40 Years of Saturday Night Live! – Season One, Episode Four (Candice Bergen)

Host: Candice Bergen

Musical Guest: Esther Phillips

Cast: Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, Gilda Radner – i.e. the “Not Ready For Primetime Players”

Highlights:

This episode followed the same basic SNL format that’s been used for 40 years.  Candice Bergen identifies, rightly, that she is the first female host of the show.  She is a very game hostess in terms of her participation in the sketches, but she is more of an actress than an outright comedienne in her own right.

The “Jaws II” sketch.  In this sketch, “Land Shark,” played by Chevy Chase, makes his debut, terrorizing single women everywhere in the comfort of their own homes, all of which look the same (budget).  Just beware that, should one choose to defend oneself against Land Shark, one is not actually clobbering the head of an actual Jehovah’s Witness.

Andy Kaufman’s “Foreign Man” debuts on Saturday Night, a character that would later form the basis for his character on the TV show “Taxi.”  He is both awkward and endearing.

Chevy Chase’s Weekend Update continued its jabs aimed at President Ford, included another “hard of hearing” interpretation by Garrett Morris, and this time featured the first ever Update guest spot, an editorial by “Congresswoman” Jane Curtin, who was repeatedly mocked from behind by otherwise threatened Update anchor Chevy.

Esther Phillips performed “What a Difference a Day Makes” and “I Can Stand a Little Rain.”  One of the guitarists backing her looked like Dustin Hoffman…

Jim Henson’s Muppets in “The Land of Gorch” sketch.  This episode’s topic was the endangered species the “Glicks” and preservation of same.

The “Black Perspective” sketch.  Despite the fact that this was a highly non-PC sketch – 1975 was such a different time – the laugh here is that Jane Curtin, a (White) yuppie from Manhattan, has penned a novel delving into the Black experience, which earns much respect from her “brothers and sisters,” like host Garrett Morris.  The punchline is all in the bio picture on her alleged novel “Shadows.”

This episode was the first in which the entire cast joined the host(ess) on stage to wish her goodnight.  They presented Bergen with roses.

Less Successful Moments

The “Pong” bit.  Not only were the offstage voices terrible players (come ON), but focus on the discussion of what was apparently a secret romance or rendezvous or something some guy didn’t want to share with his parents was distracted by the simply horrible execution of a Pong game.  I realize it was brand new stuff back then, but come ON.

There were actually two terms used in this episode that are considered derogatory ethnic and/or racial terms used today.  One was used in the “Irk the Turk” sketch, which was moderately entertaining and skewered behavior of press officials as they attempt to get a story, but featured Bergen calling the character played by John Belushi a term that is offensive to Middle Eastern peoples.  Later on, the second was used in the “Black Perspective” sketch, which was more funny but already running precarious risks in its premise alone.  It’s interesting to see how mores have changed in forty years, eh?

Most Valuable Not Ready For Primetime Players

(1st) Garrett Morris, for his role in the subversively funny “CIA Department of Records” sketch; his sacrifice as the beleaguered Jehovah’s Witness in the “Jaws II” sketch; his always hilarious yet not politically correct hard of hearing impression; and his charm as the “Black Perspective” sketch host.  Tim Meadows owes him quite a bit, I think.

(2nd) Jane Curtin, for her best foot forward editorial during Weekend Update, her laid back victim approach during the “Jaws II” sketch, and her awkward appearance in the “Black Perspective” sketch.

(3rd) Dan Aykroyd, for his role as the tricky bureaucrat in the “CIA Department of Records” sketch and for his devoted kiwi hunter portrayal in the “Midnight Probe” sketch, which reminded this viewer greatly of his character in the film “The Great Outdoors.”  It should be noted that while neither of these sketches were, on the whole, highlights of the episode, they were modestly funny.  The CIA sketch poked fun at Big Brother’s underhanded methods without being laugh out loud funny, while the “Midnight Probe” sketch stuck with the absurdist humor that has persisted throughout the show’s history.  Aykroyd was funnier than his co-hunter, John Belushi, in this sketch.

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One comment

  1. kyliekeelee · February 24, 2015

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