40 Years of Saturday Night Live! – Season One, Episode Eighteen (Raquel Welch)

Host: Raquel Welch

Musical Guests: Phoebe Snow; John Sebastian

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

Highlights:

“National sex symbol” and pin-up icon (and occasional actress) Raquel Welch hosted this episode.  She sang twice too.  As a host, she didn’t do it for me – though Chevy Chase tried more than once, unsuccessfully, to get her to take her shirt off.  She also doesn’t have a great singing voice.  What does this teach us, ladies and gentlemen?  In fact, this episode was lackluster overall but for a few shining moments…

The “Presidential Candidates” cold open.  In this cold open, Chevy Chase is reading off, Oscar-style, the nominations for various awards for each of the 1976 presidential primary candidates.  Nominations included Ronald Reagan – for never acting in a movie again.  This part of the sketch wasn’t the funny part; when asking for the award envelope, Chevy receives an envelope that says, “This is running long, just get to the fall, Chevy.”  Chevy then has a “moment,” spouting off about how he wrote the sketch, and that he’s not just a physical comic who performs falls, and that he wants to have the real envelope, which has the punchline to the sketch on it.  He is handed a second envelope that says something to the effect of, “Seriously, just get to the fall.”  He makes a protracted attempt to leave before finally making good on his promise and attempting to exit stage right, only to spectacularly trip over some chairs.  So meta.

Raquel Welch’s monologue was one of her singing spots, which would normally be uninteresting but for the fact that she sang a duet with John Belushi again sporting his Joe Cocker impression, which seems to involve him rolling around on the floor a lot (or acting like he has rigor mortis).  Did Joe Cocker actually do that?!?!  Raquel sang another song toward the end of the show too.  It was not a highlight.

The Muppets are back!  This time, confused as they are by not being invited on the show, they discover Raquel Welch and start to get a little sexy with her, until she informs them that they are puppets, without “bottom halves,” making them “all talk.” This piece of news leads the Chief to have a major identity crisis…

Phoebe Snow is the first to repeat as musical guest; she previously appeared in the Paul Simon episode to sing a duet with him.  In this episode, she’s flying solo, and sings “All Over” and “Two-Fisted Love.”

John Sebastian is the second musical guest for this episode.  He rose to fame as founder and singer for The Lovin’ Spoonful, though he nurtured a solo career from the seventies onward. He sang “Welcome Back,” best known as the theme song to Welcome Back Kotter.  Funnily enough, he had two false starts on the broadcast and got a little flustered at the band, some of which included the studio band.  Also, John Belushi as Joe Cocker helped him out with a harmonica.

The “Polaroid” commercial, which was surprisingly unfunny but for a twist: John Belushi, advertising the product, introduced himself as Jane Curtin while talking to Jane Curtin, who introduced herself as John Belushi.  I think they were confused.

Weekend Update was kind of a mixed bag of good and bad in this episode.  When Chevy Chase introduced himself as “I’m Chevy Chase, and you can’t,” it was clear that he couldn’t either.  In fact, at one point, he had trouble finding the camera, which clearly wasn’t deliberate, because he broke!  For a mini moment, but this brings his grand total of breakages up to four!  While his jokes largely crashed and burned, two guest reports made up for it.  Making the first appearance in this episode was Gilda Radner’s famous impression of Barbara Walters, i.e. “Bawbwa Wawa.”  Roving reporter Garrett Morris introduces Bawbwa and interviews her about leaving NBC for ABC for a five million dollar deal (this must be why they saw fit to subtly parody her).  She was only guaranteed the money if she learned how to say a name I can’t quite remember now, but it really chuffed her speech impediment.  Additionally, returning to the desk was John Belushi, the Saturday Night meteorologist, who ranted about the deleterious effects of songs about weather.  He was particularly focused on the song “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” reasoning that rain on a parade was a lot better than, say, vomit on a parade or kitty litter on a parade.  Chevy, of course, tried to interrupt him and to get him back on track, but John had to make his point (“back off, man!”), culminating in another explosion resulting from seeming cardiac arrest and toppling off his chair.  Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow, indeed.

