The stars came out to celebrate the first 15 years of SNL more than a year before the actual anniversary (that would have been October 11 1990). I always have trouble calculating the difference between numbers and years, but somehow 24 September 1989 marked the start of the 15th season live from New York. It kicks off with a 'cold opening' that features all the biggest comedians of that time (and all of them have a mullet). SNL's very first star, Chevy Chase, finds out he is no longer insured to do a pratfall now that he has 'reached 58'. After the credits only some of the comedy A-list make an encore, while the rest presumably went home early. Tom Hanks has fun spoofing the "weakest part of the show" (the opening monologue), while Steve Martin gets overexcited as only actors in tuxedo's can.
And so the first fourteen years are neatly divided into three compilations: The Great years, the Elusive years and the (at that time) Current stuff. The middle part (1980-1985) is mostly made up off Eddie Murphy clips, with some stuff from the 'star season' (84-85) thrown in for good measure. These bits once again prove that Martin Short is only amusing from a distance. Also, most of the Short/Crystal stuff was blasphemously pre-recorded on videotape! Naturally nobody mentions the 85-86 Randy Quaid/Anthony Michael Hall 'complete and total disaster' season.
In between there are some vaguely amusing 'SNL Moments', presented by comedy geniuses like Susan Saint James and O.J. Simpson. A couple of commercial parodies range from the classic 'Super Bass-O-matic '76' to the unbearable 'Compulsion' by Calvin Kleen. Charlton Heston and Mary Tyler Moore (with Eddie Murphy's entourage) appear, not to add some class to the proceedings but to mercilessly put them down (yes, you guessed it, insult comic dog owner Robert Smigel was one of the writers). The former Mrs. Van Dyke gets to introduce a segment of 'Smut' (strangely, they have yet to release "The best of SNL Smut").
At this time only two of the former 'Not Ready for Prime Time Players' had left these mortal soils behind, and so Curtin and Newman introduce a tribute to Gilda, while Dan and Jim do the same for Belushi. When Dan Aykroyd takes the opportunity to bash Bob Woodward (without mentioning him by name) for his Belushi book 'Wired', it presents a ripple in all the self effacing fun. The well edited compilations mix the usual classic skits with more obscure stuff like John Belushi as the Hulk (from the married Superman sketch) and an older, fatter Bill Murray in "Il Returno de Hercules". However, I still don't understand why Phil Hartman had to play Frankensteins' creature to Kevin Nealon's Tarzan.
During a look at the political past of SNL we notice how much the make up department has matured over the years. In 1975 they only had some spray on hair when Dannie portrayed Gov. Jimmy Carter. After the election they finally got some halfway decent hairpieces and even took a stab at covering Aykroyd's mustache with make up. While introducing this segment, Dennis Miller gets away with one of the best lines of the evening, referring to "the really bad sketch at ten to one that makes everyone want to go to bed early". Unfortunately, this line proved to be a self fulfilling prophesy almost instantly.
With about half an hour of live TV left, the show was running on empty and Robin Williams had to hurry on stage to stall. Doing the ole' Arnold imitation and heckling many famous faces in the audience, Robin still failed to mention Art Garfunkle's worst haircut in history (thankfully Billy Crystal did not come out to do his Sammy Davis Jr.). After this we get one of those pointlessly artistic Gary Weis films they used to feature in the early days. Worst of all, an unannounced, unscripted (and totally unfunny) Bruce Willis comes out to mention he will be hosting the first show of the upcoming season. Who needed that?
They really should have kept an extra segment or two in reserve. Certainly all the musical guests and most popular hosts could have been mentioned? This show would have been perfect had they just listened to Dennis Miller and gone to bed early.
6 out of 10 (8 minus 2 for the ending)
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