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When going through the first four seasons of Saturday Night Live it is always a pleasant surprise when a Coneheads sketch appears. Sure, not everything they say and do is hilarious, but they're alien ways are always strangely endearing and wonderfully weird. They certainly never make me groan like some other recurring characters on SNL do nowadays. So I was really excited to find the obscure animated Coneheads pilot episode on Youtube. Beautifully animated by Bankin-Rank, with the original writers and cast all present and correct, it still turned out to be a bit Mibs, unfortunately.
Most of the story serves as a prequel to the original sketches and unsurprisingly the script by Franken & Davis stays true to the original concept of Beldar and Prymaat being selected to seize the tiny planet of Earth and enslave the humans. Even the the speech that Beldar ends up losing is the same. We also learn why the Coneheads came to claim they came from France. This leads to a lot of French artifacts stuck to the walls in the backgrounds, like a portrait of Charles de Caulle and a poster of BB in 'Et Dieu... créa la femme'. There's also a Bob Dylan album cover, but I don't quite get the reference.
We get to see the birth of Connie, who apparently emerges from Prymaat's cone (this is however tastefully covered by a blanket). It isn't till the end that the show starts to cover the same territory as the first couple of SNL sketches did: Beldar reveals the family's true heritage to Connie and she starts dating Ronnie (not voiced by Billy Murray). All the while there is a laugh-track telling us when to do just that, but somehow it seems to be a bit out of sync, for the canned laughter always comes up in places that didn't seem particularly funny to me. For instance, when nosy next door neighbors the Paisners invite themselves over for a visit, their main comedic shtick is to mispronounce the name 'Conehead' several times. I did like it when Beldar and Prymaat started playing with the edible sensor rings (a giant glazed donut, or 'coffee ring') the Paisners brought along.
Of course a lot of this material was used again in the movie version produced exactly ten years later. The bit with Prymaat using her mouth as a vacuum cleaner seems to originate from this 'toon. But near the end, the fact that the show is merely a pilot is enforced when the Coneheads learn they are stuck on Earth for a while yet. Instead of taking advantage of the animated format and ending on something spectacular, the episode ends the same old gag of Connie being scolded for swiping one of her parents sensor rings (a non edible one). Clearly Franken & Davis were aiming too much for an animated sit-com. It's just a bit too mature for the kids and rather too silly for adults. But for us SNL fanatics it's still a companion piece to the sketches and film.
7 out of 10
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