Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell (TV Series 1975–1976) Poster

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Even worse than you've been told it was
First, let's get that title sorted. Howard Cosell's ill-fated variety show was officially known as 'Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell', but this title was too long and unwieldy ... so the series was usually identified (on air and off) simply as 'Saturday Night Live'. It featured an annoying opening-credit sequence in which whispering voices persistently rearranged the title, like this: 'Saturday Night Live ... Live Saturday Night...' This terrible ABC-TV series ran for only a few weeks; ironically, almost straight away after its cancellation, another network (NBC) premiered an entirely unrelated series (with an almost totally different format) also named 'Saturday Night Live' ... which has run and run ever since.

Getting back to *this* SNL: somebody 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 on-screen 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.

Over the (very brief) run of this series, Cosell seemed to go out of his way to get the worst acts possible. Ed Bluestone was a hack writer at National Lampoon who created that magazine's most infamous cover. ('If you don't buy this magazine, we'll kill this dog.') Bluestone had recently achieved a few TV bookings with a terribly unfunny stand-up routine about funerals ... so Cosell dutifully booked him on 'Saturday Night Live', doing a verbatim rendition of the same routine that had died on several other TV shows.

In the later episodes of this series, Cosell grew increasingly desperate and he decided to call in some chits from his connections in the sporting world. He brought in several of the New York Yankees to appear on his show in their uniforms, performing 'Heart' from the Broadway musical 'Damn Yankees'. Sounds like a good idea, except that none of the chosen Yankees were able to sing or dance ... so, they just sat on a bench and took turns croaking out individual lines of the lyric. Terrible!

This show died a well-deserved death. The *other* 'Saturday Night Live' (in a later time slot) premiered almost immediately after this one was cancelled: a coincidence which only adds to the confusion.
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Classic bad TV
kellyjam12 May 2006
A Howard Cosell variety show. I think Roone was smoking something when he came up with this idea. The one classic moment I will always remember on the show was Howard and Barbara Walters singing a duet. This show was soooo bad that it actually has camp value. ( song and dance routines with Ali and OJ for instance) One interesting point was SNL couldn't use live in their title because Howard had it in his. They had to say "Live! it's Saturday Night." When the finally canceled this show after a year SN became SNL. I was actually a fan of Cosell when he was covering sports. Anyone who remembers Monday Night Football when Howard was doing it will remember it was an EVENT! After he left the show it just became another game.
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A few details...
bigman0129 December 2009
Roone Arledge wasn't doing any recreational medicine. He was responding to pressure from Howard Cosell, for Roone to widen Howard's appeal.(Let's remember, Howard had rather a high opinion of himself.) Roone hadn't been made head of the entire network yet, but he was still responsible for the sports division. The original "Saturday Night Live" was an Alan King production. Alan was an old-school Vegas comic, who got ABC's attention by producing "That's My Mama". This was a medium-size hit for a season or two, starring a pre-"Love Boat" Ted Lange. Alan wanted to make a bigger splash, and he needed a high-profile host for a weekend program patterned after a Vegas revue.

ABC was having trouble getting its' footing in this time slot; NBC was trumping them at every turn, even with Saturday's Tonight Show reruns. Neither Joey Bishop nor Dick Cavett could give them any leverage.
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Making Ed Look Good
redryan6410 August 2014
PREMIERRING IN PRIMETIME at roughly the same time as NBC's Saturday NIGHT (as it was first called), this series was among the best intentioned projects ever. But, as we've all heard before, "The road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions!" That oft repeated proverb just about sums it up.

DESIGNED AS A PROGRAM that would both emulate and at the same time fill the void of the long-running ED SULLIVAN SHOW (TOAST OF THE TOWN), the series was launched off of the pad without proper consideration of the logistics, the talent handling or any regards for Mr. Cosell's considerable "baggage." That Howard was well known to the public is an indisputable fact. The facts overlooked were twofold.

FIRST OF ALL, Mr. Cosell was an established Sports Analyst/Broadcaster. Having earned his spurs by way of a daily ABC Radio Network 10 minute spot, Howard Cosell's SPEAKING OF SPORTS. Then, Network Baseball coverage added to his resume. This was followed by his ascending to the absolute Zenith of Sports-casting with partners like FRank Gifford and Don Meredith on ABC and Monday NIGHT FOOTBALL.

SECONDLY AND POSSIBLY most importantly, Cosell was never and could never be a low key guy. Some loved him; whereas most loved to hate him. His persona was that of an abrasive boat-rocker./ WE SUPPOSE THAT the powers to be at the American Broadcasting Company figured that taking a chance on Mr. Cosell could be no worse than CBS's going with newspaper columnist, Ed Sullivan in earlier times. After all, both were journalists of sorts. Neither had any detectable entertainment talents; with no singing, dancing or humorous monologues up their sleeves.

BUT THAT'S EWHERE the similarities end; for Mr. Sullivan's having the MC position was gradual rise. Stemming from Ed's hosting an annual Christmas charity event of the "Noble Fifth Estate" (the Press Boys). This gave him some resume and foundation.

ANOTHER FACTOR WAS pointed out on Tom Snyder's TOMORROW SHOW. In his interview with TV Star, Garry Moore, Snyder asked him about the sudden demise of this Cosell show. Garry said that he believed that whereas the Sullivan method called for "editing" the acts down to their best 2 or 3 minutes, no such practice was applied to this ABC Howard Cosell SATUDAY NIGHT LIVE. As a result, we saw extended performances by the Bay City Rollers, the Lockers and Magician, Mark Wilson.

IN SUPPORT OF this last assertion, we present evidence as it was played out on THE Hollywood SQUARES. Host, Peter Marshall asked regular panelist, George Gobel; "In American History, what were the Intolerable Acts?" George replied, "They were those Intolerable Acts on Howard Cosell's Saturday NIGHT LIVE Show!"

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN of the Jury, we rest our case!

NOTE: * The term, "Intolerable Acts" was a term used by the American colonists to describe laws passed by Parliament in England to punish the Massachusetts colonists for their defiance in dumping the considerable amount of Tea to be taxed into the Boston Harbor.
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