In this episode, available for free to all listeners, we discuss Season Ten, the season of Saturday Night Live in which Executive Producer Dick Ebersol brought in a slew of high-priced, proven talent to give the show a boost.
Those new cast members included Billy Crystal, who effectively became Eddie Murphy’s replacement in Season Nine, hosting two of the final five shows and showing up as a special guest in another. Ebersol also brought on Martin Short, who had a suitcase full of plug-and-play recurring characters from his years on SCTV.
Ebersol also mined the previous year’s smash hit movie This Is Spinal Tap for talent, bringing on performer Christopher Guest and former SNL cast member Harry Shearer. As you may recall, Shearer did a mercurial stint on the show in Season Five, where he battled the writers and other cast members. Season Ten turned out to be no different; by episode ten, Shearer had quit the show.
The season relied heavily both on pre-filmed bits and sketches starring recurring characters. Episodes were loaded with sketches featuring Ed Grimley, Joe Franklin, Jackie Rogers, Jr., Fernando, Frankie and Willie, and on and on.
Even with all the new cast members, a handful of performers from the previous season returned: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Gary Kroeger, Mary Gross and Jim Belushi were all back. But if they intended on ascending to the top of the show after the departure of Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo, they were mistaken.
The “B-Team,” as they were called, were completely shoved to the side in favor of character bits by Crystal and Short. Finally, in their last season on the show, JLD and Gross developed their first real recurring characters, two unfortunately stereotypical Latinas named Chi Chi and Consuela. They are among the worst recurring characters in SNL history.
Ultimately, this writer’s strike-shortened season ended up being the only year the heavy-hitters performed on the show. Yet because of its recurring characters and reliance on pre-filmed bits, it is often ranked as one of the greatest SNL seasons ever.
But is the product on-screen worth such praise? Listen to find out, and subscribe to hear our recaps of seasons 1-9!