All the SNL reviews have been listed together in a burst of fine over-organization, which you can see here if that’s your thing.
Robert Klein :: 15 November 1975
Cold Open: Beauty pageant winner Sherry Pan-Norwak (Laraine Newman) is supposed to give her acceptance speech and walk down the runway, but she proclaims the whole thing sexist and refuses. She removes all her trappings, foisting them on the announcer (Chevy Chase), who must instead take the walk. He does, right off the stage. “Live from New York…”
Monlogoue: Robert Klein’s monologue is lifted from his stand-up routines. He talks about the disconnect between our perception of animals and the real thing and some commentary on movies.
Musical Performance: Klein is the captain of the Titantic. He introduces the evening’s entertainment: ABBA, performing “S.O.S.”
The team were so pissed about it that for the first and only time they did whatever they could to publicly undercut the musical guests. They essentially had ABBA appearing in a skit, and as they sing the appropriately titled “S.O.S.” aboard the Titanic, the ship begins to leak. The end has begun, but the guests are all unaware as they watch ABBA, totally enthralled.
Using the Titanic as the backdrop for ABBA’s performances was O’Donoghue’s idea. He wanted to drown them.
It gets even uglier for ABBA’s second performance.
Skit: Franken and Davis play Pong as they discuss their history midterm. Franken knows he aced it. Then he and Davis begin to discuss the questions and Al realizes he’s messed up just about everything.
Skit: An episode of “Minute Mysteries”. Crime scene photographer Mike Mendoza (Dan Akyroid) helps Officer Lopez (John Belushi) solve a series of crimes from “who killed the heiress?” to “where’s my camera?”, giving the audience an increasingly lengthy period of time to solve it with them.
Skit: “Bee Centennial Minute” examines the life of Henry the Bee, who left his hive one morning, got lost, wound up in George Washington’s battlefield tent, and got squashed.
By this stage the Bees are becoming a bit worn and the Player protestations against them growing ever stronger. The Bees were symbolic of the cast, but that cast has rapidly outgrown the need to be symbolized at all. I have little doubt that this bee is played by Garrett largely because everyone else refused to do it, and to actually give him something to do – apart from the “top story for the hard of hearing” bit at the end of Update, this is all we’ll see of Garrett this week. And to add insult to injury, even this relatively straight-forward bit comes off feeling awkward and uncertain. The writers are steadily losing confidence in Garrett, making it even harder for him to get choice parts.
Musical Performance: Loudon Wainwright III performs “Bicentennial”.
Skit: Greg Allman (Chevy Chase) is interviewed, but there’s really only one thing anybody wants to know: how’s your love life?
Skit: Two actors, Rex and Debbie (Klein and Gilda), work with famed Western director Sam Peckinpah (Belushi) on their romantic comedy. Every time Debbie gets the scene wrong she’s coached by Peckinpah. And slapped, and kicked, and shoved …
Weekend Update: More Ford and “alert Secret Service agents wrestled _____ to the ground” jokes of which I honestly will never tire, scathing jabs at Alabama Governor George Wallace, and an editorial commentary by Frank Telinka (Akyroyd).
Fake Ad: A husband (George Coe) talks about all the things his wife (Jane Curtin) does in a day. She takes Jamitol to keep up her strength. By the end of the commercial she’s passed out from exhaustion.
Skit: Two exterminators – hardened pro “Bugs” (Belushi) and his young partner (Klein) – go into a woman’s basement to get rid of her cockroaches. Bugs is on a mission of vengeance for his brother who one day went to step on a cockroach and stepped on a live electrical line instead. But The Kid is having a crisis of conscience. He tells Bugs all about the wonders of the cockroach, and Bugs agrees to give up his killing ways. Then squashes two on his way out of the basement.
Skit: Gilda tells us all about how much she loves being a fireman, including fire prevention tips and a poem about her job.
Muppets: Ploobis has a headche that won’t go away no matter what they do, so he and Scred visit the Mighty Favog for help.
