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Saturday Night Live - The Complete First Season


TITLE: SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON


Info:

Release Date: December 5, 2006 (Universal Studios)
Color/1975-76
MSRP: $69.98
Number of Discs: 8
Number of Episodes: 24
Running Time: 26 Hours, 33 Minutes Total Run Time of Special Features: 36 Minutes, 54 Seconds
Audio: English 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH (Subtitled for the deaf and hard-of-hearing); Closed Captioned
Special Features:
* Original Screen Tests
* 1975 “Tomorrow” Show interview with cast
* Collector’s Booklet


Introduction:

Live, from New York, It’s Saturday Night!

I’ll warn everyone now: This is going to be my longest introduction ever.

From Chevy’s falls and stumbles in 1975 to the revolving door utterance of that legendary phrase today, that phrase, and this show, have become a TV legend. Birthplace of the careers of Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Mike Myers, and more -­ this show has become a television institution.

Debuting on October 11, 1975 as “NBC’s Saturday Night,” the show hit trouble right off the bat. Lorne Michaels, the producer of the show, wanted to title the show “Saturday Night Live”, however, another show on television was using the title at the time. “Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell” was a short lived variety show starring the infamous Monday Night Football anchor. Incidentally, one of the cast members ON the show was….Bill Murray (SNL would gain use of the Saturday Night Live title in the 1976-77 season when Cosell’s show went off the air ­ they gained Bill Murray from his show as well!).

So, having to use a different title than planned, the show went on the air. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Rewind to 1974. At the time, on Saturday Nights, reruns of the then-hour-and-a-half-long Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson aired on Saturday Nights. Johnny wanted to take more time off during the week, and so requested that the Saturday reruns stop (Otherwise the 6-episode-week would have been 3 live episodes and 3 reruns). To fill the slot, NBC brought in Dick Ebersol to develop a 90 minute variety show. Ebersol then hired Lorne immediately to be the executive producer. The cast were then hired from various placed ­ Second City alumni including Aykroyd, Belushi, and Radner; Chevy Chase from National Lampoon, plus Laraine Newman from The Groundlings, as well as Jane Curtin and Garrett Morris.

Anyway, the show went on the air on October 11, 1975. But the show then was just a bit different than it was today. As you’ll see, it took them a few episodes to figure out how they wanted the format of the show. For example, in the first episode with George Carlin, you’ll see three *different* monologues, each part of George’s stand-up act, and no participation from Carlin in the sketches. The next episode featured possibly the strangest episode format ever used on the show -­ Paul Simon was the host as well as one of the several musical guests ­ Randy Newman performed as well as Phoebe Snow. Most of the rest of the bits were films or commercial parodies, and the one actual sketch in the entire episode was a Muppets bit. (Of course there was still Weekend Update and the opening). By the third episode with Rob Reiner they had the format of the sketches laid out like the modern show, but there was no musical act. The first episode, therefore, with the “proper” SNL pacing and format, is the November 8, 1975 episode (#4), with Candice Bergen as host and Esther Phillips (Speaking of Candice Bergen, Amazon is selling Murphy Brown Season 1 for only $8.39! A steal for a great show!). This show is also notable not only for the first use of the modern setup, but for the first female host, as well as being the lowest rated episode, to date, in SNL history (Though with viewer erosion and a perceived decline in quality, the modern episodes are coming closer every week).


Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

I’m going to do this section differently given the nature of this show. Normally you see the “Episodes x, y, and z were pretty good, and look out for guest appearances by a, b, and c” spiel in these reviews, but with the nature of SNL -­ where sketches can be great and episodes horrible, and vice versa, and also where you have a regular guest host, plus musical guests, plus special guests…

For this set, I’m going to simply go through the season, and if I think a sketch is particularly note-worthy, I’ll mention it. In at least a couple cases I’ll still recommend the entire episode. For guests, I will NOT be listing the hosts and primary musical guests. Those will be listed in the runtimes section for those curious. Any other special guests - at least the ones I think there’s a chance that SOMEONE reading this will get - I WILL mention.

