Bringing Back The Fear For The 1980 Election
This was a pretty good episode hosted by Teri Garr. The main thing I notice about her appearance was that she had a high enough energy about her that the show had a fun vibe no matter what was going on in a sketch. I loved how this bubbly personality made it impossible for them to even attempt the after-school-special-toned sketch that cursed season four and will pop it's head up from time to time in season 5.
In fact, the subtitle of this intro might be a little deceiving as I'm mainly referring the news when I talk about bringing back the fear because it's fascinated just how quickly they shifted gears for the very first episode in this presidential year from frivolous jokes about mundane events to full-blown political coverage.
This will be the second election that I've seen covered by SNL since starting this challenge, and it's already interesting to see the patterns. The second half of season one and the first half of season two set up the base for this observation. I started this challenge as a way to escape our modern issues only to land smack dab in the middle case of deja vu as I saw nothing but earlier versions of the exact same situations. The most shocking point is that these shows are from forty years ago and many of the names involved haven't changed.
By the time season, two ended we were halfway into Carter's first year. When the show returned for season three, it felt like they were actively limit any type of real political commentary. Sure they would make the occasional joke about how the president is inept or cover some politician's idiotic scandal, but their political jokes weren't as focused or cutting during the election year.
As things started to tone down more and more, I wasn't sure if this was due to the fact that the world was beginning to settle, as we started to approach the end of The Cold War, or, if they just played into the fact that people don't follow politics the same way when we are not selecting our masters.
This is why I'm going to actively be aware of the way Saturday Night Live may have a cyclical pattern to their political coverage that plays into The Kingdom Of Fear. This was the first episode of 1980, and I can already see a shift in the news. Ever since the last presidential season, this episode was the first where US Politics and World Events dominated the desk of Weekend Update.
Not only that, the topics they cover are almost identical to the issues we're still dicking around with today. There was coverage of everything from conflict in the Middle East, that seem to be growing, early rumors of Russia tampering with the election, Al Franken selling gold because it's the conspiracy theorist's currency, and even a quick joke about the new trend to use Romaine lettuce as a scam to sell an unpopular product like it was the kale of its day.
Sorry that this intro ended up being so long winded and political but, I am only commenting on what I saw in the show. So now that I've covered how Weekend Update is evolving, it's time to share what else I saw as I give you...
The Wicker Breakdown:
This week the show starts with a special Weekend Update covering Paul McCartney's arrest in Japan after finding marijuana in his luggage. They break down the week of events with a blend of accurate and exaggerated news. It turns out they also sent Father Guido Sarducci over to Japan with weed in his luggage as a way to scoop an interview, only we find out he arrived on the day McCartney was released leading the new news to be Father Sarducci's statement which ends on, "Live from New York..."
Teri Garr then opens the show with a lot of excited energy but then skips the monolog altogether.
This is followed by a repeat of the ad for Craig's Traveler's Check, travel currency distributed by some guy named Craig.
It's not just the news that's getting political. The next sketch was about how desperate the vast line-up of this year's candidates were to get a vote. Some even going as far as to provide maid services to an independent voter in Iowa leading to a room too filled with politicians underachieving and over promising to the point where they are more of a nuisance than a cure.
Debs Behind Bars was a sketch following three debutantes serving time in the same cell. Since they come from wealth, they get special treatment but are too privileged to see the benefits, so all they do is complain.
The B-52s then hit the stage to perform Rock Lobster.
Once again, Jane and Bill anchor the news and despite the intro sounding like a complaint, I'm a fan of Weekend Update and find the segment much stronger in these election years. If anything, I wish the news writers would be as vigilant about covering our rulers even in non-election years.
The Anchovy Council Of America then meet to discuss the extremely flat anchovy market and have an advertising company step in to pitch their ideas for commercials. Their big idea is to start marketing to the "blacks" because not only are they the market with the less experience with anchovies giving them a bigger market to win over, they also feel that "the blacks" would be an ideal market because of how much "they like salt." The sketch then ends with a blaxploitation ad with Garrett Morris and Yvonne Hudson (AKA the first official female black cast member) who never gets mentioned in the "Featuring" section of the intro despite the fact that this isn't her first visit and she had multiple lines. I'd also like to point out that this was the first episode that introduces every other "Featured" cast member for the season even a couple that were just non-talking extra for this episode.
The Bad series of sketches returns with Bad Playhouse. Aykroyd has been replaced by Larraine, but the concept is exactly the same. This time, we watch a bad performance about the potato famine feature Mr. Potato, but like the last couple times this segment aired, they didn't give it a name.
Gilda and her agent then prepare to meet with a powerful producer about her latest screenplay. It turns out this powerhouse of film is Larraine as the same child character she was as a literal "Child" Psychiatrist, who strong-arms Gilda into rewriting the script to have the star of the film be her mom.
Mr. Bill is spotted on skid row and gets sent to a psychoanalyst to get help. This shrink uses hypnotism, and we get to see flashbacks of Mr. Bill's miserably violent life and end with him getting a lobotomy.
The B-52s then return to the stage to perform Dance This Mess Around.
Teri Garr then closes the show by thanking the crowd and saying her goodnights.
Now, this might not have been the most memorable of episodes but thanks to Teri Garr's energy it earns multiple bonus points for at least being fun and a few more points for these favorite moments. First, I loved the Anchovy Council Of America sketch for many reasons. For one, I'm a fan of anchovies but get why people don't like them. I also liked how ridiculous yet accurate the overall outlook was on why anchovies are such a flat market. Last but not least, I liked seeing Yvonne Hudson because I'm obsessed with why they never hyped how early they had their first black female cast member. Next, I liked this week's Bad Playhouse because I'm a sucker for Mr. Potato Head, especially when they use him as a real-life character. Finally, I was a fan of this week's Mr. Bill because I'm continually surprised that there was an ongoing narrative when all I saw was the destruction of Mr. Bill when I was a little kid.