SNL: S03E08... HOST: MISKEL SPILLMAN... DATE: DECEMBER 17, 1977

or...

A Highly Anticipated Letdown That Was

Well Worth the Wait  

When I first started watching this season of Saturday Night Live, I scanned the thumbnails for the upcoming episode and was very excited this Anyone Can Host Contest. Unfortunately, the same thumbnail that sat next to the description announcing the contest was of Miskel Spillman which both spoiled the contest winner while still managing to give me something to look forward to.

Yes, I was mainly interested in seeing what they would do with the 80-year-old civilian but I was also very interested in seeing the build up to this very special episode. It was interesting to see just how much times have changed while remaining the same as we got to meet all the contestant.

The biggest difference I would say, is back then the public wasn't as readily prepared for stardom. Keep in mind these were people that had to actively enter the contest by sending a postcard through the mail this wasn't something to just click here to apply like you would expect to see these days. Yet, these people who put in this extra effort and went through whatever the selection phase was, nervously acted like they were randomly chosen that night when it was their turn to stand in the spotlight.

Nowadays, with the ever airing reality competition, it feels like this anyone at any time is more prepared for their shot to be famous. Not only are we more ready for fame now, the selection process would require much more than a postcard that could have been written by anyone. No, there would be months and months of online voting for video clips that the finalist would probably all be borderline professionals.

The fact that this contest was true in its attempt to prove that Anyone Can Host the show is why I feel let down but not really disappointed. It was awesome that the winner was someone with zero experience or interest in acting. I just wished they would have put on a full on shit show instead of doing the best with the circumstances.  

Instead of giving Miskel true hosting duties they treated her more like a prop that only showed up in a couple of the sketches when I was hoping to see her have more fun trying but failing so that the cast of comedic geniuses could save the scenes turning this into a comedy classic.

Failing to commit to truly let the winner the host must be why they never revisited this contest. This is why I felt a little letdown but didn't really feel all that disappointed. Part of me feels they should have fudged the numbers to let the Oregon burnout win because though he was a bit annoying he was the only contestant to put in the effort to at least try to be an entertainer.

Alright enough about the contest, it's now time to tell you what I saw as I give you...

