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Best Of SNL (1979-80 series)? (1 Viewer)

Mark Y

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The first five seasons of "Saturday Night Live" have been on DVD for years, so this might be kind of moot, but I remember watching a compilation series called "The Best Of Saturday Night Live" which aired (IIRC) for 13 weeks during the 1979-80 season. It was preceded by at least one (maybe two?) prime time specials the previous year (1978-79).

This was different from both the one-hour and half-hour syndicated versions of the show which launched in 1981. This was usually one hour (first on Friday nights, then moved to Wednesdays) although a few times it was expanded to 90 minutes.

When the series started, at first they'd feature a guest host that week, like the regular SNL. But the shows were compiled from more than one episode, which allowed them to have "all eight" cast members (with the exception of the Michael Palin show, which didn't include Chevy Chase).

The show opening was based on the Season 4 intro but was shorter, with fewer "New York" scenes and only one picture for each cast member compared to two in the regular show. They took Chevy Chase's picture from one of the bumpers when he guest-hosted in Season 3. Don Pardo did new voice-over announcing.

The closing credits usually cross-faded to more New York images or pictures of that week's guest host. Later in the season they stopped having one single guest host and instead had material from a bunch of different shows with various guest hosts, who were named in the show opening as "special guests."

As I recall, each of these "best of" episodes was aired only once. I had just started watching the show regularly, so these shows were my introduction to some of the material from the early seasons.

Also towards the end, they started including skits from the then-current season, but they didn't add Harry Shearer to the cast montage at the beginning of the show.

Again, this is completely superfluous given that they released the first five seasons -- but part of me would like to have a set of these. I wonder if they were even saved, given that they were only aired once.

(And a few years later in 1982, they did a similar special called "The Best Of Saturday Night Live" featuring the then-current cast with Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo. However, this time it did not lead to a weekly "Best Of" series.)
 

High C

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Just a thought, but I might try tweeting at a feed called ThatWeekinSNL. They review episodes from all eras, and have unearthed curious such as vintage promos and SNL-related one-offs from that era. I'm not saying they will for sure know about it, but they would have a better chance than most. There is an SNL Reddit, but they seem mostly concerned with the contemporary eps.
 

Mark Y

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One thing I would like to compile is a schedule of reruns which ran in "off weeks" during the regular season as well as the summer months. I have toyed with the idea of watching them in the same sequence they aired back then when I was watching during seasons 4 and 5, including reruns of the earlier shows, which were often shown during "weeks off."
 

MartinP.

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^^^
I recall that when it first premiered in 1975 it was scheduled to run three Saturdays a month and the other Saturday was an NBC News program, the name of which escapes me.
 

FrankNolan1.0

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Those episodes were definitely saved - Starmaker released ten of them on video in the ‘90s as “The Best of SNL 1975-80” Volume 1-5. Bumpers and music acts were edited out but each episode followed the format you describe and had a 1979 or 1980 copyright at the end. I watched them a few years ago when I did a binge/rewatch of the original series and related specials.

It used to be an annual tradition for SNL to do a Best Of. I believe they did one every between ‘82 - 94, with the exception of ‘85 (the Terry Sweeney/Anthony Michael Hall/Robert Downey Jr mini-disaster). These too were released on video, by Time/Life. Some later seasons (2006/2007, I think) also had Best Ofs released on DVD.

It’s lamentable that there’s no longer a dedicated SNL fan board. There’s still people discussing old SNL online but it’s pretty dispersed among blogs and social media. Podcasts too, apparently, though I haven’t listened yet.
 
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Mark Y

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Those episodes were definitely saved - Starmaker released ten of them on video in the ‘90s as “The Best of SNL 1975-80” Volume 1-5. Bumpers and music acts were edited out but each episode followed the format you describe and had a 1979 or 1980 copyright at the end. I watched them a few years ago when I did a binge/rewatch of the original series and related specials.

It used to be an annual tradition for SNL to do a Best Of. I believe they did one every between ‘82 - 94, with the exception of ‘85 (the Terry Sweeney/Anthony Michael Hall/Robert Downey Jr mini-disaster). These too were released on video, by Time/Life. Some later seasons (2006/2007, I think) also had Best Ofs released on DVD.

It’s lamentable that there’s no longer a dedicated SNL fan board. There’s still people discussing old SNL online but it’s pretty dispersed among blogs and social media. Podcasts too, apparently, though I haven’t listened yet.
WHAT!?!?!

I used to see those tapes all the time but never gave them a second look. Now I have to track them down. Thank you for the info!

If they released 10 of them, then I believe that's all but three of them, aside from one or two episodes shown as "specials" the prior season.

