Where Episode 3 felt like the first real episode of Saturday Night Live, leaning more towards being a sketch comedy show while leaning further away from being a variety show, this episode felt like the first to add a layer of social commentary to the structure of the show.
Sure the first episode was hosted by Carlin who had his routines about the reality of politics, but that was his act and not really the energy of the show. Sure the news segments dealt with the politics of the day, but most of the jokes were about how Ford is clumsy and dumb. They didn't give any examples of news from the day as to why he was clumsy and dumb, no, they purely made fun of his personality up until this point.
I'm not really into politics, but I am obsessed with it in kind of a keep your enemies closer sort of way. This is part of the reason I was interested in watching every episode of SNL. During the election cycle, I was looking for a sketch from at least two decades ago that highlights how, though the players change the struggles remain the same.
The sketch took place in a bodega, and it spanned over decades where they would start the flash forward with a close up on a newspaper headline about there being trouble in the Middle East. Not only was the world news stuck in a cycle of repeating conflict but the neighborhood was also cycling through repetitive clashed due to race relations in the neighborhood.
I never found that sketch and am not even entirely sure if it was from SNL or from some other show or is I made it up entirely, but in the process of the hunt, I found more and more sketches about issues that have made zero progress even generations later. The idea of watching Boomers in their 20s gripe about the generation at the wheel was fascinating to me especially now that they have the wheel and are steering us off the cliff.
This was the first episode that started to take real jabs at the government while referencing current events and not just generic scenarios. At the same time, it wasn't all references to current events and doesn't come across all that preachy when it does.
As I now think this is my favorite episode of the four and with that here is The Wicker Breakdown of the show:
Chevy Chase comes out as clumsy Ford and does his first Ford fall. I'm not old enough to remember Ford, and since all Chevy, as Ford ever did was fall down without any effort to actually look like him, I don't think I actually linked Ford to the falling character as a kid. I thought it was just Chevy being Chevy falling for no reason, but I do remember finding it funny.
Candice Bergen comes out for her monolog and is eventually interrupted by the Belushi Bee. I love the evolution of the Bees!!!
The first fake commercial of the night for the Ambassador Training Institute, which was one of those TV scam-sounding schools like a model college. In this sketch, you can pay to learn to be an ambassador to the country of your choosing in a way that reminded me a lot of Clinton appointing people to influential positions due to their contributions to the Clinton Foundation.
This sketch was about a CIA agent in charge of storing the data (in filing cabinets) from wiretaps being done by the CIA. Garrett Morris comes in claiming he has a right to see his file. The agent complains that he has so much information he can't find anything even though Garrett goes as far as to admit that he blew up a building. To that, the agent says, "You know how many people have done that?" Then Garrett gives up after seeing how inept the system is and as soon as he is out of the room, the agent orders that Garrett is being tapped.
Esther Phillips then sings What a Difference a Day Makes. I've never heard her before, and boy is her voice wild. I have to admit, I might have laughed the hardest during this episode because of the way she sings.
Chevy Chase plays Hamlet with his lines written on the skull in his hand. He then dropped the skull and struggles to piece together his lines. Candice Bergen then interrupts, and the two broke into a full-blown commercial for Polaroid, no jokes, just a legit advertisement out of the blue.
Once again, they use some gay stereotypes in a non-homophobic way in a fake ad for a long-distance phone service for men who talk to their moms. They just had two guys as a couple which I'm sure was shocking enough to see on TV back then but watching it now, they just seem like a gay couple and not a joke, but again, it doesn't feel offensive to me.
Then the news started, and as I mentioned in the main content above, they finally began to focus on specific current events and were just making fun of the president for his personality.
The news was then interrupted by the same dumb fake Triopenin arthritis medicine ad from episode one. Sure they did have on-demand viewing back then but four episodes into the very first year seems like a horrible time to through in recycled content.
The new returns to Chevy Chase making faces behind Jane Curtin as she delivers a serious news story. The segment ends with the Garret Morris as the interpreter for the hearing impaired, again too soon for recycling as it was the same exact bit from episode 3.
There was a parody commercial for Channel perfume that must have been a direct parody of one airing on TV at the time, but it was pretty easy to get the joke without knowing the reference.
Andy Kaufman comes out and tells a story as his foreign character. It was a weird story about a cannonball that led into impressions and ended on a bit with a bongo. It's fun to see Andy in action again.
Candice Bergen and Gilda Radner talk about looks and dating. It was very reminiscent of Chris Farley's sketch where he talks to Paul McCartney with Gilda playing up her feeling ugly the way Chris played up him being dumb. Of course, this Gilda sketch is the original, I'm just more familiar with the Farley routine because I wasn't born quite yet at the time of this original airing.
The two girls then introduced another Albert Brooks short!!! I love these and have always loved the SNL shorts. This one was a bunch of brief parody TV shows. There was one for a hospital show, one for a sitcom about a guy trying to build a three-way relationship between him, his wife and his girlfriend, a blaxploitation show about a black vet who was a vet in 'Nam, a cabaret parody, and several other quick highlights of crazy shows to come. As with most of the SNL shorts, this one got a little awkward but in an entertaining way.
It seems in these old sketches if they are faking a commercial, they are faking a talk show and this time it was an interview between Candice Bergen and a couple kiwi trappers.
Michael 0'Donoghue finally starred in a sketch where he calls and harasses a booking agent for Trans American Airlines the entire time she remains pleasant which left me feeling sad for the situation and not at all entertained. I don't remember Michael at all, but if he actually wrote this sketch, I can see why.
The awkwardness of the last sketch was swept away by this week's Muppet segment. This segment is another thing that's growing on me. I didn't really like the first two, but again, I get it because everyone involved was still in the process of developing what this show actually is. This Muppet segment was about one group of monsters either eating or wear the animals that are their primary source of food. They got down to where there are only two left in existence, and the dumb eating beasts sacrifice one of the two remaining food animals to their god to get answers only to realize they actually need two for reproduction.
Again with the interview sketches as we see Candice Bergen interview a king of "some little country" where she totally disrespects the king by not knowing anything about his country and ends up making him look like the bad guy after flaunting her American arrogance.
If you've ever read me mention the time on this site, you will see that I always say something like 3:30 in the AM. I got that from a Tim Meadows series of sketches called Perspectives that always started at 4:43 in the AM and was a black show that aired just to fulfill a broadcasting diversity requirement. Well, there was a sketch called Black Perspective with Garrett Morris that was apparently the jump off point for this future sketch.
The final sketch was two people playing pong talking about their lives. It was another weird situation where 20 years were working through issues that are still going on to this day even though it's 40 years later and they are now in charge.
The show ended with Esther Phillips singing I can stand a little rain.
My favorite sketch this week was, of course, the Land Shark sketch, but I also really liked the one about paying your way to be an ambassador and the one about the CIA agent.
Ambassador Training Institute
CIA agent Sketch
Maybe someday I'll figure out if/how I can share links to the actual sketches, but until then, pictures will have to do.