40 Years of Saturday Night Live! – Season One, Episode Nine (Elliott Gould)

Host: Elliott Gould

Musical Guest: Anne Murray

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

Highlights:

Elliott Gould, who is probably best known to Generations X, Y, and the Millennials as either Ross and Monica’s dad on Friends or the guy with the robes and the legit face of the heists in the Ocean’s movies, was the host for this episode.  As it turns out, he’s quite a song and dance man, and he sang with Paul Shaffer, once a member of the show’s band who clearly emulated Elton John in every way, playing piano while Gould performed a fairly convincing tap dance.  In the monologue section, however, as Elliott is singing and dancing, he’s interrupted by Gilda Radner in the first of a series of recurring bits of the episode.  It seems that they had something of a one-nighter the night before, or so he thought. Gilda, on the other hand, completely smitten and alluding to “things he said last night,” eagerly turns every new meeting, often forced by her, into the next step on the road to walking down the aisle.

Country singer Anne Murray is the musical guest.  She sang “The Call” and “Blue Finger Lou.”

The “Godfather Therapy” sketch.  In this sketch, John Belushi dons a pretty decent impression of Marlon Brando in The Godfather, while therapist Elliott Gould attempts to elicit Vito Corleone’s true feelings about the rival family (the Tantaglias?), who, as Godfather aficionados will remind you, ordered the fatal hit on Sonny Corleone, Vito’s eldest son (played by James Caan in the movie).  Another member of the group, a Valley girl played by Laraine Newman, calls Vito out on deflecting his true feelings, as he babbles different imposing Godfather lines, in one of her hilarious character voices. The sketch is filled with absurdity and then-current pop culture references.  It’s a national treasure.

The “New Shimmer” commercial.  Chevy Chase advertises a product that is both a dessert topping and a floor wax.  The commercial begins with a married couple, played by Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner, arguing over what is the true use of the product, complete with a mutual hurling of insults, including the husband calling his wife a “cow.”

The “Killer Bees” sketch.  In this sketch, the bees are back, carrying fake artillery.  The sketch was riffing on Mexican drug cartels, I think, with the leader played by Elliott Gould and the henchmen played by John Belushi, Garrett Morris, and Dan Aykroyd, though these clearly Latino bees are portrayed as terrorists, so more seventies openness working against today’s need to be political correct in appreciating the sketch, am I right? Belushi’s characterization is particularly funny. The bees enter the home of average American married couple Chevy Chase and Gilda Radner, demanding pollen or else, violence.  When the couple tries to suggest that the “pollen” is at Aunt Betty’s, in an effort to have an excuse to escape, the apparently foresighted bees drag in Aunt Betty, played by Jane Curtin, who, in her best imitation Southern Belle, tells them she had to talk and tell the bees she had no pollen, or the bees would do terrible things to her etc. etc. At this point, the sketch starts to teeter from absurd to pointlessly lengthy, but then the sketch goes meta!  Elliott Gould starts to give a lengthy speech about how the bees are only committing their acts of violence to feed their starving bee families, but the camera stays focused on Belushi and Morris.  When these two start motioning to the camera because it’s fixed on the wrong people, Belushi and Morris call a stop, describing “technical difficulties,” and suggest that Gould changes places, so he can be in the shot; however, after he does, the camera roves again, this time to the floor. At this point, the actors call for Lorne Michaels, the show’s producer, to help.  Lorne Michaels, after appearing on camera, I think, for the first time, then storms up to the director’s booth (with the cast onstage making hilarious commentary about his legendary temper), only to discover that the director of the episode, Dave Wilson, is drinking and is quite worse for wear. After a physical “confrontation,” Lorne “fires” Dave, takes over the directing job, and asks for the sketch to resume, but at that point, it’s lost its momentum, and the actors simply leave the stage. Even funnier?  During the end credits of the episode, Dave Wilson’s name is “x’d” out of the credits.

The film by Albert Brooks in this episode is actually somewhat funny.  In the film, Brooks allegedly pays his own money to have audience research tests conducted with regard to his Saturday Night segments.  Most of the test results seem to infer that no one finds him funny.  What’s more, he indicates at the top of the film that this is his last Saturday Night appearance “for a while.”  WE’LL SEE…forty years later for these retrospective blog posts…

There is a guest performance by Saturday Night writers Tom Davis and Al Franken, a show regular who has intermittently appeared on the series for decades.  Their gutsy set imagined the world if Whites had not actually taken the New World from the Indians and had been forced to co-exist, as the opposite has been true for so long.  They posed as Indians on a version of “Meet the Press,” during which films of this imagined world are reviewed. To describe it would not do it justice; it was far ahead of its time, though, considering the enduring controversy regarding such topics as the mascot name for the Washington Redskins.

The show concluded with a wedding!  Well, sort of, though Elliott Gould didn’t know what to say when he and Gilda Radner were pronounced man and wife.

Less Successful Moments

The “Interior Demolitionists” sketch.  In this sketch, Chevy Chase and Garrett Morris show up to a house owned by Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin, claiming they are “interior demolitionists,” as they destroy everything in sight.  Dan Aykroyd’s husband begins in the shower, while Jane Curtin’s wife is shocked by the destruction and keeps asking if the demolitionists are in the right house, claiming her husband often fails to keep her apprised of things like this.  The punchline: it was all deliberate.  I think the basic premise was funny, and I believe the sketch was aimed at the unexpected as being the source of humor, but the execution of the sketch left the punchline predictable, and I just cringed at all of the nice destroyed furniture that could have been someone’s antiques one day, or at least stored to be reused by NBC Studios.  Though it was funny that the vase thrown by Jane Curtin at the end of the sketch failed to break when it was obviously supposed to do so.

Most Valuable Not Ready For Primetime Players

(1st) Gilda Radner, for so sweetly being in denial about her “relationship” with host Elliott Gould throughout the entire show and for absorbing insults like a pro during the “New Shimmer” commercial.

(2nd) John Belushi, for his Vito Corleone impression and for his intensely unstable Latino Killer Bee, as well as his quick thinking regarding all of the technical difficulties during that sketch.

(3rd) Laraine Newman, for her ridiculous and hilarious Valley girl character during the “Godfather Therapy” sketch.

Honorable mention:

Lorne Michaels, for being a not ready for any time or kind of television appearance player.

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One comment

  1. kyliekeelee · March 1, 2015

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