Our blog series Don’t Miss This Episode takes you in to the standout episodes of your favorite shows.
Who in their right mind would set about trying to pinpoint the most unmissable Saturday Night Live? What deranged mind could possibly sift through thirty-seven seasons’ worth of episodes, searching for the best of the best? Internet, meet moi. I am said crazy individual–well, me and these guys. And maybe these ones, too. Whatever. They are my brethren and this is my quest.
Every season of America’s most longstanding and celebrated weekly comedy show has had its ups and downs; cast members that didn’t work, producers who worked too much and recurring characters who simply wouldn’t die. But once in a blue moon (that blue moon being what is in my opinion the show’s heyday–the mid 70′s with Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and the like) along comes a show that just seems right. And this is it.
To begin with, there’s the host, Steve Martin. He has hosted the show fifteen times to date (it doesn’t seem right to me that Alec Baldwin has edged ahead–they need to get Martin back on the show, stat), but it’s easy to understand why some people mistook him for a cast member. The reason Steve is so special is that he blends seamlessly into his surroundings and works perfectly alongside the cast members. He’s never “that celebrity doing awkward comedy for a night” as are so many of the hosts today. He’s there not to make an appearance but to add to the comedy, and this episode in particular captures some of his greatest sketches including King Tut, the “Wild and Crazy Guys” with Dan Aykroyd and his hilarious, yet strangely moving dance with Gilda Radner (below), which beautifully toes the line between silly and sublime:
And let’s not forget the musical guest (who can often drive an SNL episode into notoriety if not done right–we’re looking at you, Ashlee Simpson). Who could be more perfect than the Blues Brothers, alter egos of immensely talented cast members John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd?
The real joy of watching an episode like this is getting to see performers at the tops of their powers doing precisely what it is they love to do, with an entire creative team behind them pulling together. If reading the history of Saturday Night Live taught me anything it’s that things behind the scenes of this show rarely ran smoothly, but it’s easy to forget that when the writing is so spot-on, the performances hilarious and the sketches so memorable. Many of the cast members in this episode met with untimely tragedy, but this is their real legacy: seeing comedians like John Belushi look like they’re genuinely having fun being onstage and making the country laugh. Don’t miss this episode.