Mar 192011
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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.

1x09: Elliott Gould, 10 January 1976

Elliott Gould :: 10 January 1976

Cold Open: The Dead String Quartet (Aykroyd, Newman, Morris, Chase) perform. Slowly, as they are all dead. A domino reaction topples them, knocking the cellist (Chevy) off the stage. Live from New York…

It’s a nice change from what’s become the typical President Ford cold open. Clever but short, amusing, and just enough ridiculous.

Monologue: Elliott Gould comes dressed in a patchwork coat and smoking heavily. Paul Schaffer plays while Gould sings and dances, then Gilda joins him onstage to say how much she enjoyed last night. Gould is a little stand-offish and says he has to go back to California first thing in the morning but he totally meant everything he said.

1x09: Gilda and Elliott, part 1

About last night ...

I don’t much care for the majority of the monologue, but I must admit that Gould manages to pull of something very similar to Rob Reiner but with none of the pretense and self-indulgence. From the moment he enters, Elliott Gould is completely at ease and integrates seamlessly with the cast, who similarly appear to genuinely enjoy working with him. As though to highlight that, this is the first of several segments throughout the evening where Gilda will appear to be clingy and needy while Gould is aloof and noncommittal about their (fictional) liaison the night before. It immediately sets the feeling for the show of the cast and the host fully integrated, an integral element of all the most successful episodes.

Fake Ad: [Repeat] The Try-Hard 1-11 Battery.

Repeat from 1×02: Paul Simon.

Skit: A team of Interior Demolitionists (Gould, Chase, Morris) come into a couple’s house (Curtin, Aykroyd) and fulfill their job descriptions.

1x09: Interior Demolitionists vs. television

And this isn't even close to the oddest thing in this sketch.

Like the open, this too is a slice of random. It’s fun though with just about everyone involved working it to the hit. Gould’s boss is calm and blasé about the whole thing, adding another hilarious layer: this is no more than another day at the office for him, like this is a muchly needed and called-upon service. Chevy is also fantastic; I crack up every time as he suddenly loses it as he’s destroying the desk then snaps back to calm with that innocent rapid blink he does so well. Also huge props to Jane, who does frantic horror just as well as she does blatant disgust. Bonus fun: the vase that refuses to break. Just a high-energy, fun skit.

Skit: A therapist (Gould) leads a group session consisting of valley girl Sherry (Newman) and Don Vito Corleone (Belushi).

This one is something of a classic, but less for the skit itself and more for Belushi’s killer Brando impression. Personally I think it goes on a bit too long, and the ending lacks something, even for SNL‘s just-kill-them-and-end-it-by-way-of-Python standard. Still, there’s no denying that it’s worth it for Belushi’s Brando (love the “the ASPCA is after me about this horse thing” line) and Laraine’s Sherry, at least for the first few minutes. Also I have to hand it to Gould, who despite being the host was more than content to sit back and be only a little more than a scene filler while Belushi and Laraine drove the whole thing.

Fake Ad: A couple (Aykroyd, Radner) bicker over new Shimmer being a floor wax or a dessert topping. A pitchman (Chase) assures them that it’s both!

1x09: New Shimmer!

Just look at that shine!

This however is a classic skit that never, ever gets old. Absolutely everything about “Shimmer” works: The almost immediate rise to violence between Danny and Gilda (“It’s a dessert topping, you cow!”), Chevy’s smarm, Danny’s inappropriate enthusiasm … and of course the premise itself.

Film: Gary Weis stitches together numerous pianists singing “Play Misty For Me”.

As will typically be the case, I really liked this Gary Weis bit. It’s fascinating how many different styles there can be to the exact same song, which each little snippet seeming to say so much about the person performing it.

Skit: Gilda notices a pretty girl in Gould’s dressing room and asks him who it is. She meant everything she said last night and she knows that he knows that he meant it too. By the way, who’s Anne Murray?

A continuation of the bit from the top of the show, and a really cute way to link to the musical guest. It’s interesting how I think Gilda is really the only one of the girls that could pull this off. With Laraine I think it would just come off a bit creepy (think Glenn Close to Michael Douglas creepy), and Jane has an aura of sophistication to her that completely wouldn’t sell the idea that she’d be this wrapped up in a man. But because Gilda’s so cute it’s sort of like a puppy dog, and because she’s so charismatic you’re instantly on her side, which helps mitigate everything else you might be feeling. There was something wonderful and entirely unique about Gilda Radner.

Musical Performance: Anne Murray performs “Long Distance Call”.

Anne Murray does a great job, but every time I see this she feels an oddly conservative choice for Saturday Night.

Weekend Update: Ford mistakenly kisses a snowball and throws a baby, the FBI and CIA form a unit to keep watch on itself, Chevy again calls Angelo’s Pizza rather than Angola, Laraine Newman broadcasts from Cape Canaveral, marijuana is now a misdemeanor in California but rolling papers are 3-5 years, Chevy Chase offers to help anyone concerned about the quality of their cannabis to send directly to him for analysis, NBC unveils its new logo, and the top story repeated in a foreign language.

1x09: Weekend Update on NBC's new logo.

The bit on NBC's new logo going horribly, horribly wrong.

Also: Mr. Mike and Chevy bicker, which is mostly only funny in light of the Gamitol ad repeat (below) that came in halfway through. This is a decently average Update with lots of the requisite recurring bits. Highlights are the total ripping on NBC’s logo (particularly in light of how badly the delivery gets messed up) and Chevy’s call for marijuana samples. Saturday Night once more brazenly making it clear that it’s a very different kind of show from everything else on television.

Fake Ad: [Repeat] Vitamin supplement, Jamitol.

