DVD Release Date: Dec. 1
Creator: Lorne Michaels
Starring: Bill Murray, Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner, Garrett Morris, Harry Shearer
Still not ready for primetime
By its fifth season, SNL needed a shot in the arm—instead, it had the limb lopped off completely. In 1980, producer Lorne Michaels and the Not Ready for Primetime Players quit over a contract dispute and were replaced by a new cast that included Eddie Murphy, Joe Piscopo and, um, Charles Rocket? The shakeup ushered in the first dark period in the show’s long history, but in retrospect it was completely necessary—SNL had sunk into the rote formula that survives today. Most of the biggest names—Chevy Chase, John Belushi and Dan Akroyd—had already graduated to films, and instead of relying on strong players like Gilda Radner and Garrett Morris, the show entrusted Bill Murray and Harry Shearer to carry most of the sketches. On Weekend Update, Jane Curtin lacks the tense rapport with Murray that she had with the caustic Akroyd, although a young Al Franken shines in his few appearances. But even when the laughs flag, the musical guests remains strong, including late-Christian-period Dylan, up-and-comers Blondie, and the wonderfully weird B-52’s, who give one of most manic performances in the show’s history.