Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell

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This article is about the short-lived ABC show. For the NBC sketch comedy show, see Saturday Night Live.
Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell
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Starring Howard Cosell
Bill Murray
Brian Doyle-Murray
Christopher Guest
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 18
Executive producer(s) Roone Arledge
Producer(s) Rupert Hitzig
Running time 48 minutes
Production company(s) ABC
Original network ABC
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
Original release September 20, 1975 – January 17, 1976

Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell was an American television comedy-variety program that ran on ABC from September 1975 to January 1976, hosted by Howard Cosell and executive-produced by Roone Arledge. The series ran for 18 episodes before being cancelled.[1] The show was later remembered by its director Don Mischer as "one of the greatest disasters in the history of television", largely because Cosell and Arledge—both veterans of sports broadcasting—were entirely unfamiliar with comedy and variety programming.[1]

Despite having highly notable celebrities both as cast members and guests, Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell has never been made available on home video.

Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell is consistently confused with the sketch comedy program Saturday Night Live. In October 1975, rival network NBC began airing the late night comedy show NBC's Saturday Night, the creation of producer Lorne Michaels. The shows did not compete for the same time slot. Cosell's Saturday Night Live aired at 8 p.m. ET/PT, whereas NBC's Saturday Night aired at 11:30 p.m. After Cosell's show was cancelled, the NBC show was renamed Saturday Night Live.[2]


Cast and guests[edit]

The premiere episode featured celebrity guests Frank Sinatra, Shirley Bassey, Paul Anka, Siegfried and Roy, the cast of the Broadway version of The Wiz, tennis pro Jimmy Connors, and John Denver.[3] The episode's musical guest was the Bay City Rollers, from Scotland, whom Cosell dubbed "the next" British phenomenon.[4]

The show featured Bill Murray, Brian Doyle-Murray, and Christopher Guest as regular comedy performers, dubbed "The Prime Time Players". In response, NBC's show Saturday Night called its regular performers "The Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Players". Eventually, Murray, Doyle-Murray, and Guest would all work on the NBC program.[5] Billy Crystal, who appeared on the premiere episode of Cosell's program, was also scheduled to appear on the premiere episode of the NBC show, but was bumped when the show ran long; he later joined the NBC program's cast during Season 10 a decade later. Also that season, Cosell himself guest-hosted the NBC program in its season finale on April 13, 1985.


Mischer described the show as chronically hectic and unprepared. He recalled one particular episode wherein executive producer Roone Arledge discovered that jazz icon Lionel Hampton was in New York City, and invited the musician to appear on the show an hour before airtime.[1]

The show fared poorly among critics and audiences alike, with TV Guide calling it "dead on arrival, with a cringingly awkward host".[6] Alan King—the show's "executive in charge of comedy"—later admitted that it was difficult trying to turn Cosell into a variety show host, saying that he "made Ed Sullivan look like Buster Keaton".[6]

Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell was canceled on January 17, 1976, after only 18 episodes.[1] A year later, in 1977, NBC's Saturday Night appropriated the name of its former (indirect) competition.


In 2002, TV Guide ranked the series number 37 on its "50 Worst TV Shows of All Time" list.[7] In his book What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, author David Hofstede ranked the series at #30 on the list.[8]


Only three episodes are known to survive:[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d YouTube video: "Don Mischer Interview with the American Archive of Television - Part 1 of 5".
  2. ^ page: "Saturday Night Live."
  3. ^ IMDB page: "Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell - Pilot (1975)."
  4. ^ Pittsburgh Press article: "Saturday Night Live Over-Packed With Superstars: Scripted, Rehearsed, Structured Cosell No Fun At All."
  5. ^ Old TV Tickets Archived May 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ a b TV Guide article: "Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell".
  7. ^ TV Guide Book of Lists. Running Press. 2007. p. 181. ISBN 0-7624-3007-9. 
  8. ^ David Hofstede (2004). What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History. Back Stage Books. pp. 141–142. ISBN 0-8230-8441-8. 

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