The first two episodes are recommended start to finish for entirely different reasons. In the first episode, you have comedian George Carlin delivering THREE separate monologues/routines. Carlin’s a funny guy, so to get to see him three times over is great. Also, the first sketch, the Wolverines sketch, at the beginning of the first episode, IS a classic. You also get the first appearance of The Bees, plus an Andy Kaufmann routine. The second episode, hosted by Paul Simon, is noteworthy for the sheer volume of music (practically the entire show), plus a Simon & Garfunkel reunion. Episode 4 (Host: Candice Bergen) features the first appearance of Land Shark. Episode 6 features more Land Shark. Episode 7 is the Richard Pryor episode, and if you’re reading this review I HOPE I don’t have to explain why this episode is a classic and easily shows up on most people’s best episodes of all time list. As the season goes on, more and more recurring sketches get introduced over the season. There’s probably no other episodes I’d consider start-to-finish classics this season, but all certainly have their highlights. And a few episodes for whatever reason have either rarely or never been shown in reruns, so this is a great chance to view them.

Special Guests:
Episode 1: Andy Kaufmann, Jim Henson’s Muppets
Episode 2: Muppets, Art Garfunkel, Bill Bradley, Marv Albert, Al Brooks
Episode 3: Kaufmann, Brooks, Penny Marshall, future cast member Denny Dillon
Episode 4: Kaufmann, Muppets, Brooks.
Episode 5: Muppets
Episode 6: Muppets
Episode 7: Muppets, Brooks
Episode 8: Muppets
Episode 9: Muppets, Brooks
Episode 10: Muppets
Muppets no longer to be listed, assume they’re in the bulk of the episodes in year 1
Episode 14: Desi Arnaz Jr. (His dad was hosting)
Episode 15: Kaufmann
Episode 17: GERALD FORD (filmed), Billy Crystal
Episode 20: Buck Henry


Packaging:

I’ll say it right now: This is the best packaging of a SINGLE-SEASON DVD set I’ve ever reviewed. (I’ve seen complete series sets with better, but for single seasons, this is top). The outer box is set up like a hardback book made of thin, plastic “leather”. On the front cover is a cast photo with the modern era “SNL” logo at the top in gold, with the years above it (1975-1976) and the “Complete First Season” text below the cast photo. Opening it reveals a cast photo on the left with the entire cast standing in front of the entrance staircase. On the right you’re greeted to a container in which sits the Digipak and booklet. The first image greeting you get upon opening the box, however, Chevy Chase in Land Shark costume staring you right in the face. AS you read to the little hole in the side of the container to pull it out, you discover this is the 32-page booklet, which I discuss at length in the features section. Below the booklet is the Digipak containing the episodes. The front cover of the Digipak features the Statue of Liberty at sunset watercolor used in various shots in the early years. On the back of the Digipak is an early description of the show. Opening the digipak one level reveals episode information on the two panels for all eight discs. Each disc contains EXACTLY three episodes, with a total of 24 episodes per disc, a natural 1-3, 4-5, et al sequence is used. Opening the Digipak up the rest of the way then reveals all eight discs, in overlapping disc holders. Normally I complain about overlapping discs, but due to the sheer volume of discs needed, for once, I’ll kindly shut my yap. Each disc features one of the images from the first-two-seasons opening credits montage.

Disc 1: Guy in taxi eating watermelon
Disc 2: Man, woman, and dog trying to cross street
Disc 3: Couple eating dinner
Disc 4: Neon “Cocktail Lounge” sign
Disc 5: The two police officers
Disc 6: The bagels shop
Disc 7: Different couple with arms around each other, with dog walking beside
Disc 8: Clam Bar.


Menu Design and Navigation:

I was immediately impressed by the menus. Of course, the menus have always been one of the features of Universal’s sets that have impressed me the moments. A modern-style opening montage set in a visual style similar to the box art plays for around 20 seconds with each of the first season cast members being introduced--the FULL-length rendition of the original version of the opening theme plays, and transitions into the main menu. Each episode with Original Airdate is listed at left similar to the Digipak, with a photo to the right, and disc number on top. If I had to describe the aesthetic feel of this set in one word, I’d probably use “classy.” You can either choose to view the episode as “feature”, or choose “scenes.” Scene selection allows you to go to a specific bit in the episode.


