Friday, September 26, 2014
SNL Vintage: What Bottles Should NBC Open?
This week, Saturday Night Live will be 40 years old. Not too many shows reach middle age. In TV years, the show is 4000 years old, and Sunday shows like Meet the Press are practically skeletons.
NBC will be showing one-hour versions of old episodes of Saturday Night Live in honor of this major milestone. The opening episode was Richard Pryor hosting from 1975. People prayed the classic "Word Association" sketch will be shown uncut, "N" word included--and it did. It also had the Samurai Hotel bit with John Belushi, a spoof of The Exorcist that was better than the real sequel, and Gil Scott Heron singing "Johannesburg". It's actually sharper than what you get outside of HBO these days.
Next week, the show turns to 2000, with the "More Cowbell" sketch with Will Farrell and Christopher Walken. There's also some fine early Christina Aguilera, too.
After that, what's next? Taking a look at the SNL Archives website, I wrote down several episodes they should air, or will likely air. It's almost certain the show will salute 2001 with the season opener, which aired a few days after 9/11. It featured Paul Simon and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. It also had Reese Witherspoon in a classic spoof of "The Little Mermaid" that sort of had a sequel ten years later,
So, here are some suggestions. Please remember this is from a typical SNL fan, namely someone who stopped watching at least twice in the 40 year run. Diehard fans may have a more informed list:
1976: Candace Bergen's second Christmas episode, featuring the first sketch that completely collapsed when she forgot Gilda Radner's character's name--and Radner was supposed to be the dumb one.
1977: The "Anyone Can Host" contest winner that included Elvis Costello deciding not to play "Less Than Zero", and singing "Radio, Radio" instead. He wasn't welcome back until 1989, and that decision was spoofed in the 25th anniversary show. (Alternate choice: Ray Charles)
1978: Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi's first appearance as The Blues Brothers. Also, Steve Martin as a medieval barber.
1979: Kate Jackson hosting and seeming to sabotage SNL for then ABC chief (and former NBC chief) Fred Silverman
1980: Final episode of original cast with Buck Henry
1981: Bill Murray helping out in this most lost of seasons
1982: Eddie Murphy hosting when Nick Nolte couldn't make it
1983: John Candy or Jerry Lewis
1984: Robin Williams' first time as host. (Alternate choice: Billy Crystal hosting before he joined the cast)
1985: Mr. T and Hulk Hogan hosting to generate publicity for Wrestlemania. They never had a chance against Crystal as Fernando.
1986: Jay Leno in the season when Robert Downey Jr and Joan Cusack were in the cast, but a better choice would be Sam Kinison, NBC will likely choose Leno or even Sigourney Weaver
1987: Not sure, but Dennis Hopper with Roy Orbison is a good choice,
1988: Tom Hanks, thanks to the Girl Watchers sketch with Jon Lovitz and Mr. Short-Term Memory
1989: John Goodman with Toonces and Wayne's World almost showing Madonna's "Erotica" video (compare that to what Nikki Minaj does now)
1990: Alec Baldwin in an early turn as host, or Andrew Dice Clay
1991: Michael Jordan with Public Enemy, or Roseanne spoofing "Misery"
1992: Roseanne again with Tom Arnold, and the famous "Coffee Talk" sketch that includes Madonna talking about Barbra Streisand...and guess who shows up in the final 30 seconds
1993: Christina Applegate doing a killer impression of Cher, but it's also the episode that introduced us to Matt Foley. Watch it in a van down by the river.
1994: Dana Carvey, including an appearance by George Bush 41. It includes a sketch on the OJ Simpson Trial
1995: Again not sure, but George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino are good choices
1996: Jim Carrey will host October 25th, so why have his first time hosting so we can see "Jimmy Tango's Fat Busters"
1997: Chris Farley or Jon Lovitz hosting are good choices, but seeing Claire Danes as a bitter Tinkerbell would be a wise choice
1998: Cameron Diaz spoofing the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky controversy is an easy choice. It's a staple on VH-1 Classic
1999: Another staple: Gwyneth Paltrow pretending to be English until Ben Affleck calls her out on it. Yeah, he used to date her, too.
2002: John McCain would be a good choice. He was quite funny until he decided to be a go-to guest on the Sunday shows
2003: Justin Timberlake's first time as host, proving to be the best cast member SNL never had
2004: Lindsay Lohan's first hosting gig, and debut of Debbie Downer. Or, Jude Law in the notorious Ashlee Simpson lip-synch controversy. He also does a great impression of Tony Blair.
2005: Diaz again, with the Barry Gibb Talk Show including Timberlake. Or, Tom Brady in an unusual sexual harassment film
2006: Alec Baldwin with Chrstina Aguilera, and Tony Bennett in a sketch with Baldwin spoofing him. Throw in a duet with him and Aguilera, and you have a classic
2007: Peyton Manning showing he can host better than his brother
2008: Tina Fey hosts for first time just after end of writer's strike
2009: Tracy Morgan would be a good choice, but so would Neil Patrick Harris or Taylor Swift
2010: Betty White, period. They should also show Jon Hamm's first hosting gig, too
2011: Obvious choice is Timberlake and Lady Gaga, but Jesse Eisenberg is my choice because he had better sketches--and Minaj as the Bride of Frankenstein.
2012: Actually, really tough: Mick Jagger would be a great choice, but Emma Stone and Zooey Deschanel also had strong showings. I'd choose Jagger because he did surprising well, It's also the farewell for Kristen Wiig
2013: Melissa McCarthy in another classic rookie performance.
Yahoo Screen is the online source for old SNL sketches, but Hulu is missing seasons six to 29. What is surprising that no cable channel wants to be the home for all SNL episodes. Comedy Central used to serve that role, and so did E! despite terrible promotion. VH-1 Classic has episodes from 1999 on, but it should consider a marathon of many more episodes.
Also, remember when NBC used to air old episodes at 2 AM, even the less-censored Andrew Dice Clay episode? I got very good old episodes before I got the DVDs from the first five years. Wouldn't anyone like to have TV Land or Comedy Central show the complete history of SNL?
Well, at least NBC will show us a part of the show's history. It would be better if we saw more of it. If nothing else, we'd be surprised when we're reminded that Sid Caesar and Milton Berle actually hosted.
SNL Vintage airs at 10 PM Saturdays starting this Saturday on NBC. Season 40 of SNL airs at 11:30 with Chris Pratt and Ariana Grande.