Saturday Night Live (season 11)

The eleventh season of Saturday Night Live, an American sketch comedy series, originally aired in the United States on NBC between November 9, 1985, and May 24, 1986.

Saturday Night Live (season 11)
Country of originUnited States
No. of episodes18
Release
Original networkNBC
Original releaseNovember 9, 1985 (1985-11-09) 
May 24, 1986 (1986-05-24)
Season chronology

Background

This is the first season to show the animated NBC "In Stereo Where Available" captioning during the opening montage.

Dick Ebersol left the show after the 1984–85 season, when the network refused his request to shut the program down entirely for six months and shift much of the material onto tape, not live broadcast. Once again, NBC briefly considered cancelling the show, but programming head Brandon Tartikoff (who was something of an SNL fan) decided to continue the show and re-hire producer Lorne Michaels.

In some ways, the job Michaels returned to was more challenging than the one he took on in 1975. For starters, Michaels' "golden boy" reputation was somewhat tarnished. His most recent effort, the previous season's The New Show confused critics and was ignored by audiences. Also, the 1984–85 season had been a critical and ratings hit, generating memorable characters and stand-out performers. However, Michaels would not be the only member of the old guard to return: original writers Al Franken and Tom Davis would return as producers, and Jim Downey would be head writer. Fans and critics welcomed Michaels and many of the original producers and writers back, calling it a return to the show's roots.

This season featured a new logo, which was used only for this season- the title, Saturday Night Live in an all caps, graffiti-style pink lettering (not the same logo as used in season 6).

Reception

The new cast failed to connect with audiences, due to the cast's inexperience in comedy. The show also featured a frustrated writing crew (including future Simpsons writers Jon Vitti, George Meyer, and John Swartzwelder), who didn't know how to write sketches for such an eclectic cast. The season was plagued by harsh criticism, low ratings, and rumours of a possible cancellation.[1] Tartikoff planned to cancel SNL after its season finale in May 1986; Michaels, however, pleaded with Tartikoff to let the show go on, provided that Lorne find better-suited cast members for the next season.

Weekend Update

"Saturday Night News" was changed to its original name "Weekend Update" starting with this season. "Weekend Update" proved to be a highlight in the season, with new anchor Dennis Miller (who rarely appeared outside of "Update") becoming the most popular anchor since Chevy Chase in 1975. The only people to return to the show in the following season would be Brown, Dunn, Lovitz and Miller.

Notable sketches

Notable moments of season included when Chevy Chase hosted the show. Chase was not popular with the cast and crew and, according to the book Live From New York: The Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, Chase pitched an idea for a sketch that featured openly gay cast member Sweeney as a person with AIDS who is weighed by a doctor to see how much weight he lost.[2]

Another notable moment of the season was in the episode hosted by George Wendt. During the show, Francis Ford Coppola appeared in between sketches where he, Michaels and Sweeney try to fix up SNL to boost the show's sagging ratings by turning creative control over to Coppola. With the exception of the "Who Shot C.R.?" storyline back in season 6, this episode marks the series' only attempt at extending a plot throughout an episode, as Oscar-winner Coppola turns out to be an incompetent director.

In the season finale, Michaels invited Wayans back to perform stand up on the show, even though he had been fired from the show two months prior. Also, in the final sketch, Billy Martin is shown dumping gasoline around the studio and then setting it on fire. The entire cast is shown to be trapped in a room as a parody of TV show cliffhangers. Credits rolled with question marks on each name, signaling that the viewer didn't know which cast members would be returning the next season. Cast members were angered by an ending added to the sketch, in which Michaels has the opportunity to rescue the cast from the fire, but chooses to save only Lovitz.

Cast

With Ebersol's cast and writers gone, Michaels hired Academy Award nominee Randy Quaid, best known for his work in The Last Detail and National Lampoon's Vacation; as well as Joan Cusack and Robert Downey Jr. Milestones included the first black female regular, Danitra Vance (Yvonne Hudson had been a featured player in 1980 and appeared in uncredited bit parts from 1978 to 1980); Terry Sweeney, the first openly gay male cast member (and one of Jean Doumanian's writers during the show's 1980–81 season); and Anthony Michael Hall, yet another fresh face from Hollywood, who had appeared with Quaid in Vacation and starred in The Breakfast Club earlier that year. At 17 years old, Hall was the youngest male cast member, beating out Eddie Murphy, who was only 19 when he joined SNL during Jean Doumanian's turbulent, short-lived era. Rounding out the cast were unknowns: stand-up comedians Dennis Miller and Damon Wayans and improv comedians Nora Dunn and Jon Lovitz. Don Novello, another member of the old guard, would also return as his popular Father Guido Sarducci character. Writer A. Whitney Brown was also added to the cast mid-season and Al Franken returned in the finale. Wayans, unhappy with the parts he had been getting, decided to play the minor police officer character he'd been assigned in one sketch as gay, though it did not fit the role. For this, Michaels fired him.

Cast roster

bold denotes Weekend Update anchor

Writers

This season's writers were A. Whitney Brown, Tom Davis, Jim Downey, Jack Handey, Lanier Laney, Carol Leifer, George Meyer, Lorne Michaels, Don Novello, Michael O'Donoghue, R. D. Rosen, Herb Sargent, Suzy Schneider, Robert Smigel, John Swartzwelder, Terry Sweeney, Mark McKinney and Bruce McCulloch. The head writers were Al Franken and Tom Davis.