Video and Audio Quality:

This is the one aspect of this set where I’ll do something other than lob gigantic amounts of praise onto Universal. The video is…good enough. It really shows it’s age, and the films in particular don’t look that well. The sketches look good enough, and better than what’s been rerunning in the NBC all night bits. AS far as the audio goes, the dialogue is about at the right level -­ maybe a tad low by my speakers, and there’s some hiss. Obviously, chapter stops at the end of each sketch. As mentioned elsewhere by now, one commercial (Wrigley’s Gum) is cut outright, a couple more bits are cut from reruns of the bit (but not the original), and the bumpers (the little host photo things with the SNL text) are gone -­ except for the last one each show. I hate edits as much as anyone, but considering what show this is, and considering this is THE one we never thought we’d see due to rights issues in the first place, please, do NOT let a few minor edits stop you from purchasing this episode. This set, as has been mentioned by Gord at TVShowsonDVD.com, has to sell VERY well in order for future sets to be released. The edits were minor, and compared to what we’ve been getting “treated” to the last 30 years, this is the most complete SNL put out ever.

Runtimes (listed by HOST):
Disc 1:
George Carlin: 1:05:33
Paul Simon: 1:05:53
Rob Reiner: 1:05:41

Disc 2:
Candice Bergen (#1): 1:07:45
Robert Klein: 1:06:34
Lily Tomlin: 1:04:44

Disc 3:
Richard Pryor: 1:06:16
Candice Bergen (#2): 1:06:40
Elliott Gould (#1): 1:07:49

Disc 4:
Buck Henry (#1): 1:06:05
Peter Cook & Dudley Moore: 1:06:42
Dick Cavett: 1:07:14

Disc 5:
Peter Boyle: 1:02:53
Desi Arnaz: 1:06:35
Jill Clayburgh: 1:06:22

Disc 6:
Anthony Perkins: 1:07:34
Ron Nessen: 1:06:38
Raquel Welch: 1:07:41

Disc 7:
Madeline Kahn: 1:05:58
Dyan Cannon: 1:06:26
Buck Henry (#2): 1:06:49

Disc 8:
Elliott Gould (#2): 1:06:01
Louise Lasser: 1:06:35
Kris Kristofferson: 1:06:29


Special Features:

32 page collectible booklet: Let’s be perfectly clear. The ONLY aim of this booklet is photos from the show’s first year, and nothing more…each photo except the first and last span two pages, so you in reality get 17 photos over the 32 pages.

Screen Tests (32:12): The screen tests each of the actors did for the show. It is amazing how long Dan and Garrett’s were compared to, say, Chevy or Laraine’s.

Tomorrow Show (4:42): I admit, I’ve become a fan of reruns of Tom Snyder’s old Tomorrow Show. ­ I’ve come across several episodes in the last few months, so I initially hoped this might be a full episode (Hey, Tomorrow was only a half-hour show, so…). Still, this 4:42 clip is good enough.

Total runtime of special features: 36:54.


Final Comments:

Universal has REALLY come through with music clearances lately -­ first they leave ALL music intact on Quantum Leap Season 5 -­ after MUCH fan protest. Now Universal delivers with, almost-entirely-unedited, perhaps THE show thought never to be released due to music issues, in Saturday Night Live.

I won’t say this is the best TV DVD set I’ve ever reviewed, because quite frankly there are a few minor flaws. For starters, the edits, however minor, ARE there. There is no excuse for the bumpers and rerun commercials to be cut -­ NONE. Also, I’m not sure what the issue with the Wrigley’s commercial was (did the Wrigley company object or something?) , but it should have been included too. If this gets future sets -­ and I VERY MUCH hope it does -­ the bumpers and ALL footage needs to be included. Also, a few more special features (dress rehearsal cuts, commentary, and maybe cast appearances on other shows [Carson, Snyder, etc.] of the era post-debut) would certainly be nice. Also might want to work on cleaning up the transfers JUST a bit.

Still, this is one of the better sets I’ve ever had the fortune to review. EXTREMELY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Audio: 4/5
Video: 3.5/5
Special Features: 2/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 5/5
Final Score: 4/5

-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 12/05/06

To purchase the DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000JLQPYK/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20

Questions or comments about this set? Post on our message board:

http://www.sitcomsonline.com/boards/showthread.php?t=189172


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