SNL: S08E15... HOST: BRUCE DERN... DATE: MARCH 12, 1983


The Night That Buckwheat Died 


This episode solidifies that this was the season that I started to stay up to watch every episode as the originally aired. I always knew that it was an Eddie Murphy season, but this ongoing Buckwheat stunt really stands out as one of the most memorable episodes from my childhood.

Not only was I a fan of Buckwheat, as portrayed by Eddie Murphy but the real Buckwheat was my favorite of The Little Rascals when I would watch the old reruns as a kid. This episode left me so confused because I was seven so I was old enough to get that this was not the real Buckwheat but I was sad because I knew that this meant my favorite character would no longer be on the show. 

That wasn't the confusing part, what tricked my seven-year-old head was that I was old enough to catch on that the show's jokes were inspired by the real world, so I thought they were scripting this in reference to the real Buckwheat being shot. Keeping in mind that this was before the internet, and no one in the room knew the actual status of the real Buckwheat so no one could reassure me whether or not the real guy was alive or whether he died from a gunshot or not but no one else was all that concerned.

As for the rest of the show, it was just fine. I liked Bruce Dern much better than his first time hosting the show. Where the first time he felt like a jerk that just didn't know how to hide it. This time his anger felt more like a character choice, and I loved how even he goes as far as to admit that he hates being pigeonholed in these roles. This made him seem more playful and fitting to host a sketch comedy show as opposed to feeling thrown into the mix just to see what would happen.

With that, it's time to move on and share what else I saw as I give you...

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. This week's show starts with Gary Kroeger drunk in a camel costume complaining to Julia Louis-Dreyfus about how little air time. It takes her a moment to even realize that he is talking before she informs him the one sketch that he was written in as a character turned out to be cut from the show. Sweetchuck then enters the scene and piles on to Gary's misery by letting him know that his family is in town and didn't tell him. This leads him to put a gun to his head and announce, "Live from New York..." and when he pulls the trigger, a flag pops out that reads, "It's Saturday Night."

  2. Bruce Dern then officially opens the show with a monolog where he talks about what he wants to do during this visit to make this show better than his last hosting duty after explaining he's tired of being famous as a bad guy. This is interesting since my problem with his previous spot was that he came across as a real deal jerk. I like how he then goes on to blame the audience for encouraging such bad behavior.

  3. Buckwheat Jeans is a parody of an old Jordache Jeans ad from the time only with Buckwheat as the spokesmodel who claims that the pants are "Otay."

  4. The Donny and Marie's St. Patrick's Day Special was a parody of a traditional network holiday celebrity special filled with guests from the day and horrible music.

  5. We then got a newsbreak that interrupts the St. Patrick's Day Special sketch. It's a Special Report where "Ted Koppel" announces, "Buckwheat has been shot." We then got to the see the footage followed by an interview from Alfalfa which is just an excuse to reshow the assassination attempt which they do again and again and again until they announce he is dead which gives them a reason to replay the shooting even more before we get a mini-tribute to his childhood career.

  6. We then get a heads up that this is going to be a sketch where Bruce Dern does not go psycho. The sketch is called The Home For Disgusting Practices which is introduced like a soap opera of a sketch that takes place in more of a mental institute than a home for disgusting practices. Bruce Dern plays the counselor whose job is to rein in these space cadets. I could see this being pretty fun at the time because of how over the top the acting was but through modern eyes can't help but see it as a sketch that would be considered insensitive. Especially when Bruce says that he wishes they are dead as he breaks the non-psychopath disclaimer which broke the scene before I got too hung up with these modern thoughts.

  7. Leon Redbone then took to the stage to perform Sweet Sue.

  8. We then got a real quick "commercial spot" for the upcoming TV special, The Buckwheat Story where the announcer informs us that Buckwheat will be played by Byron Allen.

  9. Once again, Brad Hall gives us the news. This week, we start with more Buckwheat coverage. Sweetchuck drops in as his scientist character to share funny words for venereal diseases. Mary Gross gets a segment where she discusses the St. Patrick's Day parade that was getting protested that year for mob-related reasons but she suggests the Irish double down on their drinking to keep it a special day.

  10. Bruce Dern then came out as Gumby to tell a leprechaun story to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, only to get called out by Eddie as the "Real Gumby" who harshly puts him in his place.

  11. Eddie and Piscopo then start a string of racist ads beginning with this one for Old Negro Beer

  12. The songwriting duo Schleimer and Laub return to the show to come up with songs for Bruce Dern's plan for a musical about the depression and the two do their best to pull it off. Despite how dark the lyrics are, the tone is very old-timey and uplifting.

  13. Old Jew Beer was a follow up to the Old Negro Beer sketch.

  14. We then went to a house where Bruce and Mary nerd out as they finish off a crossword puzzle. A stranger drops by who is also a nerd dressed exactly like Dern and claims to be looking for his father. It turns out that the couple did lose their kid in a grocery store, but despite all the obvious signs they still fail but put it together that this is their son as he continues on with his quest.

  15. Old Chinaman Beer rounds out the trilogy of these racist beer ads that is offensive but in a way reminds me of Paul Newman's line of ethnic foods.

  16. Jerry Lewis School Of Manners is a class hosted by Eddie Murphy as a Nutty Professor-style teacher who teaches a class on manners and a very Jerry Lewis way. One of the students isn't pleased with the course and demands her money back which requires means that she needs to speak with the principal who is played by Piscopo who is portraying serious interview Jerry who puts her in her place with his brand of misogyny that often comes out when he's not acting on the screen.

  17. Leon Redbone then returned to the stage to perform When You Wish Upon A Star, and I Ain't Got Nobody back to back.

  18. Finally, Bruce Dern closes the show by thanking the audience and saying his goodnights.

I don't know if I would say this was my favorite episode but it definitely is one of the most memorable to me from that time. First, I loved the Buckwheat Jeans sketch because as I wrote in an earlier review, it was one of the sketches that inspired a babysitting improv game where we would open the Yellow Page, point to a business and have to come up with a fake ad. Most of these childish bits ended with things being Otay because Buckwheat was our favorite character. Next, I really liked "Buckwheat has been shot," because of how deeply this stuck in my memory because I was sad that my favorite character was dead. Finally, I was a fan of the nerd family sketch because it highlights how Bruce Dern can be fun like I remember him from the movie The Burbs.


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