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

Host: Elliott Gould

Musical Guests: Leon Redbone; Harlan Collins & Joyce Everson

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 returns as host, tying him for two hosting appearances with Candice Bergen and Buck Henry (so far).  His affability and willingness to go all in on the sketches also render him a delightful host.  He even performs a song and dance in his monologue, accompanied by Paul Shaffer, which is quite nice. His name was Saul in the Ocean’s movies, wasn’t it?  Gosh, it seems like such a long time since those movies were made, yet this episode was made decades before them!  Weird.

The “Wax Museum” cold open.  In this cold open, Laraine Newman (Joan of Arc), Jane Curtin (Marie Antoinette), Neil Levy (King Louis some such or other, probably), and Gilda Radner (I’m not sure…maybe Mae West?) pose as seemingly famous wax figures in a museum.  Chevy Chase plays a visitor to the museum with somewhat puerile intentions.  For example, in his long trench coat, he flashes one of the figures.  He interacts with each of them in different ways, but when he finally reaches Gilda’s Hollywood bombshell type figure, he acts as if he is going to perform less than innocent acts with her, until she comes to life, slaps him in the face, and causes him to fall of the stage.  Naughty, Chevy!

Leon Redbone returns as musical guest.  He sings “Shine on Harvest Moon” and “Walking Stick,” the latter accompanied by just a tuba player.

A singer/songwriter coupling, Harlan Collins and Joyce Everson, sang “Maybe That’s the Way It Goes” near the end of the episode.  I can find no information about these two, unless Mr. Collins is also a composer who has composed music and songs for various television and film projects.  Their duet was very seventies, I think.

“The Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise” sketch.  In this now legendary sketch, and the best sketch of the episode, John Belushi channels his inner William Shatner playing Captain Kirk; Chevy Chase plays Leonard Nimoy (RIP)/Mr. Spock, and Dan Aykroyd serves double duty as Mr. Scott (over the ship’s intercom) and Dr. Bones McCoy/DeForest Kelley, though this impression is the least impressive of all.  In the sketch, the Enterprise encounters a hostile ship, which turns out to be an old sixties convertible, bearing network executives, played by Elliott Gould and Garrett Morris, who have come to cancel Star Trek. Belushi’s Shatner does not take it well, failing to break character and insisting that they’ve only explored three years of their storied five year mission.  Chevy’s Spock stays loyal until he gets very emotional, losing all Vulcan logic, as set crews deconstruct the Enterprise set around them.  It is both absurd, has timeless nerd appeal, and features a great performance by John Belushi.  He’s not a bad Kirk.  Or a bad Shatner.

Chevy Chase began Weekend Update by saying, “I’m Chevy Chase, and so are you.” There were some great one-liners, photographic misinterpretations, and editorial replies in this Update.  He begins Update by reporting that Fidel Castro has pulled out of Angola, and that a frustrated Angola could not be reached for comment (ba dum ching). In another story, a naked woman showing one whole breast appears on the view screen, and Chevy stands up to cover her exposed breast with his hand.   A photograph of some couple, possibly an erstwhile political candidate and his wife, prompts Chevy to report, “Well, nobody really cares anymore.”  A report about former Vice President Spiro Agnew discusses him dressing for a Halloween party, but the photograph behind Chevy is one of a Ku Klux Klan member.  “The Vice President is shown here before he’d decided on his costume,” quips Chevy.  Jane Curtin appears as Audrey Peart Dickman, a squeaky voiced editorial reply provider who attempts to justify the over-commercialization of the American bicentennial.  Chevy Chase returns to his bit of making funny faces and rude gestures behind her back.  Finally, the “News for Fans of Emily Litella fans” is provided by none other than Gilda Radner as Emily Litella, who proceeds to mishear everything Chevy is saying, calling him “Cheddar” in the process. When he says “Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow,” she says, “Hello, and how are you today?”  I’m a big Emily Litella fan myself.

The “Vibramatic” commercial.  In this commercial, performed live, Elliott Gould and Laraine Newman play a married couple.  Laraine’s wife complains of not being able to relax, while Elliott’s husband suggests that she go make him a salad.  Who should appear but Dan Aykroyd as another of his shyster salesmen, advertising the Vibramatic, a kitchen utility and personal massage assistant.  It slices vegetables and potatoes but seems to be somewhat phallic shaped, like, say, a vibrator or dildo, causing Laraine’s wife to lick her lips in quivering anticipation.  “For women AND vegetables,” says Elliott’s husband, while Aykroyd offers complete satisfaction or money back with that trademark toothy grin.

The “Shirley Temple” sketch.  In this sketch, Elliott Gould and Garrett Morris play, what I presume, are leaders of opposing factions in war-torn Angola.  Or maybe some other conflict in Africa.  At any rate, Laraine Newman plays a cross between Shirley Temple, the child actress, and Shirley Temple Black, the adult ambassador.  She sings, talks, and dances like precocious young Shirley with remarkable precision, complete with ringlets in her hair, while encouraging everyone to “be friends.”  This sketch is topped off by an excellent tap dance performed by Laraine, Garrett, and Elliott, hearkening back to all of Shirley’s Depression-era films, yet referring to her in what was no doubt her then-current role of ambassador.  It was great!

“The Honeymooners” sketch.  Presented by “The Bees,” John Belushi is Ralph Kramden, Gilda Radner plays a pregnant Alice, and Dan Aykroyd plays Ed Norton, with Jane Curtin playing neighbor Trixie to start the sketch.  Of course, they’re all bees here. The scenario was only moderately funny, but the sketch proves a highlight thanks to its punchline (the bee baby is not Ralph’s) and due to Belushi’s spot on Jackie Gleason impression. Aykroyd’s Art Carney is nothing to sneeze at either.

The show ended with the whole cast and host Elliott Gould included wearing cowgirl outfits (skirts and legs, people) and inciting a sing-along of “Till We Meet Again” with the audience, since the show was going to experience a hiatus of sorts – production schedules were apparently not the same as they are now.  It was heartwarming, in its way.

Less Successful Moments

Again, there were less funny sketches, but in order to be deemed “less successful,” it has to be completely not funny, ridiculous, and/or an all around train wreck. Fortunately, no such moment existed in this episode.  All of the sketches were solid, though two early season commercials, including the “Academy of Better Careers” commercial, were replayed, and neither were very amusing, even if the point was made in both.

Most Valuable Not Ready For Primetime Players

(1st) John Belushi, for his expert and hilarious impressions of William Shatner as Captain Kirk and Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden.  He kind of made this episode.

(2nd) Chevy Chase, for being on fire in Weekend Update, for being a truly pervy wax museum patron, and for his pathetically emotional Mr. Spock.

(3rd) Laraine Newman, for her spot-on Shirley Temple and tap dancing skills and for being a bit too aroused by the Vibramatic.

Honorable mentions:

Gilda Radner for Emily Litella (always) and for hitting home in the “Honeymooners” sketch.

Garrett Morris, for his awesome tap dancing skills while playing an African dictator, defying gravity and stereotypes in one fell swoop!

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One comment

  1. kyliekeelee · March 16, 2015

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