This episode is significant not just because it is Chevy's final appearance as a Not Ready for Prime Time Player (Which turned out to be a brilliant career but also because of the excellent performance by The Band. The members of the legendary rock band were just plain amazing with performance of their signature song "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". However let's not forget the terrific sketches through out this episode. The late Gilda Radner shines once again as Baba Wawa. Jane Curtain and Lorraine Newman are great as well in 'Not For First Ladies Only". Buck Henry has always done a great job as host during his many appearances. This time is no exception (Though he found out hosting could be hazardous to his . The presidential debate sketch is yet another high point. There is a lot to like about this episode. Make time to check it out.
This episode marks a turning point in the formative years of SNL in that this is Chevy Chase's last episode as a cast member. While he has made numerous cameos on the show since then, and also happens to be a member of the five-timers club, the former "Weekend Update" anchor has stated in recent interviews that leaving after a little over a season was the worst thing that ever happened to his career. However, if he had stayed, he probably would've alienated the cast even further and the talents of Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, and John Belushi would never bloom.
Tonight's host is none other than writer-actor Buck Henry, who was at the time SNL's first three-time host. I've always found it strange how he hasn't hosted since the end of year five, considering how he mentioned that we wanted to play some sort of role in the doomed Doumanian era. He is definitely on my list of the top five greatest hosts (joining Steve Martin, Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin, and John Goodman). The musical guest happens to be The Band, in one of their last television appearance before "The Last Waltz" in San Francisco a month later. Giving them as much time to perform as they wanted (four songs in thirteen combined minutes) was a smart move, considering how sublime the original lineup was. And now, a sketch-by-sketch analysis: COLD OPENING: This sketch always appears in the annual SNL Halloween special. Chevy reprises the role of SNL's first memorable recurring character, The Land Shark of "Jaws II" fame, by chomping on a naive Gilda. Short but sweet. MONOLOGUE: Buck opens his third appearance by thanking each of the cast members one at a time, then picking at their quirks in a subtle fashion. The one thing you could always count on when Buck hosted was a funny monologue, since he wrote them himself. "Not For Ladies Only:" So rarely in the early episodes do you see more than one recurring character per episode. This particular episode not only brags The Land Shark, but also the lisping Baba Wawa. This time, Gilda's favorite character has a candid interview with Betty Ford (Laraine) and Roselyn Carter (Jane). So rarely do you see topical humor that's still funny nearly three decades later. "Samurai Stockbroker:" I must admit, I've always had a soft spot for John Belushi's Samurai, and Buck Henry made a great foil in seven of the nine Samurai sketches written and produced between 1975 and 1979. This is one of the better ones, as our hero nearly pays for his bad stock market advice. While it's not quite apparent, but when Buck Henry jumps out of the office, he cut himself on the head with Belushi's sword. This minor detail will become important later on. "Roots": Inspired by Alex Haley's novel and the miniseries that aired in 1977, Garrett Morris explains how he is a direct descendent of George Washington. Biting ethnic humor. "Debate '76- The Congeniality Test:" Buck is now wearing a bandage on his forehead, and he looks a little spooked, but the show must go on. In this sketch, he plays the moderator of a presidential debate between Chevy's inept man-child depiction of Gerald Ford and Dan's smarmy Jimmy Carter. The twist is, this debate looks more like the semi-final round of the Miss America Pageant than a political square-off. Good thing this aired in 1976, or otherwise we might've been forced to glimpse at Chevy's bikini zone.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Chevy's next-to-last solo "Update" (he filled in for Charlie Rocket at the end of Year Six) finds him blaming Buck's flesh wound on a Belushi drug binge. Besides that, we watch a couple of fake political ads skewering Ford's incompetence and Carter's hormones. "Bat-O-Matic": Earlier that season, the world saw for the first time the inspired lunacy of the "Bass-o-matic '76," with Dan Aykroyd's manic pitchman and Laraine Newman as the willing drinker of the bizarre elixir. Sure, it repeats the idea, with the fish replaced by winged rodent, but it works. MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: The Band, inspired with photos and images from their early-70's heyday, churn out "Life Is a Carnival," "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," and "Stage Fright." This has to be, hands down, one of the best music acts to appear on SNL during the original cast years, and this 8 1/2 minute set proved that. "The OintMENt": A run-of-the-mill spoof of "The Omen," with Belushi as a willing Damian. The real highlights, however, come from a series of sight gags involving a priest (Aykroyd) impaled with a floor lamp. FILM: Buck Henry introduces a Gary Weis short about the "grueling" experience of dressing up for Halloween as a middle-aged woman. These films weren't so much funny as they were quirkcy, often observing the mundane but generally looking at life in New York City. His work influenced Tom Schiller's pieces later on in SNL's run, though at least those films were scripted and made a broader play for humor. "Mr. Mike": The most twisted writer to ever grace the Studio 8A stage was probably its most talented. Unfortunately, Michael O'Donoghue's temper and control-freak attitude also made him the least-desired writer to work with. Tonight, the macabre scribe tells a story about a tiny Eskimo who dies consuming snow. "Houdini's Grave": A two-part live-via-satellite bit where Garrett Morris reports from Houdini's grave when, legend has it, he will rise from the dead at midnight. By the end of part two, Garrett is scared out of his wits and unable to speak. At least I liked his fright wig. MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: The late, great Richard Manuel drains himself emotionally by singing Ray Charles' "Georgia On My Mind." As the show wraps, Buck and the rest of the cast are wearing bandages on their head, a symbol of chemistry and team unity. Chevy's swan song was a delightful effort, with the writing slightly more focused then the Steve Martin/Kinky Friedman episode the week before. Belushi and Aykroyd are just beginning to blossom in this episode, though Jane Curtin came in the clutch with what were mostly thankless, straight-man roles. And as for The Band- they were simply heavenly. Sketches That Will Probably Be Edited Out In Repeats: Whoa, tough call. Maybe "The OintMENt," and perhaps "Bat-o-Matic" and the Gary Weis film as well. To be honest, there are no sketches in this episode that were real clunkers.
