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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Saturday Night Live The Complete Third Season'
(Various / 7-Disc DVD / NR / (1975) 2008 / Universal Studios)

Overview: "Live From New York, it’s Saturday Night!" For more than thirty years, this catch phrase has made its way into the homes of millions of viewers, now all 20 episodes of the classic third season are available in their 90-minute length in a 7-disc set for the first time! Saturday Night Live - The Complete Third Season features hours of hilarious sketches, memorable skits from the original Season 3 cast, and all the original musical performances. SNL - The Complete Third Season is destined to be a must-have addition to any Saturday Night Live collection.

DVD Verdict: As many of my friends and fellow (older) office reviewers have commented, these early Saturday Night Live seasons are products of their times; that they aren't nearly as funny today as we all thought they were back then. To that I say dude, what have you been smokin'? Yes, I was one of those who watched these shows in college, usually at a party where everyone was, shall we say, already in a purple haze. But thinking that's what made these shows great is simply revisionist history.

Sure there are some dated cultural jokes, a few lame musical guests and an occasional skit that falls flat. However, each episode is still, for the most part, solidly entertaining. As I sat down with these discs today partaking of nothing stronger than a few Diet Cokes, what I noticed is just how watchable these shows still are. Even when not at their best, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin and the others each did at least interesting work, and always in their own personal style. What resulted was a true comedy variety show, a witty take on middlebrow culture that though edgy at times, rarely takes a cheap shot or wallows in the gutter.

Originally 90 minutes long with commercial breaks, each commercial-free episode here runs between 66 and 68 minutes. This third season may be the best in Saturday Night's history. Most every show includes at least one of SNL's most famous recurring skits as well as some hilarious forgotten moments. For example, the first show includes Lorne Michaels upping his offer to the Beatles from $3,000 to $3,200 and a commercial parody for the Kromega III, "a watch so complex it takes two people to make it work."

The second episode tosses in an ad for Swill ("the water that's dredged from Lake Erie"), a great skit with Gilda and host Madeline Kahn as two drunken single girls who discuss everything from dates who endlessly drone on about "The Patty Duke Show" to how to lie on a bed "so the fat on your thighs isn't spread out," and an ad-libbed chat between Kahn and Dame Edna (English comedian Barry Humphries in drag) that suddenly catches Kahn so off-guard you can see the actress blush. After Dame Edna hints of "her" own lesbian tendencies, she offers Kahn some phallic-shaped "pineapple and sausage surprise," saying "you look like a girl who could use something hot inside you."

By the way, the Richard Dreyfuss episode does NOT have Belushi's ad-libbed finale about Dreyfuss being Jewish! Other major highlights to look forward to include Chevy Chase returning for first time on hosting duties circa 02/18/78. There was quite a bit of backstage animosity/tension towards him, and one particular spat ensued over the Weekend Update anchoring duties. Bill Murray, still the "new kid," was out to hold his ground against Chase, and became defensive of Jane Curtin. Apparently, Belushi - who was the clearest Chase rival - delighted in stirring up the situation to the point that Murray punched Chase right before air time!

The fight was broken up, with Murray walking away calling Chase a "medium talent." If Chase seems nervous, this was why. Still, Chase does a superb job performing under these circumstances. More trivia: this is the only time Belushi, Aykroyd, Murray and Chase ever share screen time together (for a military-themed skit). Even more trivia: Billy Joel, as Chase tells us, missed his 20th high school reunion to appear.

Steve Martin/The Dirt Band (aka Nitty Gritty...) is another highlight. Martin explains that he went to high school with the Dirt Band members and that they were the most "talented musicians" he knew. Martin himself shows off some considerable musical chops (on banjo, natch) when he accompanies the group on an instrumental called "White Russia." Randy Newman also addresses the flak he had taken for "Short People," to which he responds with a giant raspberry.

And, for my money, 'Attack of the Atomic Lobsters' was priceless! The Robert Klein episode has an unusual "wrap around" or through-story that ends with everyone in the studio getting killed by giant lobsters. Still strange today, it shows how experimental the show was willing to be. This show also featured the demented brilliance of "X Police."

If you have not seen the original episodes uncut then you will understand why this show was so revolutionary. Also, like the initial pressings of the earlier SNL seasons, this Limited Edition third season set comes in a book-style box (dark blue). The inner lid reproduces a hand-painted photo of the cast. Inside sits a black folding slipcase with the seven DVDs. Also in the box are four postcard-sized duo-tone prints. Suitable for framing, they feature photos of the Nerds, Blues Brothers, Gilda, and finally Steve Martin performing "King Tut." This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, and comes with the Special Features of:

"Things We Did Last Summer" - A 50-minute Mockumentary that once aired in place of the regular show
Wardrobe Test - for John Belushi and band director Howard Shore.