Synopsis: Steve Martin’s fourth NBC special was in the spirit of his previous association with Saturday Night Live. It was broadcast live from Studio 8H, produced by Lorne Michaels and featured some original cast members of the show.
eyelights: the variety of material. the guest stars.
eyesores: the weakness of the humour.
‘Steve Martin’s Best How Ever’ is a 49-minute special that was broadcast on NBC on November 25th, 1981. Hosted by Martin, it was performed live to a studio audience with the help of most of the original cast of Saturday Night Live (which is hardly surprising given that the show was produced by Lorne Michaels).
It was essentially the closest thing to an original SNL reunion, with most of the cast members contributing material (as well as their on-screen talents) to various sketches. The key difference is that the show had fewer commercials and lasted only an hour in total; it was like a condensed version of the real thing.
Heck, Martin even helped provide the requisite musical entertainment, starting with a “New York, New York” that showcased his lack of vocal talent (something that may have been done on purpose), combining it with various gags, like gracefully dancing with toilet paper on his shoe, and getting his coat stuck.
The scope of the production was actually impressive in parts. This opening sequence, for instance, took up the whole centre of the studio, filling it with a large floor map of New York City along with props and actors in various costumes – which Martin interacted with. The only place for the audience was in galleries above it.
I was also impressed with how quickly they were able to change sets, moving as they did from one sketch to the next with few intermissions. Granted, they used a couple of video segments along the way, such as a fake photocopier repairman ad and a ‘Rutland Weekend TV’ short, to spread the sketches around. But still.
The latter was one of the most disappointing parts of the programme for me, having heard of ‘Rutland Weekend TV’ many times before as I explored Monty Python. Titled “Did dinosaurs build Stonehenge?”, the bit is not especially inspired. making matters worse, Eric Idle’s over-articulations were slightly annoying.
However, that’s not to say that ‘Steve Martin’s Best Show Ever’ is especially good in the first place: Most of the sketches were intriguing, but not especially funny to me; at best I’d say that they were okay time-killers. And some I didn’t get, such as Dan Aykroyd playing the Secretary of State doing an address to the nation.
The best of the bunch, for me, was the ‘Suckers Showcase’ game show, wherein, under the guise of ‘Billion Dollar Giveaway’, Aykroyd’s slimy game show host gets contestants to do stupid things because they’re super gullible. Martin plays the reigning champion and he’s dumber than a sack of rocks. It’s actually pretty funny.
But that was by far the highlight of this so-called ‘Best Show Ever’, which is mostly notable for being live, not pre-recorded – something that completely changes the flavour of the proceedings (case in point the couple of times that Martin flubbed his lines and had to start over). This aspect added a cachet that none of the cast could.
Without it, this programme would have been ‘Steve Martin’s Most Average Show Ever’.
Date of viewing: June 16, 2015