". Stray Cats perform "(She's) Sexy + 17" and "I Won't Stand In Your Way".

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Classic SNL Review: October 22, 1983: John Candy / Men At Work (S09E03)

Classic SNL Review: October 22, 1983: John Candy / Men At Work (S09E03)

Sketches include: "Backstage", "Old Country Ski Lodge", "Village Of The Damned Little Rascals", "Eddie in New Jersey", "Phone Booth Confession", "Movie Contract", "Backstage with Ronald McDonald", "Poly-Rock", "Brothel Sprouts", and "Men Behind Bars". Men At Work performs "Doctor Heckyll and Mister Jive" and "It's A Mistake".

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Classic SNL Review: October 15, 1983: Danny DeVito & Rhea Perlman / Eddy Grant (S09E02)

Classic SNL Review: October 15, 1983: Danny DeVito & Rhea Perlman / Eddy Grant (S09E02)

Sketches include "Calvin Klein Cream Pies", "Mister Robinson's Neighborhood", "Crazy Edelman", "What Would Frank Do?", "Small World", "Mom Was Right", "Spanish Class", "Autograph Hounds", "Book Beat", "The Amos 'N Andy Show", "Masterpiece Humor", and "Body Guard". Eddy Grant performs "I Don't Wanna Dance", "Electric Avenue" and "Living On The Frontline".

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SNL Up Close: 1983-84

By the summer of 1983, Saturday Night Live had re-stabilized, and had a genuine movie star in its cast: Eddie Murphy, who reached box office success with 48 Hours and Trading Places. However, the new season would prove to be his last, as it was only a matter of time before Murphy's burgeoning career would push him beyond SNL. To keep their star an extra year, NBC and SNL executive producer Dick Ebersol allowed Murphy to do the show on a part-time basis, with his appearances on his weeks off made possible by a bank of eleven sketches taped with the cast in Studio 8H on September 21, 1983.

Unlike the previous three seasons, there were no cast departures (though Gary Kroeger was fired and quickly rehired over the summer), and while Murphy was on his way out, he and Joe Piscopo still continued to be the focus of many sketches. Newer hires Kroeger and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, already contributing solid work, got a much-deserved boost in airtime, while Mary Gross began to be credited as a writer alongside Murphy, Piscopo, Tim Kazurinsky and Robin Duke. The sole new face in the cast was Jim Belushi, younger brother of John. Despite a commitment to a production of Sam Shephard's  True West forcing Belushi to miss a handful of shows early in the season, he quickly became one of the show's dominant players.

The writing staff had comparatively more turnover: Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield left for Hollywood and rookie writers Paul Barrosse and Ellen L. Fogle were let go. Brought onboard for 1983-84 were Andy Breckman (poached from Late Night with David Letterman), Adam Green, Kevin Kelton (a former writer for SNL's one-time West Coast rival Fridays), and Michael Clayton McCarthy; founding SNL writer Herb Sargent also returned to take charge of the Saturday Night News segment. Of these new hires, Breckman proved to be an especially solid and prolific addition to the staff. Writer-producer Bob Tischler also began to have a stronger influence on what material made it into the show, which allowed for sharper material than what Dick Ebersol, more a "numbers guy" than a comedy writer, normally kept in the show.

Ebersol's control in other areas still remained, though, and the show still shied away from harder-edged political satire, to the dismay of several writers and performers: Tim Kazurinsky and Brad Hall both clashed with Ebersol about the material that made it to air. Hall was also removed from Saturday Night News mid-season, with the segment's anchor duties usually falling to whoever was hosting the show that week. 

The second half of the season brought two more developments: the debut (and quick demise) of Lorne Michaels' new sketch show The New Show, and the show's increased use of pre-filmed sketches. The New Show's poor ratings and reviews only served to vindicate and reinvigorate the SNL staff, while the filmed sketches that appeared over the next year and a half (usually directed by regular film unit directors Claude Kerven and John Fox) would be some of the show's best-remembered work.

As with the previous three seasons, I will be posting sketch-by-sketch reviews; expect the new reviews of each show every weekend (as my schedule allows), with the Tartikoff review coming tonight or tomorrow. If anyone has information to contribute about the episodes, such as who wrote what, writer cameos, etc., I welcome it and will acknowledge my source in the sketch review.

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