Classic SNL Review: January 23, 1982: Robert Conrad / The Allman Brothers Band (S07E09)

RATINGS SYSTEM:
***** – Classic
****   – Great
***     – Good/Average
**       – Meh
*         – Bad

OPENING: THE PEOPLE’S COURT
-Plaintiff Paulette Clooney (Robin Duke) is suing Velvet Jones (Eddie Murphy) because she failed to make any money after following his instructions in “I Wanna Be A Ho”. Judge Joseph Wapner (Robert Conrad) rules in favor of Jones, as he explains the plaintiff wouldn’t have benefited from the course because “she’s a pig”.

-
This seemed to be a bit of a remake/combination of previously used material, particularly with Paulette pulling out her top and the “I Wanna Be A Ho” pitch.  Even so, this was a decent enough sketch with good performances from Murphy and Duke, and the big applause at the beginning for both characters and Robert Conrad did give it a bit of momentum.
-Conrad wasn’t so much doing an impression of Wapner as much as just wearing a judge robe; I’ve always found his lack of makeup or wig curious.  He also screwed up his lines during his ruling.
-Eddie Murphy walked away with the sketch as Jones; the funniest parts to me were that his manner of speaking was still stilted even when off-camera, his constantly calling the judge “my honor”, and explaining why Paulette failed: “the bitch ugly”.  Robin Duke didn’t get as many laughs (and got dead silence when doing her top pull and panty flash) but she did a good job playing off Eddie Murphy and I did find it funny when she shoved her fist into her mouth.
***1/2 

MISCELLANEOUS: IN THE NEWS
-Joe Piscopo narrates a short summary of the many marriages of Elizabeth Taylor.
-A short and funny segment; some of Piscopo’s lines were good, such as the one about Liz being a home wrecker (regarding the Eddie Fisher marriage), the bad movies she and Burton made, and “Then Liz got fat!”
***

SHOW: WILD WILD WILD WEST
-Abraham Lincoln (Tony Rosato) asks Jim West (Robert Conrad) and Artemis Gordon (Joe Piscopo) to track down Ulysses Grant (Tim Kazurinsky) to find out what he drinks that helps him win the war.  Only trouble is he’s being held captive at Velvet Jones’ brothel, and Jones and his harem of mind-controlled hos stand between them and Grant.
-This segment was over 10 minutes long, and it had a largely dead audience which made it feel like it went on even longer.  Most of the laughs came from Velvet Jones (especially him laughing “maniacally” in the same stilted manner he speaks), although I did like Tony as Abe Lincoln, especially his comments to his wife at the theatre (“Cool off.”)  Other than that, though, this was pretty dreadful.
-According to Dave Thomas’ SCTV book, Del Close, who was credited as an acting coach this season, co-wrote this piece with Brian Doyle-Murray.
-The taller, bearded aide with the nasal voice that appears at the beginning with Brian Doyle-Murray is writer Nate Herman.  No clue who the extra with the speaking role as Mary Todd Lincoln is…probably not a writer but just some older actress they hired for the night.  I wonder who was the guy dressed as Booth at the end, though.
*1/2  

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: “MIDNIGHT RIDER”
-
Not one of their better performances; Gregg seemed particularly rough tonight.

FILM: “BABIES IN MAKEUP” BY ED BIANCHI
-“Alabama Song” plays over shots of babies wearing makeup and costumes.
-It’s hard for me to review this; on one hand, it was a very well made and memorable piece.  On the other hand, some of the stuff like the tattoo on the baby bottom and the S&M baby with the leather pants (and bound Snoopy toy) seemed more than a little creepy and pedophilic.
-Director Ed Bianchi later would go on to direct the opening dancing sequences of The Cosby Show, as well as episodes of such highly acclaimed shows like Mad Men, Deadwood and The Wire.
-Those babies all must be pushing 30 right now; I wonder if any of them have seen this.
***

MISCELLANEOUS: OVEREXPOSURE
-Velvet Jones announces that he will no longer be appearing on SNL because he has died of overexposure, and introduces another character that succumbed to the same fate, Paulie Herman (Joe Piscopo).
-A brief but funny bit.  Jones actually would come back twice the next season but this was a good way of retiring the character before he got too old and it’s something that the current writers should take note of.
-Note the big applause for Paulie Herman; was it because the audience liked to see him one last time or because the character “died”?
****

