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Saturday Night Live - The Complete Fourth Season



Release Date: December 2, 2008 (Universal Home Entertainment)
MSRP: $69.98
Number of Discs: 7
Number of Episodes: 20
Running Time: 22 Hours, 33 minutes
Running Time of Features: 12 minutes
Audio: English 2.0
Language and Subtitles: English; English SDH (Subtitled for the deaf and hard-of-hearing)
Special Features:
*Archival Interview Footage from Original Cast


Live from New York, itís Saturday Night! For over three decades, Saturday Night Live has been a source of young comedic talent that has helped to launch the careers of countless performers, making them household names. Still considered iconic for their live performances from Studio 8H in New York, the original case of SNL set the tone for years to come with their irreverent, edgy humor. They combined anti-establishment political satire with rock-and-roll attitude for a show that spoke to the youth of the 1970s, turning it into an instant sensation.

Returning for a fourth season in 1978, the cast and writers of SNL maintained their reputation for hilarious characters and innovative sketch-comedy, creating hits such as The Blues Brothers, Nick the Lounge Singer (Bill Murray), Candy Slice (Gilda Radner), Fred Garvin: Male Prostitute (Dan Aykroyd), and The Nerds (Bill Murray and Gilda Radner). Other favorites include the return of iconic host Steve Martin and Buck Henryís inappropriate Uncle Roy character. This season also marks the debut of SNL writer Don Novelloís alternate ego Father Guido Sarducci.

Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

Please note the following text is a boilerplate portion of the review, repeated for this section of each SNL review: As stated in previous SNL reviews, Iím going to do this section differently given the nature of this show. Normally you see the ďEpisodes x, y, and z were pretty good, and look out for guest appearances by a, b, and cĒ 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 and all season SNL DVD releases in general, Iím going to simply go through the season, and if I think a sketch is particularly note-worthy, Iíll mention it. 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 thereís a chance that SOMEONE reading this will get - I WILL mention. Noteworthy sketches and/or musical numbers:

One notable sketch occurs in the episode hosted by Eric Idle from December 7, 1978. Dan Aykroyd plays famous chef Julia Child. The sketch starts with Julia attempting to use a knife to bone a chicken. Well, the Julia character cuts her finger badly on the knife, and starts to bleed everywhere. Most of the sketch involves the sight gag of the blood mixed with the Julia character trying to do a step-by-step of how to call 9-1-1; a plot foiled by the fact that the phone in the kitchen set is in fact a prop. This episode is, perhaps more than any other, a signal of the change in sketch styles that occurred with this season. Whereas earlier seasonís humor had come from finding the line and dancing on it, this season takes the line and doing a massive jump across it. Between a sketch involving Julia Child bleeding to death in a kitchen accident and the concept of Superman as a Nazi, this season represented a shift in the writing philosophy.

The final episode in the season marks the end of their tenures on SNL for two additional cast members, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. The episode goes off with a low amount of fanfare, though two signature bits (Olympia Cafť, Samurai Bakery) are performed.

Special Guests/Cameos
Episode 1: Ed Koch
Episode 9: Mick Jagger
Episode 13: Andy Kaufmann
Episode 16: Rodney Dangerfield


As with the first runs of the two prior DVD sets, the initial run of the third season is once again in a book-style box. Unlike past seasons, however, a clear distinction has been made between the sets with the ďcigar boxĒ packaging and those with the standard packaging -- becoming more like recent Simpsons seasons in that regard. Inside the box is a photo of the cast on the inner panel, with the Digipak in the space on the right. The front artwork of the box features Bill Murray and Gilda Radner as their characters from the ďNerdsĒ sketches. In an interesting quirk, the photo actually appears to be from a Nerds sketch from season three. The packaging features the same style as the previous sets, with the disc breakdowns being posted in the panels when the Digipak is halfway unfolded. There are seven discs in total, with disc one occupying a solo disc holder, and each of the next 3 pairs of discs each using a holder (2/3, 4/5, 6/7). Each disc except the final one contains 3 episodes -- the final disc contains the final two episodes plus the bonus features. The discs use still images from the seasonís opening credits.

Menu Design and Navigation:

The menus are in a style nearly identical to previous seasons -- simple, elegant, and classy; but lacking in some of the niceties that make other sets extra special. The art from the disc of the couple with the umbrella is reused in the menu art, with the episode selection options appearing on the left side in a similar style to the listings presented on the packaging. Airdate and host are listed, with the option to either play the main feature or go to scene selection. Especially for a sketch-based show like SNL, scene selections are a WONDERFUL option to have.