Buck Henry, SNL's go-to host who could pretty much make anything golden, was definitely one of the easiest people to work with and a joy for the cast and writing staff. This would be Buck's 3rd of ten hosting stints as he would make a habit of hosting two episodes per season and from 2-5, he always hosted the season finale. This episode would be a special Halloween show with a couple of sketches having to do with the ghoulish holiday. The Band would be making one of their final appearances as a unit and so it was quite amazing that Saturday Night managed to secure them as a musical guest just months before they broke up.
Host: Buck Henry
Musical Guest: The Band
Cold Open: The Land Shark on Halloween (Chase, Radner) (1:11)
--The Land Shark (Chase) claims another victim (Radner) with his "clever" door-to-door tactics. Nice quick opening.
Monologue: Misconceptions About the Not Ready For Primetime Players (Henry) (3:00)
--Buck comes out and quickly points out each of the castmembers' quirks, but notes that their talent should be taken into account instead. Great stuff.
Samurai Stockbroker (Henry, Belushi) (4:38)
--The Samurai (Belushi) welcomes Mr. Dantley (Henry) again, this time to worry about how his stocks have lowered and complain about Futaba's terrible financial advice. Another wonderful Samurai bit. Note: Buck takes a sword to the head and gets cut open a bit.
Not For First Ladies Only (Curtin, Newman, Radner) (3:36)
--Baba Wawa interviews Betty Ford (Curtin) and Rosalyn Carter (Newman) on who should be the next First Lady of the White House before Baba then interrupts and thinks that she should be First Lady. Funny topical stuff.
Roots (Morris) (3:58)
--Garrett announces that he's looked back at his ancestral history, or his "Roots", so to speak. I like how it all culminates and ends up being a well-written bit.
Debate '76 (Henry, Aykroyd, Chase, Morris) (7:58)
--Sporting a bandage on his head, Buck plays a moderator to the final Ford (Chase) and Carter (Aykroyd) debate that has now made its way into the swimsuit competition. Pretty ingenious how they turned the debate into a sort of beauty pageant and then Chevy referencing Buck's bandage while wearing one of his own is great.
Weekend Update with Chevy Chase (also: Jane Curtin) (8:54)
--Chevy is quick to report on Buck's head injury and then goes right into the Ford, Carter, and...Dole stories? Yup, an early Bob Dole bit is done. Chevy also shows the commercials to vote for Gerald Ford and then Jimmy Carter as the next president. Hilariously, the Carter one just shows Ford pardoning Richard Nixon. Jane Curtin (also with a bandage) joins him later on to be a correspondent and report on "People in the News". Chevy also gets a call from Francisco Franco, which is pretty apropos. Good stuff to send Chevy on his way.
Commercial: Bat-O-Matic (Aykroyd, Newman) (1:46)
--Halloween-themed version of the Bass-O-Matic and it works just as well as the original version did.
The Band sings "Life is a Carnival", "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", & "Stage Fright" (10:10)
--The Band puts on a hell of a show here as they deliver three classics in a row and perform for a lengthy amount of time. And this wouldn't even be their only appearance tonight.
The OintMENt (Henry, Aykroyd, Belushi, Chase, Curtin, Newman) (7:44)
--A parody of "The Omen" in which a priest (Aykroyd) comes in a house to warn two parents (Henry, Curtin) that their son Damian (Belushi) is a demon, but before he can continue with his sentences he keeps getting cut off due to the lamp through his chest. Not too bad.
Weis Film #20: It's Halloween Tonight (Henry) (2:37)
--Buck is slowly transformed into a woman by a makeup team while a Howard Shore song plays in the background. Quirky and amusing video.
Houdini's Grave Pt. 1 (Henry, Morris) (1:04)
--Garrett reports from Houdini's grave in case the magician comes back to life.
Least-Loved Bedtime Tales: 'The Enchanted Thermos' (1:59)
--SNL head writer Michael O'Donoghue tells of an eskimo that dies after eating snow and a genie that then robs his dead body. Dark and funny.
Houdini's Grave Pt. 2 (Henry, Morris) (:27)
--Garrett is freaked out and obviously sees something. This thing felt like filler.
The Band sings "Georgia On My Mind" (2:51)
--The Band belts out a classic and once again shows that they were some of the finest performers of the day.
Buck and the cast wave goodnight and then Chevy gets a special hug because of this being his final show.
Best segment: Samurai Stockbroker
Worst segment: Houdini's Grave
Host: Buck Henry - 8/10
Musical Guest: The Band - 10/10
This was one of the more significant episodes in the early years of SNL because of being a Halloween show, Chevy's last show as a castmember, and The Band performing just before they did their farewell concert. It's very appropriate that Buck Henry got to host this and he delivered as per usual, but this time wasn't as involved with the sketches as he was before, instead letting the castmembers, and especially Chase, work their magic. The Band ended up being one of the finest musical acts the show has ever seen, delivering four wonderful songs and almost stealing the show as the best part of the entire thing. Gotta give the castmember award of sorts to Chevy Chase as he put everything into his last show and delivered on all accounts where a lesser person would've just slummed it on their final go-around. Great effort all around.
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