Monday, February 2, 2009

Born in the Fifties

Rick Nelson hosted NBC's Saturday Night Live on February 17, 1979, and in lieu of a monologue, he came out and sang "Hello, Mary Lou," "Travelin' Man," and "Fools Rush In." Wait, what was "Garden Party" about again? I thought he'd rather drive a truck than do this kind of thing.

Nelson would end up singing four numbers, with a slowed-down version of "Dream Lover" (which was his current single, although it didn't even make the Hot 100) toward the one o'clock hour, but in a strange choice, they added a musical guest anyway: Judy Collins, who was horrific, missing notes right and left. Nostalgia was clearly the watchword of the night: The first skit was a huge set piece where Ricky was wandering lost through the stage sets of various Fifties sitcoms. John Belushi was Bud from Father Knows Best and Danny Thomas and the Beaver; Jane Curtin was perfectly cast as the pearls-wearing mother on all those shows. Bill Murray was completely made up to do a nonspeaking cameo as Cesar Romero on I Love Lucy - it was the funniest two-second silent appearance in the history of the show. Dan Aykroyd had it roughest; he did two interstitial bits as Rod Serling, then had to quick change into George Burns, then again into Alfred Hitchcock for the closer.

I mention all this to point out how thoroughly steeped they all were in the history of television. The Not Ready for Prime Time Players may have set out to revolutionize TV, but they obviously grew up on it and loved it. If Godard's generation was the children of Marx and Coca-Cola, the Belushi generation was the children of heroin and Leave It to Beaver.

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