Candice Bergen, Martha Reeves, & The Stylistics: 12/20/75

Candice Bergen was not only the first woman to host Saturday Night Live, she was also the first person to host more than once, hosting for the second time in six weeks. I was looking forward to the Consumer Probe sketch, one of my all time favorites, with Irwin Mainway (Dan Ackroyd) and his “Bag O’Glass”, but that won’t be until next season.

Gerald Ford is setting up a live Christmas Eve broadcast from the White House. The President’s servant, Frank, brings him a cognac. President Ford tells Frank that he doesn’t have to call him “Mr. President” on Christmas Eve. Instead, he can call him “Dr. President”. On the air, the President climbs up a ladder next to the Christmas tree to put an ornament on top. He falls.

There’s no monologue tonight. Instead, Candice says a few words, then introduces Martha Reeves, who puts her own spin on the Motown staple “Higher and Higher”.

I’ve seen Mel’s Char Palace many times over the years, whether it be this episode, or in SNL‘s Commerical Parody showcases. This is the first time, however, that I realized exactly what makes Mel’s Char Palace funny. It isn’t just a funny parody of local eatery commercials. It isn’t just Dan Ackroyd’s broad pitch to the audience, or Gilda’s riling up the chainsaw. Mel’s Char Palace has black humor in it–you, the customer, will not only eat the steak, you will find the cow, butcher it, and cook it. Not very sanitary.

Mel’s Char Palace is this week’s recurring gag, following the Beethoven does pop of two episodes before, and the Richard Pryor line-up gag of the previous week.

In the following sketch, Chevy Chase plays a college student in jail for 26 Counts of Murder. His mother, Jane Curtain, is relieved that he’s not in jail for using marijuana.

The show’s producers are inviting viewers to send in their home movies for free. If you send in your home movie, there will be no guarantees that NBC will use your movie, and you relinquish all rights to your movie to NBC. This is the initiative that brought us the “Mr. Bill” shorts. Then we are presented with one of SNL’s own home movies, “The Bee Capades”, which has the cast in their bee costumes and Candice in a figure skating costume ice skating in front of Rockefeller Center. Don Pardo offers an item from his gift catalog: a digital clock that has an ashtray.

The Stylistics perform their hit “You Make Me Feel Brand New”. This band, in my view, was one of the great R&B acts of the 1970s, and this was one of their best songs. This song has become a mainstay of Oldies Stations, it’s weird to be seeing this song performed when this song was, well, brand new. (Another great one they’ve done is “Betcha By Golly Wow“.) Also notable about this performance? While most male musical guests are fine in casual dress, The Stylistics look dapper in their blue-gray tuxedoes.

On “Weekend Update”, Laraine Newman is reporting from Times Square on the New Year’s Eve Festivities. The problem? New Year’s Eve is December 31st, and today is December 20th. Laraine’s “live remote” routine in this episode is reminiscent of the kind of stuff you see on The Daily Show these days. Chevy Chase takes a look back at the year 1975 by taking a quick glimpse at graphic that reads “1975”. Emily Litella delivers an editorial in response to firing the handcapped, only to find out that the news item is about hiring the handicapped. Never mind.

Weekend Update is sponsored by “Tarn-Off”, endorsed by Princess Grace (Candice Bergen). Grace uses Tarn-Off for her Crown Jewels, as do many Royal Families “throughout Europe and Asia Minor“. Candice’s delivery is nervous and rushed, and she seems to be more concerned about getting through the sketch than trying to evoke the legendary ice queen.

John Belushi and Gilda Radner play two singles who bump into each other at the laundromat. Gilda is looking for a washer; Belushi offers his. After they dump their laundry into the washer, they light two cigarettes and get cozy with one another.

In the Franken/Davis “Pong” sequence, Al Franken incorporates lyrics from The Who’s Tommy (also playing in the background) as he defeats Tom Davis: Tommy, did you see that? Tommy, can you hear me? Tommy, can you SEE me? Hey, Tommy, can you see the moving dot? Tom obviously isn’t responding, and Franken concludes: “You know, you may be a pinball wizard, but your Pong sure stinks!”

The Christmas party in the Land of Gorch isn’t going very well. Most people have opted to attend the Bees’ Christmas party instead. Even Ploobis’ son, Wisss, shows up, telling him that the Bees’ party was a lot better. Then Candice Bergen arrives, and they all sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. The party is saved from ruin.

A superimposed title introduces us to Chevy Chase’s Gay Lover. There is a new installment of Minute Mystery. Candice Bergen is Winona, a personal secretary to the victim, and toting a gun. To everyone except Mike (Ackroyd) and Lopez (Belushi), it’s obvious from the beginning that she’s the suspect. There’s even a “Winona Did It” scrawled on the wall with blood. At the end of the sketch, Lopez and Mendoza still don’t have any idea who did it. Is it that hard to figure out? Really?

Martha Reeves performs “Silver Bells”. This is followed by Laraine Newman playing Fritzie Kringle, a German Housefrau who likes to eat her treats while they’re still batter. Following the third and final appearance of Mel, Mrs. Mel, and their Char Palace, Gloria Steinem can be seen in the studio audience. She’s not pointed out; instead “The Wood Carver For Edgar Bergen” is.

After commercial break, Candice Bergen is joined onstage in a coversation by Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Grey Panthers. Kuhn founded the Gray Panthers after being fired from her job when she turned 65, and contined to advocate for the elderly until her death in 1995. The very spry Kuhn tells the audience that getting old is nothing to fear.

The final segment before the closing a film by Gary Weis, who would direct more short films for Saturday Night after Albert Brooks left. This one is an extended montage of people reuniting with their loved ones to the tune of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound”.

Candice Bergen, Maggie Kuhn, and the cast wish everyone a Merry Christmas.


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