Thursday, January 25, 2007

This week's featured DVD: "Saturday Night Live: The Complete First Season" (Universal Home Video)

"Saturday Night Live: The Complete First Season" (Universal Home Video): It was Oct. 11, 1975. NBC was debuting a comedy-variety series in its 11:30 p.m. Saturday time slot. Not much was expected. It was late in the evening, when many viewers had already gone to bed. The comedy regulars, dubbed the Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Players, were pretty much unknown.
That opening show, hosted by George Carlin, was the beginning of "Saturday Night Live," still leaving them laughing after all these years. And after numerous comedy and music compilations of this show on DVD, someone finally came up with the idea of putting out the first season in a boxed seat.
This is positively one of the top 10 TV releases of the past year. These shows were nothing short of brilliant. The roster of comedy stars that first season meant little then, but they are legendary now -- Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Laraine Newman, Garrett Morris and Jane Curtin. Collectively, they were known as "The Beatles of comedy." The hosts producer Lorne Michaels managed to gather for the first season weren't small potatoes -- Rob Reiner, Lily Tomlin, Richard Pryor (see the clip above), Elliott Gould and Candice Bergen. The musical talent wasn't bad either -- Simon and Garfunkel, ABBA, Carly Simon, Patti Smith Group and Jimmy Cliff, among them.
Several of the comedy bits have passed into legendary status and it's interesting to see them in their original context. For example, John Belushi's Joe Cocker imitation (though
Belushi's duet with Cocker didn't take place until the second season), Chevy Chase's bumbling President Ford (one can only guess what these guys would have done with Bush), Michael McDonough (undoubtably ahead of his time), Gilda Radner's charming Emily Litella and Belushi's Samurai Warrior.
The set is beautifully laid out and includes some special features with original screen tests, a 1975 TV interview with the cast and a book of photos.
But the box set itself -- with the first 24 shows -- is beyond enjoyable. This is classic stuff and an absolute must for any TV DVD buff.
Again, what the hell took them so long!