NEWSBREAK TEASER: WITH JACK HENRY ABBOTT TRIAL MOVIE PREVIEW
-Mary Gross shows an exclusive preview of a movie based on the trial of Jack Henry Abbott, in which Abbott (Robert Conrad) is cross-examined by attorney Lou Costello (Tony Rosato).
-One of the better segments of the night, with Rosato doing his fantastic Costello for the only time on SNL (he did it a few times on SCTV the year before).  Conrad and Kazurinsky also were good and all played off each other nicely.
-They reused the courtroom set from The People’s Court.
****

SNL NEWSBREAK WITH BRIAN DOYLE-MURRAY, SATURDAY NIGHT SPORTS WITH JOE PISCOPO, WEATHER WITH CHRISTINE EBERSOLE
-
Best joke: NBC bought by Yoo-Hoo.
-A lot of the jokes were pretty dumb, particularly the last disco joke punchline, and the tag to the decent but overextended Solidarnosc part.  The last joke about Chinese New Year also died.
-Piscopo seems to be looking into the wrong camera at times but he did have a funny segment about the Superbowl; topping last year’s electric football game demonstration, he uses two different video game systems (Atari and Intellivision) to predict the winner.
-The weather segment with Ebersole was pretty weak as usual.
**

SHOW: BATTLE OF THE WEEK
-Vic Salukin (Tony Rosato) hosts a competition between three Las Vegas showgirls (Robin Duke, Mary Gross, Christine Ebersole) and three members of the U.S. Volunteer Army (Robert Conrad, Eddie Murphy, Tim Kazurinsky).
-Vic Salukin seemingly comes back from the dead for this sketch, but it seems to be a different character with the same name; the Salukin in the first sketch seemed closer to Tony Rosato playing himself while this Salukin is a bit more of a generic cheesy game show host, with slick hair and slightly too big glasses.
-The audience was pretty dead for this as well; there were a few funny lines like the head showgirl explaining that some of her team have actually graduated high school, and Eddie and Tim were good as usual.  Other than that, it was a one joke premise that didn’t really go anywhere, and not one of the show’s better game show parodies.
-There were a few errors in the sketch, like the top of the toilet being wheeled into frame as the camera is on the girls and Conrad messes up another one of his lines towards the end.
*1/2 

SHOW: A FEW MINUTES WITH ANDY ROONEY
-
Andy Rooney (Joe Piscopo) has some thoughts about breasts.
-Back to more familiar territory with Piscopo’s Andy Rooney impression, but there were a few funny lines like Kate Smith sized breasts and “twin cinemas”.  The comment about men with breast seemed to wake up the crowd.
-The ending was very awkward with a long pause before the audience started to applaud.
**1/2 

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: “SOUTHBOUND”
-I liked this song better than the first, with some good playing and solos.  I think this is the first SNL performance with a keytar.

SKETCH: NIXON VS. FDR
-
A rather fascistic G. Gordon Liddy (Robert Conrad) pays a visit to the Nixon mansion and tells the disgraced former president (Tony Rosato) that his misdeeds are only what other great men like Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Tim Kazurinsky) did before him.
-Another very long sketch; at 12 minutes this was the longest sketch of the show.  It had a bit more going for it than the Wild Wild West parody, though.  It probably would have worked better if it was more succinct and didn’t have the Nixon/Liddy stuff: Rosato did an okay but not great Nixon; Conrad was pretty bad as Liddy, which is odd because Conrad actually starred as Liddy in an NBC TV movie that aired about two weeks before this episode aired.  Tim Kazurinsky, however, was great as FDR and I liked a lot of everyone else’s performances, particularly Robin Duke as Missy LeHand (done as kind of a loud ditzy character).
-I liked a few of the gags in this, like the awkward microphone FDR brings out, Eleanor opening the bottle with her buck teeth, and the record he had of evidence of Eleanor’s “avant-garde relationship” with Lorena Hickock, and Missy screwing up Stalin and Churchill’s names.
-Another writer cameo in this sketch: Nelson Lyon is the one playing Stalin.
-Eddie Murphy’s role as the Japanese ambassador is so over the top in its stereotype it seems likely that they only got away with it by Eddie only wearing a pair of glasses and a fake bucktooth but otherwise still very obviously African-American.  Kind of an interesting subversion; they would do something similar in next season’s “MAD Magazine Theatre”.
-The length does hurt it as I found it started to get boring.  There’s enough to keep it from being a waste but I still can’t consider this a good sketch.
** 

MISCELLANEOUS: SISTER
-Christine Ebersole’s mousy sister Nancy Sue Ebersole (actually played by Christine herself) demonstrates her marginal talent as onscreen text explains to the audience.
-Amusing.  The best part was the onscreen text apologizing for having her on as she sang horribly and played her viola, but Christine did an excellent job at playing awkward.
***1/2

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: “ONE WAY OUT”
-Gregg was still pretty rough; decent soloing from everyone though.
-The show was running long at this point and their performance gets cut off in the middle.