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. Tonight's special episode is "interrupting" How the Grinch Raped and Strangled Christmas.
  2. Our opening sketch takes place in the SNL locker room with Belushi and Laraine discussing tonight's 80-year-old contest winning host. Buck Henry joins on the conversation as the co-host/liaison. He informs the two that Miskel is acting strange and it turns out that Belushi tricked her into smoking weed by claiming a joint was a fancy French cigarette that will help her with her nerves because that's what works for him. This gets Buck Henry to freak out since there is just over a minute to get her prepared for the monolog. Belushi then says he has less time that that before announcing "Live from New York..."
  3. Buck Henry then opens the show by explaining the contest and introducing Miskel Spillman who is pretending to be stoned based on the opening sketch and won't let go of a fruit bowl that is keeping her grounded.   
  4. Meat Wagon Action Track was a fake ad for an extreme slot car track, complete with fire, crash paths and a meat wagon to clean up the bodies after crashes.
  5. American Date the Self-Conscious Association was a PSA with Gilda and Murray trying to set up a date while both being extremely self-conscious.
  6. Jane Curtin then reads a modern day telling of The Gift of the Magi to Miskel who I don't think says a word the entire sketch. Instead, they transition to Gilda and Belushi who are acting out the scene in a hospital. In this telling of the tale, Gilda is sick and needs a kidney transplant but is also really into brushing her hair to keep it soft. Belushi plays her husband who sells his very special watch to pay for the surgery in order to donate his kidney to Gilda. Christmas comes and Belushi reveals that his gift was what I mentioned above and that he was the unknown donor. Gilda, whose head is wrapped in bandages, then gives Belushi his gift which is a chain for the watch that was just sold. Belushi then asks how she paid for this gift to which she says that she sold her... she grabs head bandages to remove them as if she's about to say, "Hair" and reveal a bold head only to say hair brush which sends Belushi over the edge because of the bum deal he got.
  7. Elvis Costello then performed Watching the Detective.
  8. Once again, Jane and Dan host the news. Garret Morris gives this week's point of view about the current state of the country as far as race relations go saying it's on a decline because of a basketball incident where a black player was fined for unjustly punching a white player. He then plays a clip that shows the black player was the obvious instigator. Morris goes from denial to defensive as he sees that he is wrong and starts accusing the other anchors of doing him wrong as he exits the news studio. Bill Murray does a review of Miracle on 34th Street where he is upset that they l left the existence of Santa open at the end of the film saying they had the perfect chance to share to the world he is real. The dancing NBC "N" makes a quick appearance revealing it's Emily Litella who owns the dancing legs behind the costume. She does a quick segment that is really lame and Jane banishes her from Weekend Update.
  9. Garrett Morris then plays a desk cop who assigns a case to an unlikely team of detectives. Belushi plays a brute of a cop and Aykroyd plays an existentialist and that's just the beginning of this convoluted sketch. They get told that there's a guy in a bank with a bomb. Then we cut to Laraine as a hooker and Buck Henry as the John in a motel room for what seems to be no reason. The two detective then enter the room to get information out of the hooker. Only the information they are after is just the address to the bank and that's all there is to this moment. Then we get to the bank where Murray a bomb wearing robber who is holding his wife and mother hostage. Again, I don't think Miskel says more than three words as the detective try to negotiate with Murray. The negotiation doesn't go well because Murray ends up blowing up himself as well as his family. And that's it.
  10. Franken and Davis then do a routine where Al Franken sings a song to his real life parents. Things then go wrong and Franken spazzes out after his parents share embarrassing childhood stories.  
  11. E. Buzz Miller Art Classics is a public access show hosted by Aykroyd with Laraine as a pornstar sidekick. The two analyze classic art as an excuse to show nudity on TV as they discuss each image like an immature child might.
  12. Jane and Aykroyd then play parents anxiously awaiting their sons return home from college as also await being introduced to his girlfriend for the first time. Belushi comes in as the son then it's revealed the Miskel is his girlfriend. No one ever mentions the age gap which makes it hard to tell if she's actually supposed to be that much older than him or if it's supposed to be a young character being portrayed by an older actress. This confusion is what adds to the fun and this is the only sketch Miskel actually acts in.
  13. Gilda then plays her kid character who is sitting on Santa's lap requesting her gifts for Christmas. Murray plays Santa and rejects all her requests and is a bit of a bully throughout the gift wishing process.
  14. Mr. Mike then gets a segment where Laraine comes in claiming to be a drunk and needing a Least Loved Bedtime Tale. Mr. Mike refuses until she sing a song and this back and forth goes on forever until she finally gives in and sings in the style of opera. As she sings soundly we are given a tale in the subtitles. She finishes the song and asks again for her tale but is turned down because Mr. Mike says her singing was awful. 
  15. Elvis Costello then starts with one song then gets all pissed off before debuting Radio, Radio which apparently was a controversial moment in the show's history being that Radio, Radio really bashes the broadcasting industry.
  16. Finally, Miskel comes out to thank the audience for selecting her then finishes off her hosting duties by saying her goodnights.

Though I was more interested in the concept of this episode over the actual content, I still have my three favorite moments. First, I liked the only sketch Miskel acted in where she play Belushi's college aged girlfriend because I liked the Family Guy style confusion as to how the characters are supposed to see the age gap in the reality of the world in the sketch. Next, I thought the E. Buzz Miller Art Classics public access show was pretty funny because it reminded me of my childhood where nudity wasn't readily available via the internet so any form of nudity was amazing. Finally, I was a fan of the Meat Wagon Action Track because there was a while when I was way too old that I wanted to get into slot cars.  

Matt Bunker

I started out with a goal of becoming a paid screenwriter. I had no interest in any other aspect of filmmaking. I received and scholarship to The Vancouver Film School's Writing for Film and Television program where I graduated in 2005. I fell in love with being on set during my first non-school produced short, . I loved being around all the creative people, seeing people having fun while working. The whole liking your job was a new world to me, so I decided to give it a shot. I volunteered for any project I could, doing what ever was needed. The set was my Film School this time. While working as a PA on a feature I was informed that the DP wanted the three tallest PAs to help out in the grip and electric department. That is when I found the department that felt like the best fit for me while I continued to write.