***** – Classic.
**** – Great.
*** – Average / Good.
** – Meh.
* - Bad.
This episode is reviewed in the rebroadcast order.
OPENING: THE PHONE COMPANY
-”Pretending to make progress so we can charge you more”.
-Another decent opening segment; this would be the final of the short promo cold opens as they would go back to full sketches to start the show with, although still not restoring the “Live From New York” line at all this season. I have to wonder where they would go if they kept the sponsor gags running and if they would have been able to keep up the quality for the rest of the season.
MONOLOGUE: SANTA CLAUS
-Bill announces tonight’s show has some great guests including Santa Claus (Andy Murphy), who Bill effusively praises.
-This is the most well-known clip from this episode due to its use in the Christmas specials, although the intro is redubbed with the later theme and a Don Pardo introduction.
-A good, brief, enjoyable segment carried by Bill’s comic personality.
SHOW: TALES OF THE UNLIKELY
-In “Episode 7: The Libyan Menace”, three inept Libyans (Bill Murray, Robin Duke, Eddie Murphy) attempt to assassinate Reagan to avenge a military defeat.
-This was an above average segment, not necessarily a classic but pretty strong nonetheless thanks to Murray, Duke and Murphy and their flimsy disguises and excuses.
-I especially liked the Covert Operations agent played by Piscopo casually introducing himself and giving away pamphlets such as “So You Want To Kill The President” and offering more help with covering up.
-The ending with Richard Allen (Tony Rosato) was a good topical joke, although I think it plays funnier if you look up his bribery scandal.
-There’s a slight blooper at the end when the crown Robin Duke is wearing in her “three wise men” get-up falls off her head in the scene were they realize Reagan never got their “present”. You can see one of the others grab it off the floor when they leave. Robin’s hair also seems to have a hard time staying under her head covering.
SKETCH: NO TOMORROW
-Tom Snyder (Joe Piscopo), now staying in a seedy hotel room and detached from reality following the cancellation of “Tomorrow”, acts as he is still on-camera and that the visitors to his room are show guests.
-Kind of an interesting use of Piscopo’s Snyder impression, especially with him randomly assigning identities to the visitors in his room such as Ted Turner and Rita Jenretty. I also liked his line when he hallucinated Rona Barrett (Christine Ebersole): “Rona, you’re just a small time bitch from Brooklyn!”
-The ending with Snyder vowing to the teddy bear (who he thinks is the Lindbergh baby) that he’ll return to the air as long as there are freaks and weirdos to be interviewed actually as a fairly touching/bittersweet ending.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: MEDLEY: “THEN CAME YOU”, “I’LL BE AROUND”, “WORKING MY WAY BACK TO YOU”
-The SNL Band is seen on the stage above the legendary R&B vocal group; this was an enjoyable performance that the audience was also very much into.
COMMERCIAL: MX-5 TAMPONS
-Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello) touts the superiority of MX-5 Tampons over Brenda’s brand.
-A silly, brief commercial parody with a few funny lines about how this is the only brand you can wear on a trampoline, and that the tampon company is a division of Baskin and Robbins.
SNL NEWSBREAK: WITH BRIAN DOYLE-MURRAY, SATURDAY NIGHT SPORTS WITH JOE PISCOPO AND MUHAMMAD ALI (EDDIE MURPHY), SPECIAL REPORT BY MARY GROSS
-Best joke: PATCO air traffic controllers in Libya.
-They finally retire the “falling letters” opening after running it into the ground this season.
-The Khaddaffi spellings segment is the first time this season that the writers had a chyron crawl on the screen as Doyle-Murray talked, which would be used multiple times this season to varying effects. This one had some good ones in there, though, and I always tend to remember “Kdfy” the most of the alternate spellings. The Kadaffy Duck comic book was also well done.
-The Sports segment was also pretty funny, especially with the old clip of a clean-cut and slick-haired Joe Piscopo interviewing the then Cassius Clay (Eddie Murphy). The segment with Murphy as the now middle-aged Ali (complete with prosthetic makeup) was also funny if a little in bad taste in light of Ali’s subsequent Parkinson’s diagnosis, but I did like the “I made you Cosell!” line and him trailing off into “Old MacDonald Had A Farm”
-Mary Gross’ Joy Of Christmas remote with jaded young children complaining about the commercialism and bad television specials was also pretty funny. The first little girl from Hidden Photo was in this segment, and I’ve also heard from a few places that a very young Seth Green is one of the other children.