I gotta check this out!
 

Mark Y

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Thanks to Frank, I looked on Ebay and found a set of all five of those tapes. As I said, I remember seeing them when they came out, but I never bought them (until now).

The Starmaker tapes all have the sketches in each show listed on the back cover. Via the Ebay listings, I read over these and the crazy thing is, I actually remember these lineups of sketches as the ones I saw back in 1979-80 (as noted, minus the musical performances for those that had them). Did I never look at the listings of contents? Crazy.

Anyway, even though they released all the original shows from the first five years and they all stand on my shelf, I am looking forward to seeing these again.

Thanks again for the heads up!

By the way -- I remember a "Best Of Saturday Night Live" hosted by Elliott Gould which for some reason was 90 minutes (starting at 8:30 PM Chicago time) instead of 60 minutes. I also remember ones hosted by Fran Tarkenton and Michael Palin (Chevy Chase was absent from the latter). I remember Richard Pryor being on not long after the incident when he had the fire, but not sure if he was the host per se, or if that was after they started doing the ones without a "main host" and just called out multiple guest hosts as "special guests."
 
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Mark Y

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Weekend with Linda Ellerbee and Lloyd Dobyns: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weekend_(1974_TV_program)

I remember seeing "Weekend" listed in TV Guide but I never watched it. I believe it aired until circa 1978. Starting in Season 4, they would do three live shows a month and then the fourth week (if it wasn't otherwise pre-empted) would be a rerun from an earlier season (reruns from the current season would air during the summer). So with the reruns interspersed between new live shows, and the weekly "Best Of" series during Season 5, I sort of got "up to speed" with the history of the show to that time. It's interesting that the prior four years were considered "a history" at that point. They would joke about Chevy Chase after he left the show, thanks to all the reruns and "Best Ofs," it was almost like he never really left, at least I was familiar with his appearances on the show.
 

Lord Dalek

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Best of Saturday Night Live is owned by MGM via Orion. That's why you probably won't ever see it again.
 

Mark Y

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Best of Saturday Night Live is owned by MGM via Orion. That's why you probably won't ever see it again.

The one-hour 1981 syndicated "Saturday Night" was distributed by Filmways. A couple years later I saw the 30-minute version, called "The Best Of Saturday Night" -- the one where the segments would freeze frame and be turned into Edie Baskin style portraits when they would go to a commercial break -- and that had Orion's name at the end as distributor. Around 1987-88 the one-hour version of the reruns showed up again on WOR.

I imagine whatever contracts and deals were made for these shows, they are long expired and over. This was before the E! channel showed the supposedly never-repeated Milton Berle episode, and before NBC itself showed old SNLs in the middle of the night during "NBC All Night."

"The Best Of Saturday Night Live" series I inquired about is the one NBC itself aired in prime time during the 1979-80 season, then as far as I knew was never seen again, until I was just informed a few days ago that 10 episodes of this version of the show were actually released on VHS in the 1990s.
 

Mark Y

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I got the VHS set. So far I watched the first tape. Yes, this is essentially the show I remember watching back in 1979. The show with Elliott Gould was a little longer than the one with Steve Martin, but must have been edited because that particular one was 90 minutes (most were one hour).

Seeing it again after all these years, it seems more arbitrarily thrown together than I remember. In the Steve Martin episode Julian Bond is named as a "special guest" simply because of one sketch randomly thrown in, which seemed odd to me because it's not like they didn't have enough material with Steve Martin. But then, Julian Bond was less likely to be featured as the host on one of these than say, Steve Martin or Buck Henry, and maybe they felt that sketch ("Black Perspective") needed to be included, so they fit it in somewhere.

I noticed Chevy Chase didn't appear in the Steve Martin episode on the first tape, but he's still named in the show opening. I remember he did not appear in the one with Michael Palin (not included in this set) either and was not included in the cast billboarding of that one. I thought other than that one episode, both Murray and Chase appeared in all of them, guess I was wrong.

I noticed there was no reference to Broadway Video at the end of the first episode, and the credits seemed to be legitimate vintage 1979 (I never saw Broadway Video in the closing until the one-hour syndicated reruns in 1981, now it's retroactively plastered onto all the reruns). Both "Broadway Video" and a 1990s NBC peacock logo were plastered onto the end of the second show with Elliott Gould.

There would have been bumpers originally at some of the breaks, but they seemed to have handled these the same way as the DVD season sets, only with less obvious audio dubbing of extra applause to cover the breaks.

Anyway, it's fun to see these odd comp shows again after all these years.
 

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