Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hitting Their Prime (Time)

Saturday Night Live—Season 4 (Universal)

Saturday Night Live
has rebounded this season thanks to the presidential election and especially the introduction of Sarah Palin to the American public, which Tina Fey parlayed into comedy gold week after week throughout the fall. But it’s still a far cry from the show’ true heyday, when the trendsetting cast of Aykroyd, Belushi, Curtin, Morris, Murray, Newman and Radner brought original, innovative comedy to late-night television.

This month’s release, Saturday Night Live—Season 4, is the latest DVD showcase of what remain SNL’s most memorable episodes: the commercial parodies are funnier, the sketches are more daring, even the musical guests (Devo, Frank Zappa, Van Morrison, the Grateful Dead, Kate Bush, the Talking Heads and Rickie Lee Jones, for starters) are far better than what we see nowadays. The series’ iconic characters–the Blues Brothers, Roseanne Roseannadanna (six appearances!), Fred Garvin–Male Prostitute, the Wild & Crazy Guys–are all present and accounted for, and the revolving door of guest hosts includes two appearances each by Buck Henry and Michael Palin, standbys such as Steve Martin and Eric Idle, and even the Rolling Stones and Milton Berle. The extras are meager–brief “Today Show” interviews with Belushi and Radner–but the fourth season set is another must-have for fans of the vintage SNL.

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