MISCELLANEOUS: FATHER GUIDO SARDUCCI’S PREDICTIONS
-Bill Murray and Father Guido Sarducci discuss predictions the latter made for the nearly finished 1981. Sarducci then makes a few more for 1982.
-The audience enjoyed this absurd segment, and the random things Sarducci suggested would happen in 1981 were pretty funny, especially the aliens from outer space disguising themselves as Chiclets and Sarducci saying his prediction of Prince Charles marrying a 45-year-old Canadian divorcee wasn’t too far off the mark.
-Bill ‘s line “I only read the Post” got a big reaction from the audience.
SKETCH: DESIGNER FAIRY TALES
-Brooke Shields (Mary Gross) contorts as she reads a fairy tale about a pair of elves (Robin Duke and Tim Kazurinsky) that help Ralph Lauren (Bill Murray) get his new lineup ready in time for a deadline.
-Bill Murray did a good job of carrying this, and I did like the models not knowing what the rope was for, as well as Eddie as the really flamboyantly gay model. The little skip he does when he leaves the scene the first time was funny.
-You can see Eddie is holding up his fist in an odd way when he is in the cowboy outfit; in an interview he did for a 1994 Comedy Central marathon he mentioned they hadn’t been able to fully take off the prosthetics he was wearing in time for the sketch (which aired immediately after Update in the original live running order).
-The “I do believe in fairies!” line was pretty funny as well, as were the ridiculous elf outfits that the models wore after the elves made the new lineup.
GUEST PERFORMANCE: MICHAEL DAVIS
-The juggler returns with a few balancing acts as well as a letter from a fan named Lefty who requests he juggles three bowling balls.
-Another impressive, solid appearance by Michael Davis, although I’d put it below his other two appearances so far this season.
-He does usually have at least one classic line in each of his performances; this time, it was “Is [the bowling ball] affected by gravity or does the Earth suck?”
FILM: “FRACAS” BY TIMOTHY HITTLE
This segment was added to the repeat broadcast; a review will appear in the original episode the segment appeared in.
MUSICAL SKETCH: SUPPLY SIDE CHRISTMAS
-Honker (Bill Murray) approaches a well to do couple (Joe Piscopo and Christine Ebersole) for some spare change; they explain to the tune of “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” that if they spend elsewhere, it will trickle down to him. A Salvation Army Santa (Eddie Murphy) joins the song as Honker realizes “it’s a gift-wrapped scam”.
-A brief, amusing interlude, with the main laughs coming from the smugness of the couple as they sang, Santa’s singing and Honker saying that the end result would be that he would be “trickled on”.
SKETCH: AT HOME WITH THE PSYCHOS
-The paranoid patriarch (Bill Murray), his mohawked wife (Christine Ebersole), their blind ballerina daughter (Mary Gross) and dynamite-covered son (Eddie Murphy) ignore the warnings of an emergency worker (Brian Doyle-Murray) about the dangerous fissure at the nuclear plant next door; Dad anticipates the extra radiation will lead to a new orifice called the blow-hole, and he’s going to get rich by selling accessories for it.
-This is it, O’Donoghue’s last gasp during his tenure at SNL in the 1981-82 season. O’Donoghue would contribute to the show briefly in 1985-86 as well as the classic “Boulevard Of Broken Balls” song from Christopher Walken’s 1992 gig, but this is the last time he would have such a huge direct influence on the content of a show.
-This is such an odd, disquieting segment made even eerier by the audiences’ lack of reaction, as well as the siren going off in the background later on, which, combined with the choral music at the very end really gave this an odd atmosphere.
-The actual blow-hole prop (which had been described as “a c*** with ears”) was not approved by Standards and they were forced to do the sketch without it (Murray shows Doyle-Murray accessories in a briefcase opened away from the camera).
-Mary as the blind ballerina daughter was funny in the way Fred Armisen’s David Paterson impression is funny in a wrong way. The scene with Bill making out with her was a little creepy.
-The speech at the end with them announcing they were the people who believed in the MX missile, Chrysler and the Tomorrow Show (a callback to the Snyder sketch?) kind of made the sketch for me, and there were good moments throughout, but the whole thing is so long, dark, hellish and twisted makes it hard to watch multiple times.
-Addendum: When this sketch was originally broadcast on NBC in 1981, the first bit (up to Murray looking in the newspaper) was pre-empted by a network news bulletin announcing the declaration of martial law in Poland. This sketch has an added unsettling quality when viewed as originally aired with the news bulletin.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: MEDLEY: “THE WHIFFENPOOF SONG”, “BOARS HEAD CAROL”, “GOD REST YE MERRY GENTLEMEN”, “JINGLE BELLS”
-A nice respite from the previous sketch. The SAT scores being projected under the singers’ faces was pretty funny.
