Tuesday, May 6, 2008

This Is How We Get Our Kicks In

One thing I had in my "notes" but forgot to include in that previous post is how impressively NBC's Saturday Night played with not just comedy but the very form of television itself. In the season I was watching, there was sort of a running gag in the Eric Idle show that Idle himself wasn't much of a comic, which is sort of a Pythonic conceit. There was a brilliant opening where John Belushi was holding the show hostage by refusing to say the words "Live from New York, it's saturday night." On Jack Burns' show, he blew a piece in a sketch by jumping out a window but "forgetting" to fall, so that he remained visible outside this ostensibly highrise window; the other cast members started breaking character, complaining how Jack had ruined the sketch, calling each other by name as they demonstrated what they would have gotten to do had Burns not made his mistake. It was incredible, and very funny.

Best of all was on Shelley Duvall's show. She was part of a little sketch during the cold opening, then went backstage to talk with the female cast members of the show. Meanwhile, the cold opening went on, seen on a tiny TV set in the dressing room, with John Belushi shouting "Live from New York, it's Saturday night!" Don Pardo then made his customary introductions, all of which were ignored by the women, who continued preparing for their opening number as the Video Vixens.

Thirty years on, it's still jarring to see that opening. Saturday Night Live has a pretty iconic and emblematic set of opening credits, down to this very day, you know. It's amazing to see the show itself roundly ignore them like that. I don't think they'd do that today.

4 comments:

Scraps said...

I liked the Buck Henry show where he cut his forehead jumping out a window, and bandages popped up on everyone else's heads through the course of the show.

I'm going to write soon about the amazingly good show A Bit of Fry and Laurie that we just got, which has more fooling around with the form of shows and sketches than any show I've seen, and not sophomoric fooling around, genuinely clever stuff. In the one I just watched, they keep getting harassed by an audience member accusing them of plagiarism, which of course is an effective way of cutting off sketches without endings or ideas that don't have more than a joke or two in them.

Scraps said...

I keep forgetting to tick the ticky box.

T. Nawrocki said...

Buck Henry actually got clipped by the Samurai Stockbroker. They replayed the accident on Weekend Update.

Scraps said...

Huh. Obviously I wasn't paying enough attention. I'm sure I was prepared to think he'd hurt himself in the window-jump because it looked like an awkward fall at the time.