Episodes

No.
overall
No. in
season
Host(s)Musical guest(s)Original air date
1961MadonnaSimple MindsNovember 9, 1985 (1985-11-09)

1972Chevy ChaseSheila ENovember 16, 1985 (1985-11-16)

1983Paul Reubens as Pee-wee HermanQueen Ida & the Bon Temps Zydeco BandNovember 23, 1985 (1985-11-23)

  • Queen Ida & the Bon Temps Zydeco Band performs "La Louisiane" and "Frisco Zydeco".[3]
  • Former cast member Robin Duke appears in the "Pee-wee Herman Thanksgiving Special" sketch as one of the audience members during Diana Ross's (Terry Sweeney) performance. Future cast member Phil Hartman appears as a pilgrim in the same sketch and was credited for writing the "Pee-wee Herman Thanksgiving Special" sketch.
  • Don Novello rejoins the cast after a five year hiatus.
  • Dan Vitale's first episode as a cast member.
1994John LithgowMr. MisterDecember 7, 1985 (1985-12-07)

2005Tom HanksSadeDecember 14, 1985 (1985-12-14)

2016Teri GarrThe Dream Academy
The Cult
December 21, 1985 (1985-12-21)

2027Harry Dean StantonThe ReplacementsJanuary 18, 1986 (1986-01-18)

  • The Replacements performs "Bastards of Young" and "Kiss Me On the Bus,"[3] both from the Tim album. The entire band was drunk during both their performances. As one reviewer succinctly observed, the band could quite often be "mouthing profanities into the camera, stumbling into each other, falling down, dropping their instruments, and generally behaving like the apathetic drunks they were." After this incident, they were banned permanently from SNL, although lead singer Paul Westerberg would return as a musical guest during the 19th season.
  • Guest appearance by Sam Kinison.
2038Dudley MooreAl GreenJanuary 25, 1986 (1986-01-25)

  • Al Green performs "Going Away" and "True Love".[3]
  • The episode features a sketch about a beauty pageant for pregnant teenaged girls featuring Danitra Vance's Cabrini Green Jackson character.
2049Ron ReaganThe NelsonsFebruary 8, 1986 (1986-02-08)

20510Jerry HallStevie Ray Vaughan
Double Trouble
February 15, 1986 (1986-02-15)

  • Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble performs "Say What!" and "Change It".[3] Jimmie Vaughan appears on "Change It".
  • Mick Jagger appears in this episode's cold opening where Tommy Flanagan (Jon Lovitz) hits on the host at a bar — told by Hall that Flanagan claims to know him, Jagger "confirms" this and remarks that the two had been on a fishing trip during a recent weekend where Hall didn't know where he was, telling Flanagan "I owe you for this one."
  • Guest appearance by Sam Kinison.
20611Jay LenoThe Neville BrothersFebruary 22, 1986 (1986-02-22)

  • The Neville Brothers performs "The Big Chief" and "The Midnight Key".[3]
20712Griffin DunneRosanne CashMarch 15, 1986 (1986-03-15)

  • Rosanne Cash performs "Hold On" and "I Don't Know Why".[3]
  • Guest appearance by Penn & Teller.
  • A. Whitney Brown's first episode as a cast member.
  • Damon Wayans' final episode as a cast member.
  • In the "Mr. Monopoly" sketch, Damon Wayans plays a minor police officer character role as gay, which would later result in his firing.[5][6]
20813George Wendt
Francis Ford Coppola
Philip GlassMarch 22, 1986 (1986-03-22)

20914Oprah WinfreyJoe JacksonApril 12, 1986 (1986-04-12)

  • Joe Jackson performs "Right and Wrong" and "Soul Kiss".[3]
21015Tony DanzaLaurie AndersonApril 19, 1986 (1986-04-19)

21116Catherine Oxenberg
Paul Simon
Paul Simon
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
May 10, 1986 (1986-05-10)

21217Jimmy BreslinLevel 42
E.G. Daily
May 17, 1986 (1986-05-17)

21318Anjelica Huston
Billy Martin
George Clinton
Parliament-Funkadelic
May 24, 1986 (1986-05-24)

  • George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic performs "Let's Take It to the Stage" and "Do Fries Go with That Shake?".[3]
  • Damon Wayans returns to perform stand-up.
  • Al Franken rejoins the cast after a six-year hiatus. This is also his only appearance as a cast member until season 14.
  • Joan Cusack, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Michael Hall, Don Novello, Randy Quaid, Terry Sweeney and Danitra Vance's final episode as cast members.
  • All the cast members were shown to be trapped in a room on fire as a parody of TV show cliffhangers.

References

  1. Rabin, Nathan (October 3, 2012). "Younger, Sexier, Inherently Doomed Case File #25: Saturday Night Live's 1985–1986 season". AV Club. The Onion. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
  2. Shales, Tom; Andrew Miller, James (October 7, 2002). Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live. Back Bay Books. ISBN 978-0-3167-3565-0.
  3. Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1994. pp. 124–127. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
  4. Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1994. pp. 212–213. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
  5. Wright, Megh (October 22, 2013). "Saturday Night's Children: Damon Wayans (1985–1986)". Splitsider. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  6. Fennessey, Sean (October 13, 2010). "SNL and The Curse of the Transitional Season". Splitsider. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
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