Spotlight On: New York City’s Financial Crisis

Posted in Spotlight with tags , , , , , on January 29, 2010 by Erin

When King Ploobis was groveling over Gorch being on the brink of default, the writers weren’t pulling a random idea out of thin air. When Saturday Night Live debuted in October of 1975, New York City was seriously on the brink of default.

“There is no other business I can think of where the proprietor knows absolutely that he will face bankruptcy every year,” John Lindsay wrote in 1970. Following the Second World War, New York City had a boom period which enabled the creation of a lot of social programs and projects. Among these creations was a public university which guaranteed all New York City high school graduates automatic admission, and free tuition. In addition, many bridges and expressways were built during this period, including the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (aka “The BQE”), the Staten Island Expressway, and the Cross-Bronx Expressway.

The construction of the latter may have led to the City’s eventual downfall. In the 1960s, middle class families began to move out of the city and into the suburbs, and factories were pulling out of the city as well. At the same time, minorities with agraian backgrounds were coming into the city for better economic opportunities, and the jobs available in the city didn’t line up with their skills. As the city entered the 1970s, one in eight people living in New York City was on welfare.

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Rob Reiner w/Penny Marshall, The Lockers & “Joe Cocker”: 10/25/75

Posted in 1975-1976 with tags , , , , , on January 22, 2010 by Erin

In contrast the previous week’s program, which was mostly a musical program, this week’s episode with Rob Reiner was mostly comedy. There were no musical acts–unless you count John Belushi lip-synching spastically to Joe Cocker.

Following another “Chevy Chase falls down” cold open, Rob Reiner comes onstage dressed as a cheesy lounge singer with a bad toupee and one of the baby blue, ruffly tuxedos that were popular in the 1970s. Reiner performs a lounge rendtion of “Blowin’ In The Wind”, and introducing a middle aged man as Irving Berlin. A subtitle reads: “This is not Irving Berlin, but Rob doesn’t know it.” Rob Reiner’s act is somewhat reminiscent of Bill Murray’s “Nick Winters” character. Reiner, who early in his career was a member of the LA wing of the San Francisco improv group The Committee, is perhaps commenting on his generation’s worst fears: seeing a significant song reduced to a nostalgic lounge melody.

The first commerical parody is a PSA spoof sponsored by “The National Pancreas Association”. John Belushi is not feeling so well, and wife Gilda Radner encourages Belushi to have his Pancreas checked out. Dan Ackroyd plays a doctor who confirms that Belushi’s pancreas is indeed “on the fritz”, and fixes it. The PSA plays out more like a commerical for a cold medication than the PSAs of that time:

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Paul Simon w/Art Garfunkel, Randy Newman & Pheobe Snow: 10/18/75

Posted in 1975-1976 with tags , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2010 by Erin

SNL’s second episode with Paul Simon singing “Still Crazy After All These Years”. No guitar, just Paul sitting on the stool in a reflective mode, clutching the mic. This episode is a mostly musical one, and no sketches. At one point, after Randy Newman performs “Sail Away”, the cast (sans Chevy Chase) comes onstage dressed in bee costumes, only for Paul Simon to tell them that the sketch had been cut.

In lieu of an opening monologue, Paul Simon performs his song “Love Me Like A Rock” with the Jessy Dixon singers.

Legendary Yippie Leader Jerry Rubin makes an appearance as a spokesperson for “The Berkeley Collection”, a collection of wallpaper patterned with spraypainted ’60s protest slogans such as: “Burn Baby Burn”, “Black Power”, “Burn Pot, Not People”, and “Free [Insert Black Panther Here]!” When a blob of yellow paint is splattered, Rubin non-chalantly says, “Oops! No Hassle! This wallpaper is vinyl and acrylic coated to make it scuff and stain resistant, and wipes clean with a damp cloth. Isn’t this outta sight?” The commercial concludes with Rubin declaring, “Up the wallpaper, motherfucker!”, with the “motherfucker” part bleeped out with a ear-splitting pitch. “The Berkeley Collection” suggests that the idealism of the 1960s were already a fleeting memory by 1975.

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George Carlin w/ Billy Preston & Janis Ian: 10/11/75

Posted in 1975-1976 with tags , , , on January 15, 2010 by Erin

The pilot episode for Saturday Night Live is a pretty fast paced affair, with sketches only two to three minutes in length, and other pieces running longer than four minutes.

SNL‘s very first cold open ever features John Belushi playing an immigrant learning English from Michael O’Donoghue. O’Donoghue drops dead, Belushi follows suit, and Chevy Chase, dressed as a stage hand, declares, “Live From New York, It’s Saturday Night!”

In the opening credits, the show is not called Saturday Night Live but NBC’S Saturday Night. Lorne Michaels had wanted to call the program Saturday Night Live, but Howard Cosell had already claimed the name for his own variety program. After that show went off the air, Michaels was able to claim the name as well as one of its cast members–Bill Murray.

George Carlin performs a stand-up routine for his opening monologue. Before the show ends, he will perform three more routines, which makes me wonder if they had always intended to have an opening monologue. Interestingly, Carlin does not appear in any sketches.

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