Saturday Night Live: 1980-1981

Season 6: 1980-1981

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SummaryConsidered the worst period in SNL’s history, the 1980 season seemed doomed from the start. The last of the original cast (Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman and Gilda Radner, not to mention Bill Murray) had left “Saturday Night Live” along with producer Lorne Michaels, and NBC promoted talent co-ordinator Jean Doumanian to take over the show and hire a new cast. Though Doumanian’s comedy expertise was practically nonexistent, she did manage to bring an eclectic collection of musical guests to the show during her short stint as producer. The new cast, which included eventual stars Denny Dillon and Gilbert Gottfried, had the misfortune of being the first new cast since the original cast, a transition which has since become easier on future eras of SNL.

Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy became the quick standouts (Murphy, especially, who started as an extra, became a featured performer, then was promoted to full cast member – all during the course of a 13-episode season) in a seemingly awkward cast. Doumanian was fired and replaced by Dick Ebersol after the season’s 12th broadcast. But even then it was too late for most of the cast, as a writer’s strike took place after Ebersol’s first broadcast.

Charles Rocket – billed as the next Chevy Chase, especially behind the reins of Weekend Update – was fired for saying “fuck” on the air, and everyone except Murphy and Piscopo were released soon after as well. 1980 was the most awkward season in SNL’s history, but look closely, and you’ll find a few bright moments in a period of SNL that was weighed down by its own success.

Author: Don Roy King

Don Roy King is directing his fourteenth season of Saturday Night Live. That work has earned him nine Emmys and thirteen nominations. Additionally, he has been nominated for thirteen DGA Awards and won in 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Mr. King is also the creative director of Broadway Worldwide which brings theatrical events to theaters. The company has produced Smokey Joe’s Café; Putting It Together with Carol Burnett; Jekyll & Hyde; and Memphis, all directed by Mr. King. He completed the screen capture of Broadway's Romeo & Juliet in 2013. - LinkedIn

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