Buck Henry returns again! Okay, so I know it's been a while since I've done a 'classic' review, but I had some free time so I thought I'd put the next one out there. With this episode marks Buck's fifth hosting stint and as such, he is the inaugural member of the so-called Five Timers Club. Buck was the go-to host if the cast wanted an easy week writing-wise and getting along with the host-wise, so they made sure to get him to host every season finale from seasons 2-5 and host one other episode in the season (he hosted twice in Year 1, but not the finale). Buck is joined here by Leon Redbone, who was making his third of four appearances as the musical guest with one of the most unique voices in the music industry at the time. Can they pull off another Buck Henry classic?
Host: Buck Henry
Musical Guest: Leon Redbone
"The Waltons Eat Their Young" will not be seen tonight...hahaha, classic.
Cold Open: Anyone Can Host Finalists (Henry, Morris, Radner, + Deb Blair, Connie Crawford, Richard Kneip, David Lewis, and Miskel Spillman) (2:46)
--Garrett and Gilda discuss the finalists for the aforementioned contest before being introduced to the lucky five. Buck chats with them for a bit before they get to open the show. Served its purpose as an introduction to the five contestants and therefore, it was a solid opening.
Monologue: Interviews (Henry, + Deb Blair, Connie Crawford, Richard Kneip, David Lewis, and Miskel Spillman) (7:03)
--Buck now introduces the contestants to the studio audience and gets each of them to plead their case about why they should host. Buck's wit and the fun of the contestants' responses make for a funny piece.
Commercial: Little Chocolate Donuts (Belushi, Davis) (:56)
--A classic in which John shows that he trains for the decathlon by downing a lot of donuts. I love how he's got a lit cigarette at the same time as promoting this "healthy" diet.
Samurai Psychiatrist (Henry, Belushi) (5:36)
--This time, Mr. Dantley (Henry) visits the Samurai shrink (Belushi) and talks about his mother problems. Another good edition of the Samurai/Buck sketches with a terrific twist ending that pushes it over the top.
Stunt Baby (Henry, Curtin, Murray, Voice of Newman, Radner) (4:33)
--Brian Welles (Murray) directs a scene in a film in which a man (Henry) has to be abusive towards the baby, so the stagehand (Radner) brings in the stunt baby. This was pretty groundbreaking at the time and Murray's wonderful smarmy performance only adds to its demented brilliance.
A.M.O.A. Sanitized Motel (Aykroyd) (1:54)
--A spokesman (Aykroyd) explains the lengths that are reached to ensure that the motel's cups and toilets are sanitized. Meh.
Leon Redbone sings "Champagne Charlie" (2:46)
--Leon sits down and churns out a cool-sounding, big bass-type song that turns out to be another gem in his string of SNL performances.
Weekend Update with Dan Aykroyd & Jane Curtin (also: Laraine Newman and Gilda Radner, + Deb Blair, Connie Crawford, Richard Kneip, David Lewis, and Miskel Spillman) (6:45)
--What starts out with a great joke on Lillian Carter escalates into a humourous artist's rendering and narration by Aykroyd along with a few more funny jokes. Laraine Newman also interviews the Anyone Can Host Contest finalists very briefly (my favourite is Miskel's response: "tired") and then Baba Wawa (Radner) reports from Jerusalem, but would rather talk about herself and her rendezvous with celebrities than the ongoing crisis with Anwar Sadat. Solid.
Reunion in Kiev (Henry, Belushi, Newman, Radner) (4:47)
--On a train ride, a series of flashbacks and "flash-aheads" occur involving a passenger (Radner), a waiter (Henry), and his alternate (Belushi) that only manage to further confuse the tale. Pretty decent bit.
Mr. Mike's Rickey Rat Club (Henry, Aykroyd, Belushi, Curtin, Morris, Murray, Newman, Radner) (6:11)
--After a brief introduction by Mr. Mike, we are treated to a demented satirization of the Mickey Mouse Club and other shallow Disney entertainment by way of the Ratketeers and their mascot, Rickey, who is an actual rat. With O'Donoghue's obvious hand in writing this, it has a lot more hits than misses.
The Franken & Davis Show (Radner, Davis, Franken) (5:46)
--This time around, Al and Tom show photos from their early comedic years before introducing Jackie Onassis (Radner) as their guest and the person who saved Tom from choking at a recent dinner. The dinner scene itself is hilarious Franken & Davis lunacy at its best.
Weis Film #33 (Henry + Deb Blair, Connie Crawford, Richard Kneip, David Lewis, and Miskel Spillman) (4:56)
--Buck meets with each of the contestants in his hotel suite so they can have a private word with him about the contest. Each one is pretty funny and along with Buck's deadpan comedic performance, it makes for one of the better Weis films in the show's history (except for "Body Language" in Year 2).
Leon Redbone sings "Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone" (3:28)
--Another good ditty from Redbone, albeit a bit slower and with a much different sound than his first one tonight, but still entertaining.
Schiller's Reel #2: Life After Death (2:14)
--A number of people talk of dying and then coming back to life and all of them have the same thing in common: they had to take a number. Strange and dark piece.
Buck gets some quick closing words with the contestants to plead their case one last time, gives the address for people to vote, and then waves goodnight with the cast and finalists on stage.
Best segment: Stunt Baby
Worst segment: A.M.O.A. Sanitized Motel
Host: Buck Henry - 8.5/10
Musical Guest: Leon Redbone - 8/10
Buck once again brought the goods on this night as he delivered an outstanding performance in all of the things he was involved in, ranging from his straight-man character in the Samurai bit to his deadpan humour in the Weis film. The writing sure didn't hurt either as there was lots of great writing in the aforementioned Samurai and Weis film segments, plus the brilliant Stunt Baby sketch along with the Rickey Rat Club and Franken & Davis for sure. The presence of the Anything Can Host Contest finalists was also a fun addition to this amusement park ride of a show. Leon Redbone also helped out the episode by proving to be a nice addition as a musical guest and again, that darn uniqueness! As for the cast, they were all pretty good (and Murray was criminally underused, but the one part he had, he owned) but I guess I would pick out John Belushi and Gilda Radner as stand-outs for this episode. Real good stuff.
NOTE: This is one of the first episodes which followed the format that they use today right to a tee I believe. The musical performances were before Update and before the ten-to-one sketch and there were no special guests.