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When I think about Saturday Night Live, I think of it mostly in the first ten years it was on, particularly the first five. Those seem to be the best years the show had. Reflecting on it in this 25th anniversary special, it feels as if it were trying to do more to give the (then) current show a boost using what made the show great way back when.
Saturday Night Live: 25th Anniversary is the DVD of the television special by the same name. It opens with Bill Murray as a casino performer with Paul Shaffer backing him on piano. He goes into the audience and it's filled with celebrities including Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Sarah Michelle Geller, Drew Barrymore, Tom Hanks, and many more. Murray's monologue and interaction really gave the show a feel for what it used to be - cutting-edge and not afraid to take risks to be funny.
Chris Rock then comes in as one of the hosts of the evening. He really isn't there all the time as there are others that come on as the show progresses. Rather than being a collection of the best sketches, this show mixes some classic bits with new pieces. This is where it falters a bit as some of the greatest sketches from the past are just shown in snippets, rather than in their entirety. It's great for bringing back the memories some of us have of the show, but misses out on showing the younger generations just how great the show used to be.
Actors making appearances include Adam Sandler, Tom Hanks, Garth Brooks, Jon Lovitz, Sarah Michelle Geller, James Vanderbeek, Victoria Jackson, Christopher Walken, Will Ferrell, Jerry Seinfeld, David Bowie, Chevy Chase, Martin Short, Steve Martin, Billy Crystal, Kevin Spacey, and more. I had the feeling some of the younger guests were in the audience just because it would be cool to be seen there, not because there was an actual purpose. Show me less of celebrities in the audience who had no real connection to the show and more of the classic sketches.
There are hilarious clips from sketches from what was then the current season of the show such as John Goodman in drag as (Monica Lewinsky friend), spoofs on Regis and Kelly, the infamous "Schwetty Balls" sketch, and more. I think the show is used too much as a push to try and develop an audience for what was then the current season, but some of these bits were pretty funny.
The first five years classic clips such as with the Coneheads, Barbara Wawa, Andy Kaufman pantomiming to the Mighty Mouse theme, the Bees, Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase doing word association, Emily Litella, Samurai deli, Chevy Chase as President Ford, the Blues Brothers, and of course, two wild and crazy guys. If you are looking at this list and scratching your head, get your hands on the complete early seasons of the show rather than watching this special.
Representing the 1980's there are clips of Eddie Murphy as James Brown, the Whiners, Ed Grimley, Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood, and Buckwheat. Other highlights are the Gumby Christmas Special, William Shatner telling convention attendees to "Get a life", and Regis and Kathie Lee parodies. Included in this era of clips are some of Phil Hartman's terrific work as well.
The nineties clips start with a Chippendales competition featuring the recently deceased Patrick Swayze, caveman in court, and Wayne's World among others. The fact that this list is so short says it all about the show's decline. There are highlights from all of the weekend updates that have aired over 25 years.
There are tributes to the cast members who are no longer with us such as Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Phil Hartman, and Chris Farley. I thought more could have been done in this respect as it seems too short for all the talent included in this bundle.
Saturday Night Live was known almost as much for its music as it was for its comedy. In this special, musical guests are the Eurythmics performing a medley of several of their hits, Beastie Boys with Elvis Costello, and Al Green.
Saturday Night Live: 25th Anniversary is entertaining and pretty funny, but I'd rather see the classic clips in their entirety. There are boxed sets on the market of the complete seasons. While this isn't bad, it's not really a way to catch all that was so great about this show and why it was considered groundbreaking in its time. It will appeal most to people who lived through those years and will have memories sparked by what they see here, rather than those who are looking to learn about the early years of the show.
The DVD is fine, with good picture and sound quality. There are a few extras worth watching, but not enough to make it worth investing in purchasing. I did enjoy viewing it, but don't feel the need to see it again and it just left my kids wondering if there was more to the show that they were missing (there is). I would have rather had less of the celebrities and the current season of the show and more complete clips from the early years.
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• Access Hollywood
• Tim Russert
© 2010 Patti Aliventi
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