Classic SNL Review: May 10, 1986: Catherine Oxenberg & Paul Simon / Ladysmith Black Mambazo (S11E16)

Classic SNL Review: May 10, 1986: Catherine Oxenberg & Paul Simon / Ladysmith Black Mambazo (S11E16)

Sketches include “Geraldo Rivera Opens The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier”, “Guys Behind Bars”, “The Late Show with Joan Rivers”, “The Limits of the Imagination”, “Dirk Landers”, “Beverly Hills Liar”, “Brim Decaffeinated”, and “A Mother’s Day Message”. Paul Simon performs “You Can Call Me Al”, “Homeless” with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and “Graceland”. Penn & Teller also appear.

Read More

Classic SNL Review: April 19, 1986: Tony Danza / Laurie Anderson (S11E15)

Classic SNL Review: April 19, 1986: Tony Danza / Laurie Anderson (S11E15)

Sketches include “Vietnam Story”, “AT&T”, “Nancy’s Workout”, “Lyndon LaRouche Theatre”, “30 Second Count”, “Big Time Professional Golf”, “Love Scene”, “Master Thespian” and “The Further Adventures of Biff and Salena”. Laurie Anderson performs “Babydoll” and “The Day The Devil”. Penn & Teller also appear.

Read More

Classic SNL Review: April 12, 1986: Oprah Winfrey / Joe Jackson (S11E14)

Classic SNL Review: April 12, 1986: Oprah Winfrey / Joe Jackson (S11E14)

Sketches included “Backstage”, “John Cougar Mellencamp’s Looking At America”, “The Pat Stevens Show”, “Cabrini Green”, “The Wart Hog”, “I Play The Maids”, “Actors On Film”, “Craig Sundberg, Idiot Savant”, “The Cute Shop”, and “One-Shoe Emma”. Joe Jackson performs “Right and Wrong” and “Soul Kiss”.

Read More

Classic SNL Review: March 22, 1986: George Wendt and Francis Ford Coppola / Philip Glass (S11E13)

Classic SNL Review: March 22, 1986: George Wendt and Francis Ford Coppola / Philip Glass (S11E13)

Sketches include “Pep Talk”, “The Honeymooners: The Lost Episodes”, “Commercials”, “Mystery Playhouse”, “That Black Girl”, “Whale”, “Actors”, “Ghost of Thespians Past”, “Vietnam Sketch”, “Suitcase Boy” and “Finale”. Philip Glass and the Philip Glass Ensemble perform “Lightning” and “Rubric”.

Read More

Classic SNL Review: February 22, 1986: Jay Leno / The Neville Brothers (S11E11)

Classic SNL Review: February 22, 1986: Jay Leno / The Neville Brothers (S11E11)

Sketches include “Studio Tour”, “Target Earth”, “Dinner With Mike”, “Star Search”, “Evil Twin”, “Stand-Ups”, “Man Beat” and “The Further Adventures of Biff and Salena”. The Neville Brothers perform “The Big Chief” and “The Midnight Key”.

Read More

Classic SNL Review: January 18, 1986: Harry Dean Stanton / The Replacements (S11E07)

Classic SNL Review: January 18, 1986: Harry Dean Stanton / The Replacements (S11E07)

Sketches include: “Press Conference”, “Gulf Coast Furniture Warehouse” “Cleveland Vice”, “Death of a Gunfighter”, “Hospital”, “That Black Girl”, “Big Ball Of Sports”, “No Offense” and “Jack’s Discount Emporium”. The Replacements perform “Bastards Of Young” and “Kiss Me On The Bus”. Sam Kinison also appears.

Read More

Lorne's Missing Links: Steve Martin's Best Show Ever and The New Show

Lorne's Missing Links: Steve Martin's Best Show Ever and The New Show

Lorne Michaels stepped away from Saturday Night Live after the show’s fifth season, and his creation was kept alive by other producers, writers and actors for the next five years; when he returned to the show in 1985, he had a whole new cast, but many of the behind-the-scenes personnel were those who had been associated with his original five year tenure, and there were a handful of additions that would shape the show’s tone and look for years to come. Because the Jean Doumanian and Dick Ebersol eras each had their own specific directions and mostly unique personnel. one wonders what the show would have been like if Michaels had stuck around during that time. There are a few hints of what a Michaels-helmed SNL would have looked like in two of his TV productions during that period: Steve Martin’s Best Show Ever, a special Martin did for NBC in November 1981, and The New Show, Michaels’ ill-fated return to weekly network television

Read More

SNL Up Close: 1985-86

SNL Up Close: 1985-86

In four seasons, executive producer Dick Ebersol had brought Saturday Night Live back from the cancellation, had the hottest comedian in America in the cast, and oversaw its transition from a live incubator of new comic talent to an increasingly prerecorded showcase for established comedians. By 1985, though, Ebersol found himself tired of the show’s grueling schedule, and, after toying with staying with a mostly-prerecorded version of the show that wouldn’t premiere until the next January, decided to step away. Brandon Tartikoff, president of NBC Entertainment, had to consider his options, and fast.

