Saturday Night Live (season 11)
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|Saturday Night Live (season 11)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||18|
|Original release||November 9, 1985– May 24, 1986|
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 1984-1985 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 and, to date, only 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.
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.
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. The season was plagued by harsh criticism, low ratings, and rumours of a possible cancellation. 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.
"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 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.
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.
bold denotes Weekend Update anchor
This season's writers were A. Whitney Brown, Tom Davis, Jim Downey, Al Franken, 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 McCullough. The head writers were Al Franken and Tom Davis.
|Host(s)||Musical guest(s)||Original air date|
|196||1||Madonna||Simple Minds||November 9, 1985|
|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|
|199||4||John Lithgow||Mr. Mister||December 7, 1985|
|200||5||Tom Hanks||Sade||December 14, 1985|
|201||6||Teri Garr||The Dream Academy
|December 21, 1985|
|202||7||Harry Dean Stanton||The Replacements||January 18, 1986|
|203||8||Dudley Moore||Al Green||January 25, 1986|
|204||9||Ron Reagan||The Nelsons||February 8, 1986|
|205||10||Jerry Hall||Stevie Ray Vaughan
|February 15, 1986|
|206||11||Jay Leno||The Neville Brothers||February 22, 1986|
|207||12||Griffin Dunne||Rosanne Cash||March 15, 1986|
Francis Ford Coppola
|Philip Glass||March 22, 1986|
|209||14||Oprah Winfrey||Joe Jackson||April 12, 1986|
|210||15||Tony Danza||Laurie Anderson||April 19, 1986|
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
|May 10, 1986|
|212||17||Jimmy Breslin||Level 42
|May 17, 1986|
|May 24, 1986|
- 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.
- 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.
- Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1994. pp. 124–127. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
- Saturday Night Live: The First Twenty Years. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1994. pp. 212–213. ISBN 0-395-70895-8.
- Wright, Megh (October 22, 2013). "Saturday Night's Children: Damon Wayans (1985-1986)". Splitsider. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
- Fennessey, Sean (October 13, 2010). "SNL and The Curse of the Transitional Season". Splitsider. Retrieved March 17, 2015.