Saturday Night Live (season 11)

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Saturday Night Live Season 11
SNLseason11.jpg
The Saturday Night Live title card as seen in the opening credits of the 11th season.
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 18
Broadcast
Original channel NBC
Original run November 9, 1985 – May 24, 1986
Season chronology
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List of Saturday Night Live episodes

Saturday Night Live aired its 11th season during the 1985-1986 television season on NBC. The season started on November 9, 1985 and ended on May 24, 1986, 18 episodes were produced.

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 erstwhile 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 1984-1985 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.

With Ebersol's cast and writers gone, Michaels went out to find the rest of his staff. He 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 1980-1981 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.[1]

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.

Saturday Night News was changed back to its old name Weekend Update with this season. Miller, who performed in relatively few sketches (and even fewer as the years went by), became known for bringing his stand-up wit to the sketch becoming the most memorable anchor since Chevy Chase back in 1975.

The new cast failed to connect with audiences, due to the cast's inexperience in comedy. The show also featured a frustrated writing crew (that featured future Simpsons writers Jon Vitti, George Meyer, and John Swartzwelder), that didn't know how to write sketches for such an eclectic cast. 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" proved to be a highlight in a season plagued by harsh criticism, low Nielsen ratings, and rumors of a possible cancellation. The only people to return to the show in the following season would be Brown, Dunn, Lovitz and Miller.

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 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 six, 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[edit]

bold denotes Weekend Update anchor

Writers[edit]

Episodes[edit]

Saturday Night Live season 11 episodes
No. # Host(s) Musical guest(s) Original airdate
196 1 Madonna Simple Minds November 9, 1985

Joan Cusack, Nora Dunn, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Michael Hall, Jon Lovitz, Dennis Miller, Randy Quaid, Terry Sweeney, Danitra Vance, and Damon Wayans's first episode as cast members.

In the episode's cold opening, Lorne Michaels and Brandon Tartikoff issue urine tests to check the new cast members for drug use.

First appearance of "Limits of the Imagination," a "Twilight Zone" spoof that recurs throughout the season.

Guest appearance by Penn & Teller.

Note: Lorne Michaels returns as executive producer as of this episode.
197 2 Chevy Chase Sheila E November 16, 1985
198 3 Paul Reubens as Pee-wee Herman Queen Ida & the Bon Temps Zydeco Band November 23, 1985

Former castmember Robin Duke appears in the "Pee-wee Herman Thanksgiving Special" sketch as one of the audience members during Diana Ross's (Terry Sweeney) performance. 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.
199 4 John Lithgow Mr. Mister December 7, 1985
Guest appearance by Sam Kinison.
200 5 Tom Hanks Sade December 14, 1985

The Entertainment Tonight opening sketch references Spying Isn't Cool a fake public service ad with Brooke Shields, mentioned as a joke on Weekend Update in the previous episode. Joan Cusack plays Shields, claiming that her movie career stalled after her mother turned down her offer to play roles for movies with Al Pacino (Scarface) and Robert De Niro (Once Upon a Time in America).

Guest appearance by Steven Wright.
201 6 Teri Garr The Dream Academy
The Cult
December 21, 1985

The Dream Academy performs Life in a Northern Town.

The Cult performs She Sells Sanctuary.

Guest appearance by Penn & Teller.
202 7 Harry Dean Stanton The Replacements January 18, 1986

The Replacements plays "Bastards of Young" and "Kiss Me On the Bus", both from the Tim album. The entire band was drunk during both of 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.

Guest appearance by Sam Kinison.
203 8 Dudley Moore Al Green January 25, 1986
The episode features a sketch about a beauty pageant for pregnant teenaged girls featuring Danitra Vance's Cabrini Green Jackson character.
204 9 Ron Reagan The Nelsons February 8, 1986

Dan Vitale's final episode as a cast member.

Guest appearance by Penn & Teller.

A. Whitney Brown appears on Weekend Update to do "The Big Picture."
205 10 Jerry Hall Stevie Ray Vaughan
Jimmie Vaughan
February 15, 1986

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.
206 11 Jay Leno The Neville Brothers February 22, 1986
A. Whitney Brown's first episode as a cast member.
207 12 Griffin Dunne Rosanne Cash March 15, 1986

In the "Mr. Monopoly" sketch, Damon Wayans plays a minor police officer character role as gay, which would later result in his firing. [4]

Damon Wayans' final episode as a cast member.

Guest appearance by Penn & Teller.
208 13 George Wendt
Francis Ford Coppola
Philip Glass March 22, 1986

The Philip Glass Ensemble performs "Rubric" from Glassworks and "Lightning" from Songs from Liquid Days.

The show's opening theme song was replaced by "Façades," also from Glassworks.

Francis Ford Coppola appears in between sketches in a running gag throughout the episode where he, Lorne Michaels, and Terry Sweeney try to improve SNL on the air to boost the show's sagging ratings.

Al Franken rejoins the cast.
209 14 Oprah Winfrey Joe Jackson April 12, 1986
210 15 Tony Danza Laurie Anderson April 19, 1986
Guest appearance by Penn & Teller.
211 16 Catherine Oxenberg
Paul Simon
Ladysmith Black Mambazo May 10, 1986
Guest appearance by Penn & Teller.
212 17 Jimmy Breslin
Marvin Hagler
Level 42
E.G. Daily
May 17, 1986
Guest appearance by Sam Kinison and Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
213 18 Anjelica Huston
Billy Martin
George Clinton
Parliament-Funkadelic
May 24, 1986

Joan Cusack, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Michael Hall, Randy Quaid, Terry Sweeney, Don Novello and Danitra Vance's final episode as cast members. All of the cast members were shown to be trapped in a room on fire as parody of TV show cliffhangers.

Final appearance of Al Franken as a cast member until the 13th season.

Damon Wayans returns to perform stand-up.

References[edit]