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Hot on the heals of The Best of John Belushi (1985) and The Best of Dan Aykroyd (1986), the first two official SNL compilation on the market overseen by Judith Belushi and Dan Aykroyd respectively, Eddie Murphy was persuaded to compile his favorite material from his breakthrough years on Saturday Night Live and release it on VHS under his own 'Eddie Murphy Television' banner. This is noteworthy as Murphy has been unwilling to comment on his tenure at SNL ever since 1985. For years, this version was the easiest to find (bargain basement) tape in the SNL series, not surprising as Eddie was and still is the most successful movie star ever to come out of the show. Ironically, the period that featured Eddie on the show (the five years which Loren Michaels did not produce) are the least seen seasons on television. With the advent of DVD and the increase in Saturday Night Live Best of compilations, new versions of The best of Belush, Ayk and Murph have appeared in the new century, but while the first two feature almost exactly the same material as their eighties counterparts, the new 'Best of Eddie' is seriously lacking in bite. It seems that all of the none politically correct stuff has been taken out.
This, the 1989 version, is pushing the borders of decency, featuring skits that might still turn a few heads today, including a jumbo sized prophylactic ad, Mister Robbinson trying to sell his new born bastard son on the black market and Eddie pleading for the audience to have sex with ugly people and drop out of school. All of this is missing in action on the 1998 DVD, leaving relatively tame stuff such as The Tooth Fairy and the Fifth Beatle. Which brings me to another point: Eddie's material seems to fit into three categories: 1) Standup rants (including some advertisements in the style of Dan Aykroyd). 2) None to flattering portrayals of children's entertainers (Buckwheat, MisteRogers). 3) Impersonations of famous black men (Cos, Little Richard, James Brown, Mohamed Ali, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson). Also, apart from claiming to be the aforementioned fifth Beatle, Eddie similarly claims to be Ronald Reagan's son on the 1989 tape. There are two Mister Robbinson skits, Velvet Jones appears twice, and Buckwheat appears more times than I care to count, but strangely enough Gumby (another of Eddie's childhood favorites?) is missing in action.
Most of the material showcases Eddie on his own, talking directly to the camera, a tactic Chris Rock would desperately cling to a decade later. Murphy is occasionally given support by Joe Piscopo or Sweetchuck from Police Academy, while the rest of the early 80's SNL cast members only appear in the background (if at all). Although this eighties compilation is slightly shorter than the nineties one, it seems to cram in twice as many stuff. True, not all of the skits are shown in their entirety. For example, a whole chunk goes missing form the middle of 'The Little Richard Simmons Show as a 'special news report' of Buckwheat's shooting interrupts it. Three more times after that the Buckwheat story comes in between other, in some cases funnier, sketches. I guess you had to be there to appreciate the recurring Buckwheat story, which just seems really repetitive now (they wisely kept it to a minimum on the latter Best of). Only two full sketches were added to the 1998 release that were not on the 1989 version: A Gumby skit with Billy Crystal, Marty Short and Chris Guest and 'Prose and Cons' featuring Eddie as Tyrone Greene. The latter replacing the more famous skit that featured him singing 'Kill the White People'. See what I mean about non-PC stuff being deleted? SNL fans of Eddie who found themselves disappointed with the current DVD version should try to track down this VHS to get an more satisfying eighties flashback.
8 out of 10
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