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SNL Season 1 Episode 14 [1976)

I had a bad feeling coming into this one.  The credits listed Desi Arnaz as host and Desi Arnaz, Jr. as (I presumed) musical guest.

The whole idea sounded horrible.  A washed up TV funnyman trying to get some airtime for his son.  But oh how wrong I was.

First off, Desi Arnaz was 59 years old when he did Saturday Night Live.  And he comes off as everything any person of that age should hope to be.  Lucid, warm, funny, wise…a sort of survivor.

I Love Lucy was perhaps the first big sitcom which aged well.  Its initial run was from 1951 through 1957.

And so what had Desi Arnaz been up to for the previous 20 years?  One could say that this episode was a sort of ceremonial “passing of the torch”, but the cynics were probably arguing that the torch had long since been extinguished.

I, for one, love to see older people make good.  I like to see our elders recognized and appreciated.  In general, we underestimate the talents and abilities of our older generation.  This is not a sneaky way of advocating for an extension of the retirement age, but merely a thought to provoke debate about giving older people the opportunity to work and contribute longer.

Older generations shouldn’t be punished for deciding to work more.  They should receive the same social assistance which retired people get.

Ok, back to Desi!

Not only did the estimable elder Arnaz act as the SNL host on this night, but he was also the musical guest.

We forget these things.  Maybe we’ve caught a bit of I Love Lucy in reruns (I certainly saw many as a kid), but it never occurred to me that Mr. Arnaz was a legitimate musician.

Well, he was!  Great singing voice…magnetic onstage charisma…and real talent with the intricate Afro-Cuban rhythms necessary to pull off the music of his homeland.

Yep, the conga drum was not just a prop!  And, yes, Desi was from Cuba.

But let’s talk a bit about the rest of the show.

One senses that Chevy Chase was really coming into his own as a comic actor by this time.

The opening skit as President Ford (visiting a psychologist) is a masterpiece.  Chase deftly pulls off the brainless Ford caricature particularly in the “simple word association” section.

Something like:

I’m going to say a word and you just say whatever word comes to mind, ok?

Ok.

Right.  Here we go.  Apple.

Apple.

House.

House.

////////////////////

Yes, the President (as Chase would portray him) was the most dense man on the planet.

But also, the Weekend Update section (likewise with Chase) kept getting better and better.

This is the portion of the show which really acts as a time capsule for us viewing in 2016.

Also noteworthy is the American Express spoof ad in which Garrett Morris plays Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.

However, the bizarre highlight might just be Chevy Chase as Very White (a cipher for Barry White):  an extremely strange-but-enjoyable bit of oversexed soul/disco performance art.  Truly remarkable!

In general, this is a pretty fantastic episode!!

 

-PD

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