Saturday Night Live was still a small show in 1976.
A growing concern, to be sure, but still a show with an off-the-cuff, communal vibe to it.
We feel this insular aspect most when hosts or musical guests are repeated.
For instance, Candice Bergen hosted episodes 4 and 8.
Phoebe Snow was a musical guest on episodes 2 and 18.
And finally, Buck Henry was the host of episode 10 and (voila!) episode 21.
Buck Henry is a hard guy to get excited about.
He comes out in a cardigan. A sort of Bob Newhart look.
But the man was brilliant.
The two shows Henry hosted to this point, taken collectively, both show signs of superior comedic writing.
One gets the sense that Buck was allowed to contribute to the writing process (which only makes sense considering who he was).
However, this is still a rather mediocre installment of the show.
The big surprise is that Gordon Lightfoot is not, I repeat, not horrible.
I had heard a bit of Lightfoot previously.
In one sense, he is the prefect pairing for Buck Henry:
unassuming, understated, dullish…
Henry, at least, seems aware of his fatherly image and manages to make the presentation work for him.
Lightfoot, while not apparently a comedian, is a sort of breath of fresh air as far as musicians go.
He just gets on there and sings his songs. Plain and simple.
And his band…whoa!
I thought the MC5 had cornered the market on denim, but Lightfoot’s group is like a Wrangler gang on the prowl.
Hell, Lightfoot’s young lead guitarist sits down for the performance.
This is some m e l l o w stuff.
But not in a druggy sense.
Lightfoot really has a sort of John Denver purity about him.
But really, nothing can compare to Garrett Morris singing Franz Schubert’s “An die Musik” on this show.
It is breathtaking.
It’s one of those special TV moments which catches one completely off-guard.
They just don’t make TV like this anymore.