The Chevy/Mr. Mike version, repeated from 1×01: George Carlin.

Skit: A couple (Radner, Chase) listen to the radio when they hear a report of South American Killer Bees, just as the Killer Bees (Belushi, Morris, Aykroyd, Gould) invade their home and demand pollen. As their plea becomes all the more dramatic the camera refuses to focus where it should be, causing the cast break characters and complain to Lorne Michaels.

1x09: Lorne Michaels and Dave Wilson, behind the scenes.

Firing his own father.

This skit is something else, pretty much three separate bits squeezed into one. The first half, the Killer Bees, is gloriously silly, as are most Bee skits. Gould seems to really be enjoying this and gives it his all, particularly relishing all the scenery he gets to chew while giving his emotional monologue. Then that part of the skit gives way and the walls crumble down, bringing Lorne in for the first time. He heeds the complaints of the cast, marches back into the control room – cameras following him all the way – and confronts “drunk” director Dave Wilson. All the while John Belushi is giving an impassioned speech (doubtless an intentional parallel to Gould’s aborted Bee speech) about what a great guy Lorne is and how Dave Wilson is a fallen star. The whole thing is so ridiculous that it’s difficult to think through exactly how anybody came up with it all. It’s so ridiculous that it’s difficult to sort through exactly what is the point. But I think when all is said and done, that point is pretty much what my gut says and what I love about it: It’s that first chance we get to not just peek behind the curtain but to have the whole thing thrown back. It’s like we’re there, part of what’s happening, part of this barely controlled mayhem. We see Lorne, totally shattering the idea of what we think a producer is supposed to be, smacking around and banishing someone we can easily identify as the guy in charge, and doing it all while Belushi gives a rousing speech in the background (think Bluto’s “Germans bombed Pearl Harbor” speech and it’s about like that). Up to this point the show has been uttering little kitten roars on the sidelines; now they’ve got their lion voice and are all up in your face. Saturday Night is here, god dammit.
Then to bring it back down, the cast wanders off leaving Gould and Gilda alone and she awkwardly introduces him to her mother.

Film: Albert Brooks’ last film, as he takes us through the Audience Research Institute.

It’s amusing in the grandiose way it’s saying that if you analyze comedy it’s no longer funny, but again I don’t find Brooks all that funny. Which actually sort of works in this film’s favour when you think about it.

Skit: Gilda comes on-stage with Gould and says that she thinks they could work out really well together and he’ll never be just “Mr. Gilda Radner”.

Oh Gilda.

Muppets: Peuta wants Skred to tell Ploobis about their long-term affair, but Skred doesn’t want to and the Mighty Favog doesn’t help much.

1x09: Skred keeps talking to the camera.

Really dude, stop that.

Soooo. Muppets. Yeah. There’s precious little that works for me in this one. Skred’s constant breaking of the fourth wall is just insanely irritating. Favog though, he’s genuinely funny with his pervy interest. Overall though, totally weak.

Skit: In an episode of “Birthright”, host Jane Curtin talks with two doctors (Aykroyd and Gould) with two very different theories of childbirth.

Overall this skit, although keeping with the “what the hell?” theme of this episode, is merely okay. You can basically see the punchline coming from a mile away, and the delivery doesn’t do much to make up for that. I do have to give it a point for Mr. Mike gallivanting about in clown gear though.

Musical Performance: Anne Murray performs “Boogie With You”.

This song has a lively and upbeat, almost ragtime style. Anne Murray still strikes me as a guest that doesn’t entirely fit, but she does very well.

Skit: Franken and Davis imagine what the world would be like if the Indians had won rather than the white man.

This is the first time we actually see Franken and Davis, the duo having only done the voice overs for the Pong skits to this point. As with a few others in this show I think this goes on a bit too long, but it’s pretty indicative of the sort of humour we’ll repeatedly see from F&D, and this is one of the most socially conscious pieces in the entire show this week.

Goodnight: The closing moments of Elliott and Gilda’s wedding ceremony, attended by the Not Ready for Prime Time Players.

1x09: Gilda and Elliott get married.

The wedding, presided over by Mr. Mike.

It’s a pretty atypical goodnight, but it serves well to bookend the episode. I again have to note how relaxed Gould is with the group, quite content to just go with whatever they throw at him. It’s no surprise that we’ll see him several more times. They also play around with the credits this week, scratching out Dave Wilson’s name since Lorne “fired” him during the Killer Bees skit.

Overall Thoughts: This is an incredibly solid episode, so solid it was the one they submitted to the Emmys that year. (They won, a lot.)

Lots of stuff happened here. This is the first time we see Lorne Michaels and Al Franken, two vitally important figures in the show’s history.

And in more ways than one, this is the episode where Saturday Night matured. From this show going forward we will pretty much stick to the format that remains to this day: two musical performances and the host appearing in most sketches. We did see that back in the first Candice Bergen episode, but the format shifted around so much after that point it’s pretty clear they were still testing out a few things. From here onward, they’ve decided what works and will largely stick to it.

Then there’s the show’s content itself. This is probably the least socio-political episode we’ve had yet. Almost every single skit this week (sans Update of course) is just straightforward comedy. That’s a bold and important step for the show. This is a much more secure Saturday Night. It has less to prove now, both to itself and everyone else. It knows it’s smart and knows everyone else (everyone important, anyway) knows it too, so it’s able to sit back and relax a little.

Best skit, I have to go with “Shimmer”. There is nothing about it that isn’t perfect. “Killer Bees” comes in second though, due in no small part to its more subtle importance to the show at large.

Standout performance, it’s really hard not to give it to Gilda, given her repeated emphasis throughout the episode. But Chevy’s a very, very close second.

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