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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Chances are, if you're a huge "Saturday Night Live" fan like yours
truly, you sometimes pine for the days of the Church Lady, Tommy
Flanagan the Pathelogical Liar, the Sweeney Sisters, Gumby, Joe Piscopo
(OR Phil Hartman) belting out Sinatra tunes (and insults), and long
haired Dennis Miller flipping back his "luxurious hair" and giggling
his way through "Weekend Update." Maybe you even pine for the days of
Gilbert Godfried's short tenure...or maybe you don't. If you liked the
seemingly chaotic cast and writing of the early eighties seasons, or
prefer the return to greatness bought about by the cast of the mid to
late eighties, this is the special for you.
"Saturday Night Live In the '80s: Lost and Found" was a two-hour special that aired on NBC in November 2005, and focused on the eighties era of Saturday Night Live, from the turbulent, almost unwatchable years in 1980-1984, to a sort-of rebuilding that ended too quickly in 1985, a complete downturn in 1985-1986, and a revival that saved the show in 1986. Along the way, we revisit with some of the more famous (and least famous) names of the decade, several of the hosts that saw it all, and the man that came back and used his clever casting decisions to save the show in the mid-eighties, Lorne Michaels. This special has it all.
This was a stellar, solid special. Much of the moments they showed were funny, but unfortunately, much of the clips before the last 45 minutes weren't among the greatest moments. The special itself focuses primarily on what was wrong with between 1980 and 1986, and by the time they showed what went right with the last half of the decade, there was only 40 minutes left! And, to top it off, entire groups weren't represented--missing from the solid 1986-1990 cast was "Weekend Update" mainstay Dennis Miller. Where was he? I never heard of any actual problems he had with the show, but he also did not participate in the tell-all book that came out a few years ago. He did, however, participate in the 25th Anniversary in 1999, which leads me to believe that he had no hard feelings about the show or Lorne Michaels. And Jan Hooks--where was she? She was a very pivotal part of the late 1980s, and yet she isn't interviewed here. However, one of the main reasons I watched (aside for the great clips and even funnier stills), was for Dana Carvey, who has been my absolute favorite "SNL" alumnus for a long time, and he is well-represented here.
I'm not a fan of the early eighties episodes (I'm 23 years old, so I've only seen this decade in reruns), but I could sit and watch the later seasons of the eighties forever. It was actually quite painful at times to watch the clip show of the earlier years--this must have been embarrassing for those involved. You can't blame them for why it was bad--the acting is only as good as the writing effort, and that seemed fairly lackluster. I was cringing at those clips, and I have never had involvement with the show other than being a dedicated fan. It was almost a fresh breath of air to see what the show became as it transitioned in the mid to late eighties, as new faces emerged, and characters became memorable. It's sad though--the cast-proclaimed "glue" that held his cast together and helped save the show--Phil Hartman--died so tragically and did not get the opportunity to participate in what was the come. He would have probably had a lot of nice things to say, but his cast mates represented him well, they made sure to mention his significance.
This was a really well-done special, and a great follow up to "Live from New York: The First 5 Years of Saturday Night Live." I hope this will be released on DVD soon--I own the first 5 Years DVD, and would definitely like to see this one on DVD--it is a great special, even if the earlier years are hard to watch.
I've read a part of the book about SNL's history and this documentary
is kind of like a companion piece that just focuses on the '80s. It's
not thorough, but a casual SNL fan like myself won't notice what
they've left out. I think you do have to have some familiarity with the
80's casts to enjoy the documentary though. Otherwise there would be
all too many unfamiliar faces.
Though there are many clips of sketches included, the documentary is mostly about former cast and crew dishing about the show's troubles in the 80's, including the behind-the-scenes politics and the legendary firing of almost the entire cast from one season to the next. It's pretty interesting if you're fan enough to watch it, but if you just want to watch sketches, you'd be better off with another of the multitude of SNL DVDs.
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