Who’s Not Ready for Saturday Night Live?

TV SNL John Belushi Crawdaddy Magazine 77 SWScan04312

Cover of Crawdaddy Magazine June 1977 “The Most Dangerous Man on TV: Saturday Nights John Belushi” cover photo Albert Rizzo. Crawdaddy Magazine founded in 1966 just as American counterculture was poised to explode, it was the first magazine to take rock and roll seriously. Preceding Rolling Stone it was regarded as the pioneer of rock journalism. The magazine was known for its well written insightful profiles of musicians, filmmakers, politicians, comedians and celebrities prominent in ’70’s pop culture.

On a Saturday night filled with the canned laughter of classic comedies like The Jeffersons, Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart and Carol Burnett, the October 11 appearance of a live broadcast with irreverent humor and progressive politics was, well…. startling. The ad in TV Guide announced “This is a big one! Don’t miss the exciting premier of a new series that’s a whole new dimension for TV! It’s live from New York spotlighting the comedy and music stars of today-and tomorrow!”

Was America ready for “The Not Ready For Prime Time Players?”

Saturday Night Live arrived just as I was about to enter adulthood and frankly, I wasn’t sure if I was ready for life’s primes time either.

A Look Back

In honor of SNL’s  40th anniversary I recently looked back at an early editorial on the state of television in the mid 1970s, and the impact and future of this groundbreaking TV show.

Published in Crawdaddy Magazine in 1977,  it was written by editor Peter Knobler.

If you were relevant to pop culture in the 1970s you were featured in Crawdaddy Magazine so it’s no surprise that amongst ads for Hitachi stereo receivers,  Yamaha guitar amps and Bonnie Raitt reviews , they would feature John Belushi on one of their covers for a story entitled “The Most Dangerous Man of Television.”

First seasoncast of SNL

The Not Ready For Prime Time Players – cast of Saturday Night’s first season. Note that in the following  editorial the show is called Saturday Night. In 1975 when it debuted, ABC had a show called Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell, so it wasn’t until 1977 when Cosell’s show was cancelled that the name was changed to Saturday Night Live.

Crawdaddy Editorial June 1977:

Lorne Michaels, producer of Saturday Night once said “I want to make this show bigger than the Beatles.”

It’s not out of the question.

Saturday Night is watched by some 10 million people three weeks a month. That’s 30 platinum albums every 4 weeks. Performers lust after a spot on the show because it sells their records. The TV medium itself is obviously powerful ; both Neil Diamond’s and Barry Manilow’s catalog of albums reappeared on the charts after their network specials were aired.

Whether one show can have the vast and sustained impact of the Beatles can be debated but were talking millions and millions of man hours here.

Perhaps it can be put to good use.

 

Vintage TV set Zenith

Commercial television is bound to the fears of its advertisers. Never has any network producer or show completely convinced a substantial section of the advertising community that good television pays.

Through the years there have been good shows for people our age (what advertisers call the 18-34 year old age bracket)-The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Star Trek, The Twilight Zone – but the dollars weren’t right and nobody followed their lead.

Now as the 18-34s increasingly dominate the dollar flow, there’s more leverage.

Rock n’ Roll has become mainstream, performers are “crossing over” into what had been termed legitimate celebritydom- the power of the market has been proved. 18-34’s support magazines, industries ( music, cosmetics, apparel); we set trends, establish the mode of living which is ultimately merchandized to the country at large.

There’s no reason there can’t be some decent TV; popular taste supports it.

Saturday Night is good, slightly bent, mainstream humor played with enthusiasm and the requisite edge of lunacy.

And it’s successful- a recent Neilson study reported that of the 100 Neilson Families watching TV at that time, 87 sets were tuned in to Saturday Night. The portion of the population is sizable, its influence is far-ranging, its buying power substantiated.

What more is necessary to prove that “good”- that is, reasonably intelligent, fairly progressive, moderately informed…good!- programming is worth airing? The TV habit has been cultivated and secured.

Good TV will make money.

When the advertisers finally pick up on that fact, interests will no doubt have changed. Up to now there have been rotten, if successful programs pitched to the young folk- Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley – and some better shows aimed at a slightly older audience ( Mary Tyler More, Rhoda, All in the Family).

But programming which zeros in on the 18-34 sensibility- rock and roll, progressive politics, irreverent humor, real as opposed to cosmeticized people in life situations recognizable to this particular audience ( for example a completely casual acceptance of a couple living together or people smoking dope)- simply has not been produced.

Will tube time be forever out of sync?

Here’s hoping that Saturday Night doesn’t remain in a class by itself.

Forty years later, did  SNL become as big as the Beatles as Lorne Micheals hoped it would become ? Some may argue the point …but no one would argue their impact – SNL spawned an entire TV generation of irreverence.

 

Copyright (©) 2015 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved

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3 comments

  1. Fun reprinted blast from the past. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For our times – “Saturday Night Dead” – the zombie version, or “Saturday Night Undead” – for the vampire fans….?
    Qoute:”Baron Samedi (French: Baron Saturday, also written Baron Samdi, Bawon Samedi, or Bawon Sanmdi) is one of the Loa of Haitian Vodou. Samedi is a Loa of the dead, along with Baron’s numerous other incarnations Baron Cimetière, Baron La Croix, and Baron Kriminel. He is syncretized with Saint Martin de Porres. —- He is the head of the Guédé family of Loa. His wife is the Loa Maman Brigitte
    He is usually depicted with a top hat, black tuxedo (dinner-jacket), dark glasses, and cotton plugs in the nostrils, as if to resemble a corpse dressed and prepared for burial in the Haitian style. He has a white, frequently skull-like face (or actually has a skull for a face), and speaks in a nasal voice.
    He is noted for disruption, obscenity, debauchery, and having a particular fondness for tobacco and rum infused with hot peppers. Additionally, he is the Loa of resurrection, and in the latter capacity he is often called upon for healing by those near or approaching death, as it is only Baron who can accept an individual into the realm of the dead /…/” 😉

    Like

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