The “Beatle Offer” sketch.  In the best and most legendary part of this episode, producer Lorne Michaels came out from behind the scenes to address rumors that the Beatles (all of whom were alive at that point) might be reuniting.  He implored them to reunite on the show, if possible given their infighting and legal battles, and offered them a whopping sum of $3,000 to sing three songs.  “If you want to pay Ringo less, that’s up to you,” he quipped.  As a Beatlesologist, it is well known that Paul actually called John at his New York apartment and asked if they oughtn’t to go on, even as a duo, for a laugh. In the end, they decided against it, but wouldn’t it have been something?  And frankly, it was ballsy of Lorne to try.  Remember when he was ballsy?

The “Muppet Trunk” sketch.  At the end of the show, The Chief and Scred consult the Frank Oz voiced Vivog, the statue for which they sacrifice for advice.  The Chief implored the statue to help them, since the Gorch scenery was burned down, since the show has stopped booking them for sketches, and since they are apparently just puppets with no bottom halves.  “That’s easy; don’t look down,” Vivog says.  He also suggests that the Muppets resign themselves to being puppets and climb in “the trunk,” where other Gorch characters have been resting “since November.”  Is this the last of the Muppets on Saturday Night?!  Say it isn’t so!  Yet, The Muppet Show was taking off by then, so it was only a matter of time.

Less Successful Moments

The “Claudine Longet Invitational” sketch.  Chevy Chase and Jane Curtin play commentators for a ski invitational where film footage of skiers wiping out is shown.  According to the commentary, they have allegedly been “accidentally shot” by Claudine Longet, an actress of yore who was accused of shooting her skier boyfriend at the time, which she claimed was an accident, saying the gun went off while he was showing it to her.

The “Great Moments in Herstory” sketch.  In this sketch, Raquel Welch played actress Jane Russell, on the set of Howard Hughes’ film The Outlaw.  Dan Aykroyd played the famously eccentric director. This sketch suffered from lousy execution by Welch and an absurd concept that had something to do with putting a bra made out of propellers on Jane’s bazongas, as constructed by a “Mormon scientist” played by Garrett Morris.  It just really wasn’t funny and was clearly aiming for absurdity while falling short due to dead weight by Welch.

The “Bisexual Minute” sketch.  In this sketch, Raquel Welch, dressed in a bikini top and not much else, introduced herself as Gore Vidal and talked about the famous author’s alleged family history.  You weren’t supposed to be paying attention to what she was saying.  I’m sure there were a lot of presidential erections as a result, but this bit did absolutely nothing for me.

The “One Flew Over the Hornet’s Nest” sketch.  Otherwise known as the Bees do One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, complete with an insane asylum, an “Indian” chief played by Chevy Chase, and a Nurse Ratched played by Raquel Welch, with John Belushi playing the Jack Nicholson/McMurphy bee.  Three things: a) the only funny part was Gilda Radner playing “Broccoli,” a so-called vegetable; b) the sketch ran waaaay too long; and c) it was mocking Cuckoo’s Nest for its many Oscar nominations, but by golly, that shit deserved it.  It’s an excellent movie.  Also, Raquel Welch stunk up the joint in this one, playing a Nurse Ratched, or maybe a Louise Fletcher, it’s hard to tell, who was positively pining for her eventual Oscar.  I’m sure heterosexual men and homosexual women the world over loved her as host, but, in my opinion, she is not much more than her looks.  At least she wasn’t back then and on this show.

And then Gary Weis’ film was nothing but a dancing Raquel Welch.  With slow motion.  And with her wearing a jumpsuit of sequins that she no doubt had to tape to her mooblies. He probably had a presidential erection too.

Most Valuable Not Ready For Primetime Players

(1st) John Belushi, for his triumphant return as Joe Cocker, for his easily agitated meteorologist, for selling a camera under a nom de plume, and for sort of channeling Jack Nicholson in the “Hornet’s Nest” sketch.  Sort of.

(2nd) Chevy Chase, for his attempt at integrity during the cold open, for his opportunistic and horny attempts to defrock Raquel Welch, and for his mini-break after losing the camera focus, making his breakage score 4 to Belushi’s 1, with the rest of the cast at 0.

(3rd) Gilda Radner, for Babwa Wawa and for being a totally far out Broccoli Bee.

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One comment

  1. kyliekeelee · March 10, 2015

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