Thursday, March 22, 2007

Saturday Night, Saturday Night

A little more.

[S]omebody at ABC had the great idea of creating a series that would be, effectively, a reincarnation of the Ed Sullivan Show. Great idea, terrible execution. Howard Cosell seemed a good choice to inherit Sullivan's mantle: both men were seriously charisma-challenged and had no significant onscreen presence. But Ed Sullivan knew a great deal about show business, whereas Cosell's expertise was in sport.

Ed Sullivan was credited (not altogether accurately) with introducing the Beatles to America ... so, if Cosell was going to be the 'new' Ed Sullivan, he had to find a band that would be the 'new' Beatles. This turned out to be (wait for it) the Bay City Rollers, a good-looking young quintet with working-class Scots accents (much less comprehensible to Americans than the Beatles' Scouse accents were), who wore novelty haircuts and tartan-trimmed cozzies. (There is no Bay City in Scotland, but there are at least two Bay Cities in the USA: the Rollers cynically chose a name which they hoped would make them popular Stateside.) Usefully for 'Saturday Night Live', the Bay City Rollers' one big hit song was called 'Saturday Night' ... so, they were brought onto Cosell's show several times, whanging out this pop tune which did double-duty as a plug for Cosell's show. There was a blatantly obvious attempt to re-enact Beatlemania here: the opening episode of 'Saturday Night Live' packed its live studio audience with dozens of teenage girls waving tartan scarves and squealing on cue: allegedly these were the Rollers' fans in America, but it was obvious they'd all been hired for the occasion.

Interestingly enough, neither of the two reviews of this show mention the Prime Time Players, and the first reviewer's assertion that NBC's Saturday Night premiered after ABC's Saturday Night had been cancelled seems to be inaccurate (the purple book seems to indicate that ABC's premiere happened just before NBC's). The Prime Time Players were also covered in one of Cosell's books, and I of course alluded to them here.


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