58 of 62 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I'm looking forward to completing my collection of the original-cast series. The Season 5 episodes are always bittersweet for me to watch because it reminds me of the dread I was feeling at the time, knowing that the original cast would be leaving for good. I missed Belushi and Aykroyd (although Belushi does put in a short cameo, via séance, during one of the cold openings), and boy, in retrospect their absence is glaring. Just a few highlights/recollections:
1. The quality of the show definitely begins to wane here, although come 1980-81, it was easy to render this season brilliant by comparison. With the Not Ready for Primetime Players pared down to five, heavy reliance upon Harry Shearer, Fr. Guido Sarducci (Don Novello), Franken & Davis, Mr. Bill (Walter Williams) and Paul Schaffer grows. Although all talented in their own right, they don't quite fill the void. Gone are the beloved Festrunk Brothers, The Coneheads, The Bees, Point Counterpoint, the Samurai, The Blues Brothers and the brilliant Olympia Café. The good news is that Bill Murray becomes a major powerhouse/focal point, returning with the ever-engaging Stargazer, Nerds and Nick the Lounge Singer bits. Gilda Radner is also a force, bringing back classics like Judy Miller and Rosanne Rosanadana.
2. Highlight sketches - the trademark, vintage SNL style is still firmly in place, and the show (unlike today) wasn't afraid to showcase quieter, ensemble, subtly comedic, human interest pieces, such as a teacher's union meeting sketch from the Martin Sheen episode, or "Aunt Judy's Basement" from the Bea Arthur show (premise: grown, adult "kids" forced to eat at the "children's table" during a family gathering). It was always a treat when Steve Martin hosted, and there are some strong sketches, such as "The Vandals", a historical comedy piece similar in tone to the two "Theodoric of York" bits from previous seasons, as well as the seemingly improvised time-filler "What the Hell Is That?" with Murray. The "Black Shadow" with host Bill Russell is sure to garner laughs with its now-very-un-PC racial humor, not to mention the sick joke that is Buck Henry's "Uncle Roy." Andy Kauffman begins his phase wrestling women, outrageously playing the sexist baddie role to the hilt, so much so that feminist Bea Arthur feels compelled to comment on it. A trend begins in this season, imo, of the show trying too hard with political humor, such as the obtuse presidential campaign sketch which opens the Terri Garr episode. It goes on way too long, and seems to be trying to cram as many references as possible, mostly at the expense of generating laughs. This problem persists with the show today.
3. Chevy Chase - As in the past, the return of prodigal son Chase is wrought with the bizarre. Chevy was going through a musical phase at this point (he even released an album!) and fancied himself a blues man a la Ray Charles. Let's just say his take on "Sixteen Tons" is an acquired taste. To make matters worse, this show included two songs from Marianne Faithful, who in my view is like listening to a cat getting its neck wrung. This show also opens with "The Bel Aires", a twice-tried take on an OPEC version of the "Beverly Hillbillies." I remember the original airing of this one well because Don Novello paints private parts onto a Venus de Milo statue at the beginning. In subsequent airings, this is always censored/deleted, but the statue is clearly visible in the background. It'll be interesting to see if it's restored here.
4. Music - Wonderfully eclectic as usual. With this season, we're made well-aware of the approaching `80s new wave and its disastrous accompanying fashion trends with such bands as Desmond Child and Rouge (who are so "Totally 80s!" its actually funny) and Gary Numan. The David Bowie appearance is perhaps the most bizarrely theatrical of SNLs history; I remember actually feeling frightened when I watched the marionette superimposed on him during Boys Keep Swinging. It was all just too weird for a kid to see. Although I'm not a fan, you'll likely find yourself drawn in by the electric performance of the B-52s' "Rock Lobster." I'm not sure how well the tune was known at this point, but you'd be hard pressed to find a band that garnered as deafening a reaction from the studio audience. Infectious and energizing, the studio microphones seem on the verge of overload by the end. It's also great to see what must have been one of the last few performances from Sam & Dave, and Chicago (still recovering from the suicide of member Terry Kath) are quite solid with their classic "I'm a Man" (previously a classic by Spencer Davis), as well as the disco-tinged "Street Player" (yes, even these guys fell prone to the fad!).
5. Side Comment - like the other SNL releases, I'm sure this one will not include the wonderful photography of Edie Baskin, which was always used for the commercial bumpers. I really miss them, and it aggravates me no end that Universal feels they "aren't part of the show" (although they do include that last bumper before the credits).
If these releases continue, I think I just may skip season 6. The largely-forgotten, oft-maligned Eddie Murphy/Joe Piscopo years are extremely underrated and I hope to see those eventually as well.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi have moved on. Harry Shearer (way before Spinal Tap and before anyone really appreciated his talents) arrives to take their place. He brings with him his drier, more clever approach to comedy and the show moves somewhat away from the harder-edged belly laughs that Dan & John traded in. Also, with their absence, Jane Curtin blossoms as she is given far more character work to do. Bill Murray moves front and center as undisputed male star of the show. Gilda is still the audience's favorite female. Sadly, Laraine Newman & Garrett Morris seem to be barely holding on. This is also the season that introduced the "featured player." As a result, we get to thrill to the comedic stylings of Dan's brother, Peter Aykroyd, and Bill's genius older brother Brian Doyle-Murray. We get more Father Guido Sarducci (aka Don Novello) and a bunch more Al Franken & Tom Davis. We get some great hosts (always loved me some Howard Hesseman, Rodney Dangerfield, and Bea Arthur!) and amazing music. Because of the shift is cast, this season gets way more uneven but the new energy - when it works - seems to breathe new life into the already-predictable format. This season does not get aired much due to it being Dan-&-John-less, so it's great to see it coming out on DVD finally!
