Wasn't That Special: 50 Years of SNL
Wasn't That Special: 50 Years of SNL Podcast
Season One: Building the Plane While Flying It

Season One: Building the Plane While Flying It

SNL launches, Candice Bergen shines, the Muppets flop, and Chevy takes control

In our first season recap episode, we cover the legendary season one, which many believe to be Saturday Night Live’s finest year. During the season, the Not Ready for Prime Time Players struggled to find the right format, the Muppets made everyone uncomfortable, and Albert Brooks and Lorne Michaels entered a power struggle over the show’s filmed bits.

In the meantime, Chevy Chase took over the show from the beginning, causing fractures among the cast over lack of visibility and screen time. Chase became the most recognizable member of the cast, as he opened nearly every show by reciting the show’s legendary catchphrase and got to say his own name in opening “Weekend Update.”

That notoriety, coupled with Chase’s heavy cocaine use, caused deep rifts among the cast members, most notably John Belushi, who thought he should be the star of the show. And the drama all played out in real time, with some sketches involving Belushi and other cast members pushing Chase off the stage.

In the second half of the season, Gilda Radner broke out by performing her Emily Litella character on “Weekend Update” nearly every week. Dan Aykroyd honed his skills as a sleazy pitchman, and Chase made America believe President Gerald Ford was a bumbling, clumsy know-nothing.

Wasn't That Special: 50 Years of SNL is a reader-supported publication/podcast. To receive future shows and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

In the fourth episode, actress Candice Bergen gave the show a shot in the arm with her commitment to the format. Three episodes later, Richard Pryor added an element of danger to live television. And Buck Henry seamlessly worked his way into being a regular guest host.

Andy Kaufman provided a masterclass in comic timing. Other stand-up comics struggled while performing versions of their one-person shows. Mr. Bill rises from the depths of the audience-submitted home films to become a crowd favorite.

We discuss all this and give out the season’s awards, including a sharp disagreement over which cast member didn’t exactly live up to their potential.

Share Wasn't That Special: 50 Years of SNL

Also, if you’re looking for supplemental information, feel free to follow us on Twitter, Threads, or Facebook.