Saturday Night Live began its sixth season in 1980, ending in 1981. The season, as a whole, is often cited as the worst in the show's history. Lorne Michaels, executive producer and creator of the show, had left along with the whole cast and all but one writer (Brian Doyle-Murray) at the end of the fifth season. New producer Jean Doumanian (previously an associate producer since the show's inception) started the season late, and after a string of abysmal reviews, was fired after a mere twelve episodes. New producer Dick Ebersol (who had co-created SNL with Michaels) was installed and produced a single episode before cutting the season short. It is tied with season 13 for the second-shortest season in the show's history, after season 33.
- The February 21, 1981 was notable for featuring two uses of the word "fuck"
- Weekend Update got a one-time name change to Saturday Night NewsLine for the March 7, 1981 episode
- After a delay, during which producer Jean Doumanian was fired, the April 11, 1981 appeared with a new producer and largely new cast. Update was anchored by host Chevy Chase.
Background[edit | edit source]
The season began with Doumanian at the helm, after disagreements between Lorne Michaels and NBC executive Fred Silverman lead to a parting of ways. The first episode garnered poor ratings, and they continued to slide. Eddie Murphy became a breakout star after being promoted from featured player, and he and Joe Piscopo became friends after Piscopo participated in his audition read-through. With the show sliding, however, the pair of them became aware that they were essentially rats on a sinking ship; this caused conflicts with cast members who held a rosier outlook, notably Charles Rocket, who nearly came to blows with Piscopo during a later-season staff meeting.
The 11th episode ended up being the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. Rocket slipped the word "fuck" into the closing segment. He steadfastly maintained that it was a slip, and Doumanian defended him. NBC was already on the verge of replacing Doumanian, however, and the incident was the catalyst in finding a quick replacement. Dick Ebersol was that replacement. He was flown in to watch the taping of the March 7, 1981 episode; Doumanian was fired the following Monday.
Ebersol demanded and was given a month to retool. NBC was adamant that Rocket go, as he and Doumanian were seen as joined at the hip. Ebersol agreed, and went further, wishing to replace most of the cast. Standing in the way were the cast contracts, which had to be paid off; as a result, Ebersol fired Rocket, Gilbert Gottfried, Ann Risley, and all three featured players (Yvonne Hudson, Matthew Laurance, and Patrick Weathers), while keeping Denny Dillon, Gail Matthius, Eddie Murphy, and Joe Piscopo.
Ebersol wished to poach Catherine O'Hara and John Candy from Second City TV; Candy refused, but O'Hara was onboard. Also hired were Tim Kazurinsky, Tony Rosato, and featured players Laurie Metcalf and Emily Prager. At Lorne Michaels' suggestion, he also hired head writer Michael O'Donoghue, who had participated on the original series. O'Donoghue, known for his demanding personality, immediately turned off the cast members with a tirade about how unfunny they were. Most simply complained to Ebersol, but O'Hara was so shaken that she immediately quit. She recommended SCTV costar Robin Duke; Duke was picked up and O'Hara never appeared as a cast member.
Episode 13, hosted by Chevy Chase, garnered positive reviews, and it appeared that the show was on an upswing. Chase hosted Weekend Update, the longest Update segment ever run in the history of SNL. Tapped to host the following episode were Al Franken and Tom Davis; Franken did a cameo during Chase's Update. During the following week, however, Ebersol was unsatisfied with the quality of the writing put out by Franken and Davis. With the network's permission, he cancelled it and all remaining episodes of the season. Franken and Davis were promised a hosting spot at the beginning of Season 7, but Ebersol ultimately backtracked. Free from contractual obligations, Ebersol fired Matthius and Dillon, as well as newly-hired featured players Metcalf and Prager. They were replaced for season 7 by Christine Ebersole and Mary Gross, while Brian Doyle-Murray, who had joined as a writer, been promoted to featured player in season 5, and returned to writing for Doumanian, became the lone featured player.
Cast (episodes 1-12)[edit | edit source]
Under Doumanian, the featured players weren't initially credited. Contrary to internet lore, it was Eddie Murphy who appeared first, with an uncredited role in the second episode sketch "In Search of the Negro Republicans". He, Yvonne Hudson, and Patrick Weathers then had uncredited speaking roles for the third episode.
The featured players were added to the opening montage for the fourth episode; credited was Murphy, Weathers, and new hire Matthew Laurance. Hudson was added to the montage for episode five. Hudson is later missing from the credits for the Robert Hays episode (Murphy's last as featured player), and none of the featured players are credited in what would be their last episode, hosted by Bill Murray.
Writer Mitchell Kriegman was also a frequent uncredited extra; he was fired as part of a reorganization of the writers over Christmas break.
Repertory[edit | edit source]
Featured[edit | edit source]
Changes[edit | edit source]
- Eddie Murphy
- First uncredited: November 22
- First credited: December 13
- Promoted to repertory player as of February 7
- Patrick Weathers: First uncredited December 6; first credited December 13
- Yvonne Hudson
- First uncredited: December 6
- First credited: December 20
- Appears but missing from credits January 24
- Matthew Laurance: First December 13
Cast (episode 13)[edit | edit source]
Repertory[edit | edit source]
Featuring[edit | edit source]
Episodes[edit | edit source]
- November 15, 1980 Elliot Gould/ King Creole & The Coconuts
- November 22, 1980 Malcolm McDowell/ Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band
- December 6, 1980 Ellen Burstyn/ Aretha Franklin, Keith Sykes
- December 13, 1980 Jamie Lee Curtis/ James Brown, Ellen Shipley
- December 20, 1980 David Carradine/ Linda Ronstadt, The Pirates of Penzance
- January 10, 1981 Ray Sharkey/ Jack Bruce & Friends
- January 17, 1981 Karen Black/ Cheap Trick, Stanley Clarke Trio
- January 24, 1981 Robert Hays/ Joe "King" Carrasco & the Crwons, 14 Carat Soul
- February 7, 1981 Sally Kellerman/ Jimmy Cliff
- February 14, 1981 Deborah Harry/ Funky Four Plus One
- February 21, 1981 Charlene Tilton/ Todd Rundgren, Prince
- March 7, 1981 Bill Murray/ Delbert McClinton
- April 11, 1981 Chevy Chase/ Jr. Walker & the All Stars
Births[edit | edit source]
Tim Robinson (May 23, 1981)
Gallery[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
[edit | edit source]
- Charlie Rocket Blasts Off Amid the Turmoil of the 'Saturday Night Live' Massacres (People Magazine March 23, 1981)
(1980 - 1981)
[edit | edit source]