SNL: S06E03... HOST: ELLEN BURSTYN... DATE: DECEMBER 6, 1980

or...

A Season Of Mid-Career Hosts

If you haven't noticed, I am pretty bad with names. I've never been good at listening for character names because I'm more interested in the story and actions of an individual character than I am in specific details about their fictional identification or the resume of the actors who portray them.

That said, I'm usually pretty good at spotting familiar faces, except for incidents like this episode and last week when I just couldn't place the host despite the fact that both Ellen Burstyn and Malcolm McDowell are names that I feel I should be able to place instantly. 

In both of these cases, the performers were at an age that I just didn't recognize them despite feeling that I should be very familiar based on how well I knew their names. I already explained my mix up with Malcolm McDowell yesterday and with Ellen Burstyn, the confusion stems from the exact same type of blind spot I have from her career.

The only Ellen Burstyn role that I know prior to her hosting duties is a little movie called The Exorcist which was released seven years earlier. I can easily see the resemblance after the fact but her bubbly/positive personality never triggered memories of a panicked mother trying to save her possessed daughter.

Then when you go the other direction, the next movie I know her from was Requiem For A Dream. Once again, the age gap in appearance and extreme change of tone left me questioning how I knew her. It turns out that these two roles are all I know of her career despite hearing her name thrown around forever.

Looking ahead in the queue, I'm seeing a lot of names where this might be the case one again. I wouldn't necessarily say that it seems like a low point in anyone's career because I think it has more to do with the industry.

In 1976, Hollywood went through a watershed year which is a game-changing time filled with huge successful films. The fact that Saturday Night Live also started around this time, meant most of their host where still in the middle of a very bright spotlight that had dimmed down as the five years have passed. So these hosts may have been the top players of the game at the time but it's a time that died when it passed.

Now that I navigated how I'm aware but unfamiliar with the host work, let me take a moment to talk about the performance. Once again, I think the bashing of the cast is unwarranted because all three episodes so far have been better than the bulk of season four and each week they keep getting better.

Hell, this week even had two classic moments both in the same episode. I'll be sure to point out these moments as I move on to give you...

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. Tonight's show is "interrupting" Those Incredible Shows.
  2. We then jump straight into a message from David Rockefeller who delivers his latest plan to control Reagan like a puppet to take care of the problem of poor Americans by turning the country into a Co-Op where the poor will simply be evicted. Toward the end of his address, he manages to transition from talking about eliminating the poor to announcing, "Live from New York..."
  3. Ellen Burstyn opens the show with a monolog about how it will be her 48th birthday the moment the clock strikes midnight and goes on to talk about how much she loves being in her forties and the thing is, she doesn't seem to be joking. There is no sarcasm or irony to any of claims like you would expect from the darker mood of the first five seasons. 
  4. This was followed by a fake ad for Ed McMahon's School For Laughing which is a school for those interested in a career as a laugh track artist.
  5. What's It All About? With Leo And Pinky Waxman returns and this week, the old Long Island Jewish couple interviews Ellen as herself about her successful career only they both steal the conversation whenever she tries to answer their questions.
  6. The Rocket Report returns where, once again, Charles Rocket interviews the man on the street, this time the topic is sex, but he's got a secret fictional storyline that the interviewees are unaware of.
  7. The next sketch takes place at a Video Dating Service where we are introduced to Joe Piscopo's classic, "I'm from Jersey," character, where he's a bit of a spazz and obsessed with the fact he's from Jersey and brings it up at any opportunity during his recorded dating interview.
  8. Aretha Franklin then hits the stage to perform United Together.
  9. Once again, Charles Rocket anchors the news. Once again he keeps getting better and better. This week, Joe Piscopo does a sports segment where Eddie Murphey gets to deliver his first on-air lines as he bitches about a new rule put out by some school district making it mandatory to have at least two white students on the high school basketball team. Gilbert also gets a segment where he tried to debunk the myth of the female orgasm.
  10. Our Front Door was a sketch where a couple answers the doorbell to find a junkie whose selling pot holders. They instantly invite him into the house and offer him tea before offering him a seat and start to ask him questions kind of like an impromptu home talk show. Then the kids arrive home and are excited to meet their first junkie and join in on the questioning.
  11. This was followed by a short film but once again, it wasn't introduced as a Short Shots installment. The short is called Pepe Gonzales, staring Gilbert as the world's only New York-based Bull Fighter who bullfights traffic and pedestrians.
  12. The next sketch took place in a Planned Parenthood office where two young teens enter the office because one of them thinks she's pregnant but it turns out that she hasn't even had sex and really doesn't know how it works. This leads to an awkward conversation about orgasms as if the Planned Parenthood workers of the time were extremely uptight and only knew the technical details about the act.
  13. Aretha Franklin returns to the stage to perform Can't Turn Me Loose.
  14. Ellen then plays a British tutor who in charge of teaching an upper-class British Denny a lesson in history. Though Denny acts like an angel, she has a sock puppet that blurts out every mean thought that comes to her mind but everyone including Denny treats the puppet as if it were real.
  15. The Toni Tennille Show is an interrogation special where, singer, Toni Tennille interviews people convicted of crimes. This week she interviews a woman who was accused of killing a famous diet author and as much as the woman tries to plead her case Toni is more interested in learning more about the diet.
  16. FISH HEADS!!! Fish heads, roly poly fish heads!!! (classical moment #2)
  17. This is followed by a family meeting where the parents announce that they are getting a divorce and want to reassure the children that everything is completely their fault. In fact, it turns out that they are not getting a divorce from one another, no, they are divorcing their kids.
  18. Keith Sykes then hits the stage to perform B.I.G. T.I.M.E.
  19. This was followed by a sad, sentimental but quirky sketch where a girl dressed as a bunny is going door to door selling tickets to the school play. A hermit of a lady answers the door and invites the girl bunny in to enjoy a bowl of stew. The girl in the bunny suit both sounds and acts kind of like Louise from Bob's Burgers. She's nervous about the stew because this lady is the neighborhood shut-in and the rumor is that she survives off of the neighborhood cats. As the bunny girl explains this the old lady barrels ahead in her agenda to treat this moment like she's spending it with her never present son. It's not clear but he might just not be talking to her anymore but there is a sorrowful tone at the end when the bunny girl leaves that leads me to believe that the boy actually died.
  20. Finally, Ellen Burstyn closes the show by thanking the crowd and saying her goodnights.

Once again we had another fun episode filled with a ton of content that even when it is bad it never seems to drag on. This week I have a rare problem where I'm struggling to commit to my top three, only this time my problem isn't that I don't have enough favorites, no, this time I have too many, which may have only happened once or twice, even with the original cast.

Part of my problems is that I wasn't aware that the song Fish Heads was linked to Saturday Night Live because I first saw it later in life when it was on a compilation program that air after SNL called Night Flight. Since I don't see Fish Heads as being SNL exclusive, I'm going to consider it an honorable mention and have the rest of my favorites feature the actual cast.

RIP Bill Paxton

RIP Bill Paxton

First, I loved the Pepe Gonzales, New York Bullfighter, because this is actually the third classic sketch from this episode and I also love when Gilbert does the Bullfight crawl towards a cab. Next, I liked Piscopo's I'm From Jersey character because I still quote the character to this day, and I've never stepped foot in Jersey but I have driven through it. Finally, I was a fan of the Shut-In and Bunny Girl because I really like the occasional sketch that's more quirky and sentimental than a failed attempt to be funny.   

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.