SNL: S05E17... HOST: STROTHER MARTIN... DATE: APRIL 19, 1980

or...

The Slump Buster

When I first saw this episode in the lineup, I thought for sure that it was going to be the last of the second half slump shows for this season. Surprisingly, I feel that this season's slump started with Rodney but there was no surprise in my disappointment in the following few episodes because I had no confidence in the hosts.

First off, I don't like anniversary specials, so the 100th episode didn't have much appeal. Then, I didn't like Richard Benjamin all that much so I had low expectations for him and his wife. Burt Reynolds was the next in line but even though I like some of his movies because of his costars, I was never a real for on him. Finally, I saw a name I've literally never seen before because I would remember a person named Strother.

Unlike unfamiliar host from the past, I looked Strother up before the view, which I try to avoid in order to not affect my expectation. This ended up being a perfect reason why I avoid preshow research. When I saw that Strother was known for his western work that automatically equaled points against him because this is my least favorite genre.

While I was doing my pre-viewing research, I also saw that Strother was in Up In Smoke. This triggered why I remember his face, but I'm still willing to bet that I've never seen or heard his name. That said, I still had my doubts about this episode but it ended up being one of my favorites. 

Though this episode broke a lot of the rules that I have about what makes a good sketch, they managed to pull it off. For the most part, the sketches in this episode ran too long, but even though they could've tightened a few spots here and there, they were successful in keeping it entertaining without relying on random filler.

Some of these sketches also came across overly dramatic but also, unlike the other incidents where this was the case, I was more aware of the reference material so it didn't come across as boring.

I wouldn't say that this was the most hilarious episode that I've seen so far, but it was very consistent while also being entertaining enough to make it into my current top ten. I was half tempted to make this number one, but I think the fact that this followed my least favorite episode so far, there were a few undeserved bonus points because of my still fresh disappointment from Reynolds.

Who knows? It may become number one again as I relive the episode while transcribing my notes. 

So without further ado, it's time to share what I saw as I give you...

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. We start with the First Lady, Rosalynn Carter, addressing the nation about the upcoming census and its attempt to track illegal immigration with loopholes for the illegal immigrants that are working for the elite in Washington. Gilda then enters the scene as a Mexican maid who curses and spits at Mrs. Carter before announcing in Spanish, "En vivo desde Nueva York..."
  2. Strother Martin then opens the show with a monolog about how he got chosen to host after a run in with a producer while out having dinner. At first, this seems like an interesting but boring story that would be written for a host who isn't known for comedy. This added to my anticipation for a bad show but then he started to win me over as he starts to reveal the joke that said producer mistook him for Tennessee Williams and how he didn't correct them when asked to host under a case of mistaken identity because he really needed the money.
  3. This is followed by a Cool Hand Look parody where instead of it being a prison camp it's a strict camp for people seeking a fully immersive approach to learning French. This sketch goes on for a long time but since it stuck to one premise and I knew the reference material it didn't really feel like it was dragging on.
  4. The Specials then hit the stage to perform Gangsters.
  5. Once again, Jane and Bill anchor the news. This week, Larraine interviews G. Gordon Liddy about MK Ultra (even though they didn't use that name) and how he's become a tool of the state and Chico Esquela gives us an update on sports. 
  6. The next sketch is the one that makes me consider this the best episode to date because it's the most fun thing that I've seen in a while. It starts out in an attorney's office. Bill and Gilda play husband and wife who are waiting for the reading of Bill's father's will and they are already griping about the deceased late in life money grubbing wife because they are super greedy and fear she will get a large chunk of their money. Jane then arrives late due to the fact she was shopping. The attorney then announces that the late Mr. Martin opted to videotape himself reading the will before hitting play on the VCR and we see Strother Martin in a hospital bed addressing his future heirs. Up until this point, I was fading in and out of paying attention to details but then Garrett enters as an orderly just checking in on his patient only to instantly turn into Strother's first guest as this video will turns into a talk show. Meanwhile, the greed family just wants to get to their prize so the keep fast forwarding leading us into different segments. We come back one time and he interviewing his nurse, then we get an impromptu news break as his hospital roommate is discovered to be dead which is followed by a music segment with the janitors. Not only is the idea of this sketch pretty funny, everyone involved in the hospital side of the sketch seems to be having so much fun that the positive energy feels contagious. The sketch end with Strother informing his family that most of his money went into making the video and he wants his remaining funds to go to his newly found/chosen hospital family.
  7. Then we go to a musical conductors club where they are just about to start their meeting. Garrett reads the minutes from the last gather which consisted of nothing more than reading the minutes from the week before, followed by a 30-second break to conduct to then go back to the meeting where they agree there was nothing else to talk about so they concluded to the meeting and moved on to conducting for fun for three hours. The big debate this week is whether or not to skip the break and just move right on to the after meeting conducting. This idea is overwhelmingly denied so they take their 30-second conducting break and then get back to the meeting. Bill then announces that he wants to sponsor a new member. They meet the new guy but then determine he's not a fit so they move on to their post-meeting conducting.
  8. Invasion Of The Brain Snatchers was a parody of Body Snatchers only in this case the pod people were democrats who seemed to randomly switch sides to vote for Reagan. Once again, this was a sketch that ran really long but knowing the reference material kept it from dragging on.
  9. The Specials then return to the stage to perform Too Much, Too Young.
  10. Then we go to a General Store that only sells generic things in a generic town called Anywhere, USA. We then get to see the rest of the town where we see that no one has a name, they job boy or girl or whatever job they work at, with only one person in the town having an actual name who's the high school coach that the general store owner sabotages in a very dark way. This felt more like Twilight Zone than Saturday Night Live. It also reminded me of a Vonnegut story where everyone is forced to be equal which are two more reasons that why I loved it.
  11. The short film this week was a stop motion music video with cartoonized photographs of New York street food establishments that feels like a modern day travel ad.
  12. Finally, Strother's closes the show by thanking the crowd and saying his goodnights.

Okay, now that I've relived this episode after transcribing my notes, I'm not going to commit to claiming this as my favorite episode to date but it definitely contains my favorite sketch and other great moments that I will share in my top three list. First, I loved the video will reading turned talk show sketch because not only was it a fun concept but it was super fun to watch because everyone involved seemed to genuinely be having a blast. Next, I liked the Anywhere, USA sketch because of how much it reminded me of a blend between Twilight Zone and Vonnegut. Finally, I was a fan of the Invasion of the Brain Snatchers sketch because it's still totally relevant when it comes to people's political stance. 

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.