GOODNIGHTS:
-
No closing voiceover from Mel Brandt tonight; this likely means that the studio feed cut out early when originally aired.  However, they do leave the recording going for a bit after the full credit run.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
The first show after Michael O’Donoghue’s firing shows a definite dip in quality and difficulty coming up with a full show of decent material; the bulk of the show taken up by lengthy and not particularly funny sketches as well as three musical numbers.  It also seems like the show was really starting to struggle with getting guests judging by the booking of Conrad and the Allman Brothers Band, both past their prime and not particularly relevant at that point.  Conrad was a fairly weak host despite a decent performance in Newsbreak Teaser; he seemed to be playing “Conrad with a robe” or “Conrad with a mustache” in every sketch.  The show would go a few more episodes in the wilderness before finally regaining some of its past momentum.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:
-Newsbreak Teaser
-Overexposure
-The People’s Court
-Sister

EPISODE LOWLIGHTS:
-Wild Wild Wild West
-Battle Of The Week
-SNL Newsbreak
-Nixon vs. FDR
-A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney

MVP:
Eddie Murphy

CAST AND GUEST BREAKDOWN:
cast
Robin Duke: 4 performances [The People's Court, Wild Wild Wild West, Battle Of The Week, Nixon vs. FDR]
Christine Ebersole: 5 performances [Wild Wild Wild West, SNL Newsbreak, Battle Of The Week, Nixon vs. FDR, Sister]
Mary Gross: 4 performances [Wild Wild Wild West, Newsbreak Teaser, Battle Of The Week, Nixon vs. FDR]
Tim Kazurinsky: 4 performances [Wild Wild Wild West, Newsbreak Teaser, Battle Of The Week, Nixon vs. FDR]
Eddie Murphy: 5 performances [The People's Court, Wild Wild Wild West, Overexposure, Battle Of The Week, Nixon vs. FDR]
Joe Piscopo: 7 performances [The People's Court, In The News (voice only), Wild Wild Wild West, Overexposure, SNL Newsbreak, A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney, Nixon vs. FDR]
Tony Rosato: 4 performances [Wild Wild Wild West, Newsbreak Teaser, Battle Of The Week, Nixon vs. FDR]

featured players:
Brian Doyle-Murray: 3 performances [Wild Wild Wild West, SNL Newsbreak, Nixon vs. FDR]

non-cast:
Nate Herman: 1 performance [Wild Wild Wild West]
Nelson Lyon: 1 performance [Nixon vs. FDR]

guests:
Robert Conrad: 5 performances [The People's Court, Wild Wild Wild West, Newsbreak Teaser, Battle Of The Week, Nixon vs. FDR]
The Allman Brothers Band: 3 performances [“Midnight Rider”, “Southbound”, “One Way Out”

REBROADCAST HISTORY:
This episode was not rebroadcast by NBC; In The News was added to other shows’ repeats while Babies In Makeup was repeated in the Robert Culp and Robin Williams episodes.

 

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4 thoughts on “Classic SNL Review: January 23, 1982: Robert Conrad / The Allman Brothers Band (S07E09)

  1. This is the first episode of what writer Eliot Wald referred to as the “Four Roberts”, four all-time bad episodes hosted by “Roberts” during his time at 8H; Urich, Culp, and Blake soon to be seen flailing around the bend…

    • I didn’t remember Urich to be quite as bad as the others but yeah, they had a lot of weak shows hosted by Bobs who weren’t exactly in the prime of their careers (though I guess Culp had Greatest American Hero).

  2. Hey man can you send me that babies in make up video im acually the baby you have in the picture and i lost the vhs i had id really love to see it.i think my wife and daughter would get a kick out of it. Thanks alot

  3. Note the back-up singer in the Joe Montana jersey during the Allmans’ second tune. #Niners #SNL

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