Sunday, February 8, 2015

SNL Anniversaries, Celebrated on Cable and VHS

Next week, the show will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a three hour special, just like 15 years ago. A lot of people remembered that special because it brought back a lot of the old gang. It even recreated Elvis Costello's decision to change songs without telling anyone back in 1977. That time, it was appreciated.

Not too many people, however, remember the first big anniversary live special in September 1990, just before season 16 started. It was also live, and was only two hours. The VHS copy I had didn't include music performances from Prince and Paul Simon, or some past musical guests, due to rights.

Much of it is a bunch of clips from past shows. They were divided into three sections, 1975-80, 81-85 and 85-90.  Notice in the 81-85 section there's only one clip from season six: the unexpected finale where Tim Kazurinsky created the "I Married A Monkey" sketch. That section did have a lot of Eddie Murphy even if he didn't attend due to David Spade mocking him (supposedly). Murphy is expected to be back next week, and maybe with the same entourage who represented him in 1990.

There were also tributes to Gilda Radner and John Belushi, Charlton Heston reading a letter complaining about the show that he wrote (even though he hosted the show in 1987) and a section to sketches that were rather...naughty. It highlighted the Lord and Lady Douchebag sketch from 1980, and the nude beach sketch from 1988 where "penis" was said a million times. That sketch was written by Conan O'Brien, believe it or not.
The ending was disappointing. They brought out Robin Williams to riff on the show and some in the audience. It seemed they needed to fill time, but they should have had an extra segment just in case.

It's too bad NBC didn't release a DVD version of this anniversary show, as they did with their four history specials. It's not even on Hulu.  If you can't find in in your local thrift store, Amazon does have it and it's not too expensive.

Meanwhile, the VH-1 Classic SNL marathon is heading to the home stretch, showing the first five years. What's great about this is that they are showing the complete episodes, and that means the music, too. If only the channel had cleared the music for all the episodes between 1980 and 1998. That way we would have had 31 Days of SNL. That that, Turner Classic Movies.

It was still a treat seeing episodes that haven't been shown, not even cable, in at least 15 years. This includes stuff from the second Golden Age of Carvey, Hartman, Hooks, Lovitz and Miller.
People may have also been surprised to see George Clooney hosting in a suit that looks more ridiculous than Batman and Robin, and Alec Baldwin hosting with his then-wife Kim Basinger (one of four married couple who did this). Others may wonder, especially if they're under 18, what's Laura Leighton doing there, and may be surprised their parents remember her from another TV show. Some may also be surprised Steve Carrell's wife worked on the show, while he almost did. Others may see Conan O'Brien in the nude, Stephen Colbert as a doctor, or Sarah Silverman in a bit part. If you're lucky, you may spot a young Kirsten Dunst.

It was also a great chance to see past Weekend Update anchors. I've noticed Kevin Nealon tried to be the second coming of Chevy Chase, and actually succeeded. Norm MacDonald was good, but he may have relied a bit too much on OJ Simpson jokes. Current fans may wonder why during season ten (84-85), they let almost anyone host the news before they gave it to Christopher Guest. Bob Uecker can actually claim he anchored for SNL, but so can George Carlin, which was a much better idea.

The Andrew Dice Clay episode was shown, the one Nora Dunn and Sinead O'Connor skipped because they didn't like his jokes. It's amazing the jokes that were bleeped in the original showing were aired intact. One term even wound up being a movie title.
They showed two episodes from season six, mainly because they included some of Eddie Murphy's best early work. Without him, the show was nearly doomed. If the channel had cleared the music, we would have seen an early appearance by Prince...proving he has NOT lost a thing in more than 30 years.
Of course, they showed the famous Coffee Talk episde with Rosanne and Madonna talking about Barbara Streisand, followed by a surprising cameo. That bit is in the Best of Mike Meyers DVD.

Still, there are lots of old shows they skipped over, mainly more recent ones and from the Ebersol era. I would have loved to see "Da War of da Woilds" with the classic line, "what da funk is dat?", as much as Jesse Eisenberg and Nicki Minaj in their version of the "Bride of Frankenstein". Pee Wee Herman even hosted, but that wasn't included in the marathon
Of course, I also missed the music, especially from the shows between 1980 and 1998. Some from that period is available on the SNL 25 Years of Music DVD.

Yahoo Screen has clips from the 80s and 90s. Hulu has more than 300 episodes, including the first five years and the last ten. It would be great if VH-1 Classic aired the episodes those sites don't have, like Comedy Central used to do. Actually, if you go through Amazon, you can find Best of 1991 and Best of 1993 of SNL, but they're VHS. These titles should be available somewhere online or DVD.

No comments: