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Saturday Night Live: The Complete First Season

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We gave it an A

EW PICK

Many thought we’d never get full-season SNL boxed sets because of prohibitive music rights. So maybe Lorne Michaels had to fork over a cool half billion to ABBA — or Loudon Wainwright III or Gil Scott-Heron — but whatever circumstance led to Saturday Night Live: The Complete First Season, let’s offer late thanksgiving. SNL found even surer footing the following season, but if there’s any year you’d want to watch chronologically, it’s the one where the format was being invented on the fly. (The legendary cast barely figured in episode 1; show 2 was essentially a Paul Simon special interrupted by ”Weekend Update.”) Soon, though, they had one of the century’s crystallizing pop culture syntheses — ”Your Post-Counterculture Show of Shows” — with moments ranging from the Richard Pryor-Chevy Chase ”word association” to forgotten gems like ”Waiting for Pardo.” There are disasters, too, like the legendary show hijacked by Louise Lasser either feigning or having sequential nervous breakdowns. But in those days, even train wrecks had heart.

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