Read More

Brief thoughts on #SNL40

Other people are probably going to write more extensively about tonight's SNL 40th Anniversary special, so I'll leave it to them, but I'll say my piece about a few things:

Most of the show was entertaining; the clip montages were well-chosen and edited, and it was good to see the lesser-celebrated Doumanian and Ebersol years get more "deep cuts" covered in the highlight reels, as opposed to the same Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo clips they normally rely on.  

The music performances weren't bad; nothing on par with Prince doing "Electric Chair" at the 15th anniversary or the Eurythmics and Al Green medleys at the 25th. Miley Cyrus doing "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" was surprisingly good, though.  

Jane Curtin doing Weekend Update with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler was a highlight, and she killed it with her Fox News joke. She was always the secret weapon of the original years, or at least the one hidden in plain sight.  

The biggest misstep of the night was the Californians sketch, which didn't seem to play too well in studio. Despite the participation of Laraine Newman and cameos from Bradley Cooper, Kerry Washington, Taylor Swift and Betty White, the sketch dragged.  David Spade posted a close-up of the script on Instagram earlier, which revealed this was the handiwork of James Anderson and Kent Sublette; for all I know they may be wonderful people, but this was all too typical of their other work on the show*.  The same could be said for Garth and Kat, which ground the pacing of the "salute to musical sketches" segment to a halt.

The "In Memoriam" montage was well-done, but I noticed a few glaring omissions:

  • Joe Bodolai (writer, 1981-82)
  • Nelson Lyon (writer, 1981-82)
  • Mark O'Donnell (writer, 1981-82)
  • Terry Southern (writer, 1981-82)
  • Alan P. Rubin (band, 1975-83)
  • Drake Sather (writer, 1994-95)
  • Mauricio Smith (band, 1975-79)

They may have kept to a "more than one season" rule for writers, but I found it odd they didn't count the other band members who have passed.  I believe there were also a few other crew and staff members that had been memorialized beforehand but not here.  That said, it was nice to see some others get their due.  I was most concerned that Charles Rocket, Danitra Vance, Michael O'Donoghue and Tom Davis would get short shrift, and was pleased to see they were counted.  The same goes for Don Pardo, Dave Wilson and Audrey Peart Dickman (from many accounts, she was the engine that kept the show running, production-wise). 

Other than those issues, the special served its purpose: it reminded the audience why this show (and it's history) is special, and it was good to see a lot of familiar faces again.  I hope everyone there had a good time (even Anderson and Sublette).

*A partial list of other Anderlette sketches this season: "Forgotten Television Gems", "Women In The Workplace", "Campfire Song", "Nest-presso", "Amy Adams Monologue", "Singing Sisters", "Soap Opera Reunion", "The Journey", "Casablanca".

Tom Davis and Nelson Lyon

Cancer claimed two former SNL writers this week.  Nelson Lyon, a writer for the 1981-82 season, died Tuesday of liver cancer at the age of 73.  Two days later, Tom Davis, one of the show's original writers and a returning contributor to the show following Lorne Michaels' re-arrival, succumbed to throat and neck cancer at 59.

Davis was a prominent figure in the show's history: he was responsible for many of the well-known sketches such as Coneheads, Final Days, and got more than a few complaints with his and Al Franken's Stunt Baby, X-Police, and First He Cries.  He appeared on camera fairly often through his tenure on the show, usually in tandem with Franken, and at one point landing "featured player" status with the other tenured writers for 1979-80; he also provided countless voiceovers for sketches.  He left with the original writers in 1980, then returned along with Lorne Michaels and Al Franken five years later.  Franken and Davis produced the poorly-received 1985-86 season (with Michaels as executive producer).  When Michaels took a more direct involvement with the show the following season, Davis was gone, but not for long: he rejoined the writing staff in January 1987 and stayed through the 1993-94 season.  Since then, he contributed sketches on 12 shows between 1997 and 2004, including "Leather Man" with Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz.

Lyon was more of a shadowy, underground figure; a collaborator of Michael O'Donoghue's, and probably known more for his sex comedy "The Telephone Book" and his association with John Belushi during his final days.  Lyon contributed to O'Donoghue's "At Home With The Psychos" (with Terry Southern and Rosie Shuster) and penned "The Mild One", an existential biker sketch featuring Bruce Dern.  He had a handful of on-camera appearances as well, as a prisoner, a bodyguard and Josef Stalin.  Lyon's impact on SNL may be less apparent than Davis', but as the basis for O'Donoghue's "Mr. Mike" and a key part of the unique tone of the 1981-82 SNL, it should not be underestimated.