With all due respect to The Kids in the Hall, Saturday Night Live has an uncontested place in television history as one of the most influential shows ever to air on a small box of cathode ray tubes and circuit boards. Over the years, the show has launched the careers of Will Ferrell (Anchorman), Eddie Murphy (Beverly Hills Cop), Adam Sandler (The Waterboy) and a host of other notable actors. The talent that creator Lorne Michaels has put together for over a quarte… century is astounding.
Then you have the initial “Not Ready for Prime Time Players” that Michaels rounded up in 1975. In Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman and Gilda Radner, Michaels found capable comic talent. The cast helped collaborate with some talented writers to help produce many memorable characters and sketches. Everything in it was letter perfect. Even when Chase left after only one year, to be replaced by Bill Murray, the show never broke stride, and almost picked up in a way.
The surviving members of the first five years (except for Curtin and Murray) reunited for separate interviews, as they recall their beginnings on the show and the cast members they worked with. Even some of the more notable hosts during that time, such as Steve Martin and Elliot Gould, appear in the piece too. Everyone touches on the show’s demise, which may have started in 1978, when writer Michael O’Donoghue left the show. As one of its most influential writers, his leaving almost signaled to the other cast members to take your Hollywood shot and run with it.
The feature itself is pretty impressive and everyone talks quite candidly about what the show did for them. However, the fact that Curtin and Murray do not appear on it just doesn’t make it as complete as it should be. Also, the feature is more nostalgic than revealing, which is slightly disappointing. There are a lot of good backstage production stories that should have been included, but weren’t, and the exclusions are a lot more noticeable to knowledgeable fans of the show than the piece as a whole. On its own, it’s a cute look back at some very memorable television.
Most of the piece is interview footage, and anything other than 2.0 Dolby Surround would be a serious surprise. The dialogue is clear and without any hissing or mosquito noises, and is just fine.
TV feature calls for TV framing, and the full frame version of this feature looks OK, reproduced clearly with no artifact issues that I noticed.
Aside from the 80+ minute feature on the show, there’s another 60 minute look at the show, entitled The First Five Years…The Rest of the Story. This piece actually went into a little more detail about the show and some of the hosts, and actually had more information that hard core fans of the show may not have seen before. For anecdotes, it actually was better than the main feature, and looks at the show with a little more jaundiced an eye that the main feature. I probably would have liked the feature more if this footage edited into it.
I think that fans of Saturday Night Live will enjoy this look at the show, as it includes a lot of fond recollections from almost all of the players that made the show great. It will also help illustrate just how amazing the show was, and how it can be again. Fans of comedy will even enjoy this too for the clips and stories.
Special Features List
- First Five Years…Rest of the Story Featurette