'Live From New York: The First 5 Years of Saturday Night Live' DVD Review **** 100105

The Work = ****
Originally having aired on TV earlier this year 'Live From New York: The First 5 Years of Saturday Night Live' does just what the title says, it looks at the first 5 years of 'SNL'. Featuring interviews with many of the cast and crew as well as some of the regular hosts the documentary is almost as noteworthy for who isn’t involved as who is. Two big players are missing from the flic’: Bill Murray and Jane Curtin. It is a shame because their absence is noticed and people like Steve Martin, Garrett Morriss, Eric Idle and a few others that don’t always talk about 'SNL' are interviewed here. Mixing talking head style interviews, footage from the show, and some great still photos the documentary is very enjoyable if not perhaps a bit too glossy.

'Live From New York: The First 5 Years of Saturday Night Live' charts the development of 'SNL' from its shaky beginnings to its huge success and eventual departure of just about everyone who developed the show into what it is. Some of the more controversial moments are left out such as a near fist fight between Bill Murray and Chevy Chase. (That John Belushi may have instigated.) However, the film does get into other seedy elements such as the rampant and often out of control drug use that went on during the show. It was nice too that the film was faire to Chase who despite sometimes getting a bad rap really did pull his weight when he worked on the show. Oddly though it never talks about Chase coming back to guest host (which is when the confrontation with Murray occurred.)

To be fair it would be hard to truly cover all aspects of the show and would require many hours of film to get into all the gritty details. Still things like show creator Lorne Michaels hating the episode of 'SNL' that Milton Berle hosted so much that it has never aired since its premiere are never mentioned. That gets into my gripe with Michaels for not releasing entire seasons of 'SNL' (as I mention in my review of 'The Best of John Belushi'.) Why not at least release the entire first five seasons? They are what laid the groundwork for the long running series. (**101606 See bottom of the review for update.)

If you are a fan of SNL and especially a fan of the first five years give 'Live From New York: The First 5 Years of Saturday Night Live' a try. If nothing else it is an entertaining look at those early years of 'SNL'. Watching some of the early episodes now I can see the cast and crew slowly shaping the show into what it is known for. This doc gives a look into that world care of those that lived it. Recommended.

DVD = ***

The Look
The DVD has a nice transfer that makes this flic’ look pretty good. Unfortunately, the film is presented in a non anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. Too bad. Still for being non anamorphic it looks alright.

The Sound
The audio department just has a Dolby Digital 2.0 track which sounds very good. Everything comes through clear and seems to have had a good mix.

The Bonus
Only one bonus? Boooooo! Actually it is a good one. Running a little over an hour is a second documentary called 'The First 5 Years of Saturday Night … The Rest of the Story'. It is not really the “rest” of the story but it does help to flesh out some stories hinted at or missed all together in 'Live From New York: The First 5 Years of Saturday Night Live'. Truthfully this could have been added to the main feature but its inclusion here is a great touch. While I would like to have seen maybe some included sketches and music performances or say a commentary track by the filmmakers involved in 'Live From New York: The First 5 Years of Saturday Night Live', I guess I can’t complain too much.

All Together = ****
So 'Live From New York: The First 5 Years of Saturday Night Live' is recommend for fans or for the curious. It may be glossy but it has input from a lot of those involved and is pretty darn entertaining. For even more info on the first five years of 'SNL' and beyond the best place to go is the book 'Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, as Told By Its Stars, Writers and Guests' by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales. This flic’ probably owes a bit to the book for getting made and it plays almost like a companion to it. Reccomended.


** 101606 So, I am psyched to say the first season of 'SNL' is coming to DVD, complete and uncut!! Here’s hoping the next 4 seasons will follow! Thank you Lorne Michaels and powers that be!!

'Live From New York: The First 5 Years of Saturday Night Live' Links:

Review of 'Saturday Night Live: The Best of John Belushi'


Copyright 2005 - 2012 Nate Bundy. All rights reserved.