-Having the cast come out at the end was a nice touch, although I wonder why they had them electronically distort their voices to make them sound like Chipmunks.
-The sideways pan across the cast has Tony doing these exaggerated facial expressions, as well as revealing how short Robin and especially Tim are. Tim actually looks like a little kid with the hat on, and Robin’s hair really looks wild in this episode.
-Bill mentions there’s still a bargain to be had in Fort Lee, New Jersey before solemnly stating: “Our hearts should be with, and are with, the good people of Poland. God bless them.”
-It seems that this segment was joined in progress for the rerun, which added “Fracas” to fill time and as far as I’m aware did not have any other material cut; in the Shales book there’s a remembrance by Don Novello who said Ebersol told Bill to break the news that Russia invaded Poland on the air during the goodnights. What really happened was the government declared martial law, but I’m unsure if the actual announcement about Russia aired and was then cut or if Novello’s memory was foggy. It seems like something might have been cut though. [Addendum: An edit of the live broadcast version is on Netflix and includes the whole goodnights.]
-Jim Downey is listed as an additional writer for this episode.
A decent, if underwhelming episode. Nothing was especially bad in the episode, although there was not really a standout show as one would expect from a host like Bill Murray. I don’t recall a segment that was actually particularly bad; even the difficult to watch At Home With The Psychos was actually a well done sketch. It’s just that most of the material was slightly above-average at best.
This will also be the end of the first portion of the season. O’Donoghue would be fired before the next live show, the catalyst being when he crashed a meeting where he berated everyone’s performance (one thing I’ve read was that he told Mary Gross she was so untalented she should be selling shoes), leaving Bob Tischler as the sole producer under Ebersol. O’Donoghue may have done a lot in these shows that was more daring and had the potential to alienate audiences but these shows also seemed to demonstrate a forward momentum, and the first few shows after O’Donoghue’s firing really feel a little derailed. I really look forward to seeing those episodes again because there were some interesting moments in each of them, but I also recall some of the material being just bad. I’ll get to the good and bad in the specific episode reviews.
-Tales Of The Unlikely
-Supply Side Christmas
CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN:
Robin Duke: 4 appearances [Tales Of The Unlikely, MX-5 Tampons [voice only], Designer Fairy Tales, “Jingle Bells”]
Christine Ebersole: 5 appearances [Tales Of The Unlikely, No Tomorrow, Supply Side Christmas, At Home With The Psychos, "Jingle Bells"]
Mary Gross: 5 appearances [Tales Of The Unlikely, SNL Newsbreak, Designer Fairy Tales, At Home With The Psychos, "Jingle Bells"]
Tim Kazurinsky: 4 appearances [Tales Of The Unlikely, No Tomorrow, Designer Fairy Tales, "Jingle Bells"]
Eddie Murphy: 6 appearances [Tales Of The Unlikely, SNL Newsbreak, Designer Fairy Tales, Supply Side Christmas, At Home With The Psychos, "Jingle Bells"]
Joe Piscopo: 6 appearances [Tales Of The Unlikely, No Tomorrow, SNL Newsbreak, Designer Fairy Tales, Supply Side Christmas, "Jingle Bells"]
Tony Rosato: 4 appearances [Tales Of The Unlikely, No Tomorrow, Designer Fairy Tales, "Jingle Bells"]
Brian Doyle-Murray: 4 appearances [SNL Newsbreak, Designer Fairy Tales, At Home With The Psychos, "Jingle Bells"]
Andy Murphy: 1 appearance [Monologue]
Mark O’Donnell: 1 appearance [Tales Of The Unlikely]
Bill Murray: 7 appearances [Monologue, Tales Of The Unlikely, Sarducci's Predictions, Designer Fairy Tales, Supply Side Christmas, At Home With The Psychos, "Jingle Bells"]
The Spinners: 1 appearance [Medley]
Father Guido Sarducci: 2 appearances [MX-5 Tampons, Sarducci's Predictions]
Yale Whiffenpoofs of 1982: 1 appearance [Medley]
March 13, 1982
December 25, 1982
September 14, 1985
July 5, 1986
This episode is tied with Eddie Murphy / Lionel Richie (S08E09) and Jack Black / Neil Young (S31E09) as the most-repeated episode in SNL history with four network rebroadcasts each.
Known alterations: “Fracas” is added from S07E12, the goodnights were possibly edited.