Video and Audio Quality:

The problem with sets like SNL, where so much effort goes into the other aspects of the set, is that the video quality can let you down due solely to the programís age. Ladies and gentlemen, this show was shot LIVE in the 70s. This video is not going to have five star presentation; that is just a reality of the program. As a general rule of thumb, any footage shot live looks pretty decent, and easily comparable to the video from other shows of the time. Itís eminently watchable. The real problem is with the stuff that was filmed in advance; pre-filmed content looks absolutely pitiful. And while Iíd like to base my video rating as a comparison relative to the era, fact is that even shows from the same time period seem to have better-preserved elements. This isnít unique to these transfers -- the cable reruns have had the same problem. Audio sounds good -- itís not high definition 5.1 sound, but it does the job well. Chapter stops occur at the locations of scene selections. There is no Play All feature.

Runtimes (Host/Musical Guest(s):

Disc 1:
10.07.78: The Rolling Stones: 1:06:04
10.14.78: Fred Willard / Devo: 1:07:49
10.21.78: Frank Zapp: 1:06:38

Disc 2:
11.04.78: Steve Martin / Van Morrison: 1:08:01
11.11.78: Buck Henry / The Grateful Dead: 1:06:31
11.18.78: Carrie Fisher / The Blues Brothers: 1:06:58

Disc 3:
12.02.78: Walter Matthau: 1:06:51
12.09.78: Eric Idle / Kate Bush: 1:06:45
12.16.78: Elliott Gould / Peter Tosh: 1:06:52

Disc 4:
01.27.79: Michael Palin / The Doobie Brothers: 1:06:24
02.10.79: Cicely Tyson / Talking Heads: 1:06:29
02.17.79: Rick Nelson / Judy Collins: 1:07:25

Disc 5:
02.24.79: Kate Jackson / Delbert McClinton: 1:07:30
03.10.79: Gary Busey / Eubie Blake, Gregory Hines: 1:09:03
03.17.79: Margot Kidder / The Chieftans: 1:07:31

Disc 6:
04.07.79: Richard Benjamin / Rickie Lee Jones: 1:06:49
04.14.79: Milton Berle / Ornette Coleman: 1:06:39
05.12.79: Michael Palin / James Taylor: 1:06:55

Disc 7:
05.19.79: Maureen Stapleton / Linda Ronstadt, Phoebe Snow: 1:07:38
05.26.79: Buck Henry / Bette Midler: 1:07:44

Special Features:

Archival Interviews: There are three of these:
Today Show Interview with John Belushi from 7/27/78 (2:13): The interview was meant to promote Animal House -- so most of the segment is cut out, but the portion dealing with SNL is included here. An observation here is that Belushi doesnít seem to be able to sit still at ANY point on the interview.

Today Show Interview with Gilda Radner from 4/14/80 (5:04): This interview is actually from the fifth season. As the interview is largely about SNL, there is significantly more here. Gilda discusses in great detail the origin and evolution of Roseanne Rosannadanna. Both interviews are conducted with Gene Shalit.

Tomorrow Show Interview with Walter Williams, Creator of Mr. Bill, and no airdate given (4:45): This interview is from Tom Snyderís Tomorrow Show, and really shows Tom in his prime. While the interview is meant to show off the creator of Mr. Bill, at least to me itís much more interesting to be able to see Tom again (Hint: NBC, do a Best of Tomorrow).

Total Running Time: 12 minutes

Trailers: I donít include this in the main listing, but thereís a trailer advertising the five-season sets of Quantum Leap -- and as I really love this show I wanted to promote it myself. Also advertised is Monk, Eureka, Heroes, Life, The Incredible Hulk, and 30 Rock. Given the focus on newer material and in Hulkís case something with a recent film release tie-in, itís extremely nice to see Quantum Leap leading off the trailer package.

Final Comments:

The biggest qualm here is the video -- the filmed stuff is awful, and the live stuff has issues that are partially age and partially deterioration. Audio is fine.

Special features are extremely sparse, and a big concern is their dwindling number. With the fifth season being the final season of the original era, there should be a plethora of features available for the next release. But any subsequent releases may well be features-barren, and this is a bit troubling for someone who likes a little bit of potatoes alongside the meat.

If youíre a fan of the show or the 70s or even just any of the actors or musicians involved, your pre-orders should hopefully arrive soon; otherwise this hits stores today and I recommend purchase. For the casual buyer I recommend starting with the slightly better and slightly cheaper season three.

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

Video Quality: 3.5/5 (live stuff); 2.5/5 (filmed stuff)
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 1/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
Final Score: 4/5

-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 12/02/08

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