Stand-Up: Robert Klein talks about college and science.
Fake Ad: The K-Put price gun lets you set your own prices when you visit the grocery store.
Musical Performance: Loudon Wainwright III performs “Unrequited to the Nth Degree”.
Skit: Jane Curtin hosts “Looks at Books” where she interviews her guest: child author Emily Litella. Emily talks about her new book, Tiny Kingdom. She talks very slowly about all the little, teeny, tiny, itty, bitty, weenie things in her book. There isn’t a happily ever after, sadly, as the beautiful princess discovers that the handsome prince had a little, teeny, tiny, itty, bitty …
Fake Ad: [Repeat] The Ambassador Training Institute
Musical Performance: Robert Klein performs his song “I Can’t Stop My Leg”.
Musical Performance: ABBA comes out for round two with “Waterloo”.
Then words appear on the screen. “Right now ABBA is lip synching,” they say. “It’s not their fault. The tracks didn’t arrive from Sweden.”
There’s no way that ABBA had any idea those cards were going up. It’s a blatant middle finger to the group, an act of very public derision for not even being good enough to perform their own crap song live.
We’re still not done.
As the song goes on, drops of water begin to appear on the camera and it lilts to one side. Bubbles can be heard. Still the band plays on. Tables and chairs start sliding across the screen. A waiter staggers in only to be thrown back. Guests begin to fall out of their seats. Splashes of water come from off-stage. Still the band plays on. The angle becomes ever more severe as it pans out. The ship is sinking. Fade to black. And still the band plays on.
Goodnight: Robert Klein stands alone at Home Base, thanking his guests and the cast, including whoever got him the bathrobe he’s wearing, which was clearly stolen from an old man at a state home.
Overall Thoughts: Robert Klein does a good job with the show. He doesn’t appear in sketches much, but he does appear in a few and seems game enough. There isn’t any particular connection between him and the show however, making the episode less like Bergen and more like Carlin. That’s effectively a step back but the show’s still trying to dial into its ideal balance.
All of this said, it’s a pretty forgettable show as far as Saturday Night goes, suffering in no small part to being sandwiched between two really fantastic stand-out episodes. It also suffers from not having any particularly amazing sketches to emerge, with the overall quality being, at best, quite average.
Really this episode is all about ABBA, and that’s entirely Saturday Night‘s own fault. If the team hadn’t been so bound and determined to try and piss all over them, ABBA would’ve simply folded neatly into the show’s history. But of course when you have a show whose survival is in question from week to week, the last thing expect is to still be on the air some thirty-six years later. How history will perceive what you do right now is understandably a little bit less important.
That’s an important fact to remember about Saturday Night at this time. Today it’s an entirely different creature. ABBA daring to lip synch back then was a travesty and an insult, but many many years later and, well … Ashlee Simpson, anyone? So while it may seem hypocritical in hindsight, it’s important to put everything in context. Saturday Night at this time wasn’t just a program, it was a state of mind. It’s everything about the youth of the time springing from all shadowy corners of the counterculture, trying to be the mouthpiece the world lacked. This era of Saturday Night, these first few seasons in particular, are about making statements, about kicking the establishment in the balls and laughing as it writhes on the ground. The show will go through periods of funny and not so funny, from genius to embarrassing and back again, but there’s a dangerous, desperate kind of energy unique to these episodes that remains unmatched today. So perhaps the show’s treatment of and reaction to ABBA may seem hypocritical to what SNL would become, but it certainly is not to what Saturday Night is at this moment.
Sketch of the week is a bit of a toughie as there wasn’t much all that exceptional here, but I’d think I’ll break into Update and specifically target Dan Akyroyd and Chevy Chase’s editorial response. That one’s all about the performing too; the writing has zero impact on what’s going on here.
The Players themselves, I’m going with Gilda Radner. With her poor abused actress, fireman pride and introduction of Emily Litella, she shows of three very different sides of what she can do and they’re all wonderful.