SNL: S04E11... HOST: CICELY TYSON... DATE: FEBRUARY 10, 1979

or... 

The Perfect Proof That Shorter Sketches Equal

A Better Broadcast

Alright, first off, Cicely Tyson is one of these great non-comedic actresses where I wasn't sure if her talent would help or hurt her night as a sketch comedy performer. Up until now, I would say that it's 25/75 giving comedy very few wins when it happens. That said, Cicely Tyson gave a great performance bringing the new score to 26/74.

One of the things that I think really helped her was that there were 17 segments in this show when the average episode this season is at most 13 segment. Now keep in mind when I say this two of these segments are the music guest, one is the opening sketch, another is the opening monolog, then there's always the news and don't forget, I count' the goodnights as a segment.

Granted any of these segments CAN be funny, but they so standard to each viewing that I don't really look to these moments to gauge how well the show has been. So that means that I'm judging each of these episodes based on 7 or fewer sketches where up until this season the low end started at ten.

As I keep pointing out, fewer sketches equal more time per segment, meaning you have to sit through the stinkers just as often as you get rewarded with success. Take this episode for example. With 17 segments minus the six that I don't use while evaluating, that leaves me 11 segments to judge.

That alone gives me more option but I mainly like how these sketches didn't outlast their humor or we were allowed to bounce onto the next bit when they got boring, instead of the characters buckling down and digging into a joke that was dead on arrival.

I really hope that they learned their lesson and return to this pacing from here on out. Now that I explained why I like this, it's now time to share what I actually saw. So, with that, I give you...

The Wicker Breakdown: 

  1. Tonight's special episode is "interrupting" Emergency, Starring Megan Marshack.
  2. The opening sketch is Gilda and Jane in the SNL locker room with Gilda worried that Belushi isn't going to take the news that his big sketch of the night has been cut being that he took it out on Gilda the last time this happened. Belushi then arrives and Gilda sneaks out leave Belushi alone with Jane. She breaks the news to him and takes it pretty well, only to get a little annoyed when she says he's probably better off because this new character is just like his Samurai. Though he's defensive for a bit he calms rather quickly now that he's got the options from being famous. Jane then takes a quick jab at him for using heroin which sends him over the top just before he announces, "Live from New York..."
  3. Garrett Morris comes out dressed as Cicely Tyson and begins to open the show. It doesn't take long before the real Cicely arrives and asks Garett what the hell he is up to. This is when he explains that his contract is solid and it states that he gets to play any character who is darker than Tony Orlando. This causes Cicely to question Garrett ethic as the two bicker their way to commercial.
  4. This is followed by a repeat of the docu-concert that is following around Elvis Presley's coat.  
  5. The Wide-End Family returns for another sketch featuring the big-assed family with a heart of gold who are hanging out with their big-assed best friends/neighbors.
  6. The Shah's Final day is a scattered sketch that takes place in the US embassy on the day of the Iranian revolve. The receptionist is a valley girl who has to play gatekeeper to block people's access to the ambassador. There is an interesting cast of characters but nothing really goes on, luckily this was a shorter sketch than usual so I was happy to see it move on.
  7. Talking Heads then hit the stage to perform Take Me To The River.
  8. We then have at least a minute long intro about how rough it was to live in the frontier days before it's revealed that we are watching a fake show called Frontier Midwife with Cicely Tyson playing the titular midwife who stumbles into a cabin full of fur traders. She gets them all doing busy work to prepare for the birth of a baby. This is when everyone looks at her like she's a nut because she's the first woman that they've seen in two years and they have no idea who she thinks is giving birth.
  9. Once again, Jane and Bill host the news and this week there was nothing but stories. Dan Aykroyd did step in as the manager of the news department but he too just delivered an interesting but outdated story.
  10. Bill Murray then returns as his crappy lounge singer character and delivers the same routine as every other appearance only the songs are different and we're now on a train but all of the small-talk is pretty much the same in a way that funny but far from my favorite.
  11. Black Perspective was an interesting bit this week. This time the topic was black women in film and Garrett asks why there are more role models. Cicely then makes an interesting point about how living in a male dominated world leads to races and cultures being evaluated base on the action and attitudes of the male representatives. Though I thought this was an interesting takeaway, it gets a little harsh when she goes on to explain the next part of the equation. That part being, in her words not mine, that black women have to pay for black men being such "losers."
  12. This was followed by the parody of a D-Day documentary about a special ops group called the Walkers. These were men who used walkers during battle, even though they could walk just fine because it would have been breaking the Geneva Convention if the enemies were to shoot them.
  13. The X-Cop return to do a carbon copy of every other sketch they've been in. This time they kill and frame to nursing school roommates claiming the events were cause by lesbianism. 
  14. Cicely Sings Sicily is a parody of a music commercial with Cicely Tyson singing songs from Sicily.
  15. The Emily Litellavision is a bit where Emily does what she does best as she introduces the show she is watching. Tonight, she introduces some sort of opera where Porky is the word she messes up on. We then cut to Cicely and Garrett singing said opera, only Garrett has the stutter of Porky Pig and the entire orchestra is wearing pig masks.
  16. Talking Heads return to the stage to perform Artists Only.
  17. Finally, Cicely Tyson closes the show by thanking the audience and saying her goodnights.

Oh my gosh, it feels so nice to have so many sketches to choose from. Now, with that, here were my favorite moments. First, I love the Wide-End family because they seem like they are genuinely nice and accepting of their and everyone else's appearance. Next, I liked the Frontier Midwife, because it was funny how long it took everyone to realize there was no woman to get pregnant even if they wanted to, making the idea of this traveling midwife completely ridiculous and pointless. Finally, I was a fan of the Walkers of WWII because that was just straight up silly.  

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.