'Saturday Night Live': THR's 1975 First Episode Review
"The ultimate success of this series will depend largely on producer Lorne Michaels' mixture of guests and hosts."
On Oct. 11, 1975, Americans tuned in to sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live for the first time. Four decades later, the NBC series remains a pop culture powerhouse. The Hollywood Reporter's original Oct. 14 review, which sketched out some imperfections in the debut show, is below.
NBC's live late-night musical-comedy series, Saturday Night, got off to a less than auspicious start with comic George Carlin as the opening night host. The 90 minute show, which replaced reruns of The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson, was plagued throughout with a lack of exciting guests and innovative writing, helping to keep the debut at a lackluster pace.
Director Dave Wilson handled his technical chores to perfection — so well in fact (no miscues, dead mikes or dropped lines in sight) that the live element of the telecast was all but lost as a result. Promos for the show stating, "It's live so anything can happen," only served to make the fact that nothing ever did that much more obvious.
Rock musician Billy Preston, folk singer Janis Ian, and comedians Andy Kaufman and Valri Bromfield handled their guest spots with varying effectiveness. In far too brief comedy bits, Kaufman provided the show's funniest moments with a spoof of the Mighty Mouse theme, while Bromfield's talents were wasted on a monologue about an athletic coach. Preston, a musical magician on the keyboard, impressed with his soulful "Fancy Lady."
Earlier, his worn "Nothing from Nothing" served mainly to wake up the audience. The social comment in Janis Ian's haunting "At Seventeen" was lost as her sterile stage presence (more appropriate in an intimate boite than a studio setting) commanded more attention than her song. Monologues by Carlin bridged the performances, and while individual lines were humorous, the overall effect was not.
The ultimate success of this series will depend largely on producer Lorne Michaels' mixture of guests and hosts, and his immediate upgrading of the comedy material being turned out by his staff of ten writers. Dick Ebersol is executive procuer for NBC, with lighting by Bob Davis and music from the Howard Shore orchestra. — Richard Hack