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Saturday Night Live - The Complete Fifth Season



Release Date: December 1, 2009 (Universal Home Entertainment)
MSRP: $69.98
Number of Discs: 7
Number of Episodes: 20
Running Time: 22 hours
Running Time of Features: approx. 3 Hours 15 Minutes
Audio: English 2.0
Language and Subtitles: English; English SDH (Subtitled for the deaf and hard-of-hearing)
Special Features: Audio Commentary on three episodes


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 what would be the final season for nearly every cast member and writer on the show, most of the core group from the previous seasons remained intact. However, the show suffered two cast member departures of great impact. Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi left after the 4th season to work on movies. Harry Shearer, who would go on to provide dozens of voices on The Simpsons, would step in and fill some of the void - particularly that left by Dan Aykroyd. The show would also elevate nearly every writer - plus SNL band member Paul Shaffer (Lettermanís future sidekick) to the title of featured player. By the end of the season though, nearly everyone had had enough and nearly every member of the show staff quit after five years. The final season still has its moments, but the magic of the first few years is gone, at least in my opinion.

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:

I actually happen to be a fan of the first sketch of the seasonís first episode, with various clergy and fans being turned away, music concert-style, from a visit to the Pope. I have absolutely zero rational explanation why I like this sketch except to say that I do. There always seems to be at least one random ďI love this sketchĒ moment ANY time Steve Martin hosts. Iím also a fan of the opening segment from the Chevy Chase-hosted episode mid-way through the season, that features the return of Chaseí iconic Gerald Ford impression - and a bit involving Kissinger and a staircase. The final episode of the season is one for the books. By this point itís pretty well assumed the show is coming back with almost no carry-over staff - so in the monologue the subject of a mass cast change is brought up and thoroughly ridiculed. The episode also features the last appearance of one of my favorite characters, Gilda Radnerís Roseanne Roseannadanna. To end the episode the entire staff walk out, with the on-air studio light going out as the last one leaves.

Special Guests/Cameos
Episode 2: Andy Kaufmann
Episode 5: Andy Kaufmann
Episode 8: Buddy Rogers, Teri Garr, Andy Kaufmann
Episode 10: Bert Convy
Episode 13: Jerry Mathers
Episode 14: John Belushi, Michael Palin, Ralph Nader, Senator Daniel P. Moynihan


As with the initial runs of the prior DVD sets, the main multi-disc Digipak setup is placed inside of a cigar box-style package. The photo presented on the outside of the ďcigar boxĒ outer box is from the Lord & Lady Douchebag sketch from the seasonís final episode. The similar photo on the inner Digipak? David Bowie. Inner panel of the box is a photo of the cast from the final season, with the Digipak in the space on the right. 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 first version of 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. The main theme plays on a loop in the background - though the theme featured is actually the original version and not the jazzed up rearrangement used for the fifth season. Scene selection is available in addition to viewing the entire episode. Especially for a sketch-based show like SNL, scene selections are a WONDERFUL option to have.

Video and Audio Quality:

Iíve said it before, and Iíll say it again. A key problem with sets like SNL is that while so much effort goes into the other aspects of the set, the video quality can let you down due solely to the programís age. Ladies and gentlemen, this show was shot LIVE in the Ď70s. This video is not going to have a 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. The problem isnít as bad as what existed on previous sets but the filmed stuff in particular still left a lot to be desired. 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:
10.13.1979 Steve Martin / Blondie (1:07:49)
10.20.1979 Eric Idle / Bob Dylan (1:07:46)
11.03.1979 Bill Russell / Chicago (1:06:53)

Disc 2:
11.10.1979 Buck Henry / Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (1:06:21)
11.17.1979 Bea Arthur / The Roches (1:07:02)
12.08.1979 Howard Hesseman / Randy Newman (1:06:42)

Disc 3:
12.15.1979 Martin Sheen / David Bowie (1:06:47)
12.22.1979 Ted Knight / Desmond Child & Rouge (1:07:01)
01.26.1980 Teri Garr / The B-52's (1:08:06)

Disc 4:
02.09.1980 Chevy Chase / Marianne Faithfull, Tom Scott (1:07:26)
02.16.1980 Elliott Gould / Gary Numan (1:06:49)
02.23.1980 Kirk Douglas / Sam & Dave (1:07:27)

Disc 5:
03.08.1980 Rodney Dangerfield / The J. Geils Band (1:07:46)
03.15.1980 (none)/ James Taylor, Paul Simon, David Sanborn (1:07:00)
04.05.1980 Richard Benjamin, Paula Prentiss / The Grateful Dead (1:07:45)

Disc 6:
04.12.1980 Burt Reynolds / Anne Murray (1:06:55)
04.19.1980 Strother Martin / The Specials (1:06:31)
05.10.1980 Bob Newhart / The Amazing Rhythm Aces, Bruce Cockburn (1:07:48)

Disc 7
05.17.1980 Steve Martin / Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney, 3-D (1:07:15)
05.24.1980 Buck Henry / Andrew Gold, Andrae Crouch, The Voices Of Unity (1:06:53)

Special Features:

Only commentary on this set, folks. To enable, turn on commentary from the main menu for the specific episode you want to watch, and then enjoy:

Disc 2:
Buck Henry: Unlike Buckís other commentary track, this one starts off right off the bat as the cold opening involved protests over Buckís frequent hosting.

Disc 4:
Elliott Gould: A lot of just Elliottís reflections on the episode and watching the episode along with you.

Disc 7:
Buck Henry: One interesting thing for this track is that Buck decides not to start talking until after the opening theme - so the opening sketch is left entirely un-commented upon. He ties the monologue from the episode all the way back to the Louise Lasser show and the whole ďAnyone can hostĒ contest.

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 the volume of material seems to have declined with each passing season. Hopefully wherever the SNL season sets move to next - either to the Eddie Murphy era or beyond - thereíll be more bonus content with which to work.

If youíre a fan of the show or the 70s or even just any of the actors or musicians involved, hopefully you already have this set in hand. If not, buy it. Itís the final of the early glory years of the show, and itís still a greatly entertaining program.

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 12/23/09

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