31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
OK, the comedy got weaker at this point, but I'm getting this for the sole reason that it contains the episode with David Bowie performing 3 songs with Klaus Nomi. His weirdest live TV performance ever! Bowie performs TVC-15 (wearing a form-fitting dress), Boys Keep Swinging (his head super-imposed on a marionette's body) and the Man Who Sold the World (dressed in a futurist-like outfit Nomi often wore on stage)! Other notable musical acts of the time who appear include Gary Numan, Blondie, The Specials, The B-52s, J. Geils Band. Not to mention classic acts like the Grateful Dead, Marianne Faithful, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan. Some notable hosts include Steve Martin, Bea Arthur, Eric Idle, Howard Hessman, Burt Reynolds and Martin Sheen. Should be interesting...
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Let me start of by saying that unlike many others who have already written reviews for Season 5, I actually own and have watched them.
For me this final season of the "first era" of SNL illustrated perfectly everything that was right and (sadly) everything that went wrong with what many call the "golden" years. You get sublime musical performances by acts like the B-52s and the J. Geils Band along with some nightmare appearances like the frog croaking of Marianne Faithful. Although many bemoan the exit of old cast members, some of the recurring skits (most notably the Nerds) get long in the tooth and lose their humor. It's difficult to maintain one-dimensional characters without running them into the ground and one of the reasons we remember the Coneheads and Samurai characters so well is because we were left wanting more. Unlike many who look at their absence as a great loss, I'm grateful that the actors left before repetitive usage of the same ideas reduced classic characters to the hell of long and unfunny bits that wind up going nowhere.
This is the season that much of America became better acquainted with a few of the people that toiled in the background during the first 4 years. Al Franken and Tom Davis, long involved with the writing of the show, emerge with greater onscreen presence and it lays the groundwork for a lot of the work Franken in particular did later. Brian Doyle Murray, forever consigned to stand in the long shadow cast by his brother Bill, is perhaps the most consistent performer the show will ever see. Even during the most meandering sketches, Brian delivers his lines with confidence and a stronger sense of timing than the rest of the cast. He never loses his place, never flubs a line, and almost never stutters. It stands in stark contrast to the performances of some of the veteran players such as Larraine Newman who shows definite signs of frustration and burnout. The amount of drug usage backstage is now common knowledge and there are times when it had a definite impact on what manifested on camera.
Despite the shortcomings I've mentioned however, there are enough magic moments in Season 5 to make this worth buying. The Rodney Dangerfield episode in particular is fantastic and features a very politically incorrect sketch dealing with the unexpected problems that arise when an older man gets involved sexually with a 10-year-old child. The odds are that if you purchased the earlier seasons you will be buying this one regardless of what any reviewer has to say one way or the other. But if you've watched any of the SNL episodes from the past 10 years or so you do owe it to yourself to buy at least one of the earlier years so you can fully understand how far the show has fallen from the peaks it once reached. This should NOT be the first set you buy. Seasons 2 and 3 in particular are much stronger than this one. But Don Novello (Father Guido Sarducci) is a bigger presence in Season 5 than in any other year and, as I've already stated, Franken & Davis and also Harry Shearer are prominent during this season. That alone makes this set good enough to add to your collection.
Add to that the rare television performances of acts like the Greatful Dead and David Bowie in an environment that allows them to be themselves with less censorship than anywhere else away from an actual concert, and you have no reason to hesitate. As always with a full season of SNL the highs far outnumber the lows and this is the final chance to see the remaining members of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players. Many fans are speculating that the sets will stop at Season 5, but if they continue on beyond here and release the Piscopo, Murphy, and Farley years there will be a large enough fanbase to make them profitable so I think we'll see these continue. Hopefully they will speed up the release schedule a bit though because I'd like to be alive long enough to own them all and at the present rate they'll be shipping quite a few of them to my surviving heirs.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Paul J. Mular
- Published on Amazon.com
Those who think this season will be weaker because of the loss of John Belushi & Dan Akroyd will be surprised to see just how good it is. Sure, the classic sketches featuring the departed cast are gone, but how many times can you repeat these without them getting stale. Instead we get some new & fresh sketches that make use of talented Harry Shearer. Don Novello appears more frequently as Father Guido Sarducci, and he is always on the mark, his live interview with Paul & Linda McCartney via satelite from England is priceless (episode #19).
Watching this season makes one wonder what could have happened in season 6 had most of this ensamble stayed on. The gradual loss of one or two members per year, allowing a few new members to join the cast, keeps things fresh (kind of like M*A*S*H). But the mass exodis almost killed the show.
It is ironic that in the last show (ep#20) Buck Henry announces that while the original cast would not be back he will return, he never did. Buck's DVD commentary hints to the rift between NBC and the original cast & producers over their departure as the reason he never returned. One sketch in this episode does fall flat, and it is dangerously positioned at the beginning of the show. Buck Henry is introducing "next years new cast". These people are not the real replacement cast, what is worse is that they are not even funny. Some are introduced with a clunker punchline to follow, others don't even bother to try. Buck's DVD commentary even admits that he did not know where the sketch was going, it was as if it was never finished. But this one sketch is just a brief clunk in an otherwise enjoyable final show. You just hope everyone stayed through it to get to the good stuff. To end it all the cast walks somberly out of the studio, not like excited stars about to embark on new & wonderful projects, but like a group of people who just got their pink slips. Buck Henry also comments on this odd serious departure.
Where this set falls way short is the lack of any bonus documentary, disc 7 has 70 minutes or more of free space on it! I know there are already documentaries released about the first 5 years, but I think something about the introduction of new members & promotion of secondary members would have been nice.
I will not drop the star rating of this set because of this, it just feels a little empty.
I am just glad this season got released.