“Saturday Night Live” is in the middle of its 35th season so it’s not easy to pick the five best SNL episodes of all time. Luckily those Tim Kazurinsky years can be unilaterally eliminated. But when push comes to shove a handful of shows rise to the top of the pile, clearly the best “SNL” episodes of all time.
- Season 1, Episode 1 – Aired: October 11th, 1975. The very first episode of “Saturday Night Live” tops the list of the five best “SNL” episodes. After all, it had all the elements of a perfect show. First there was the oh-so-hip host, comedian George Carlin, who did the “Baseball and Football” bit from his latest record "An Evening with Wally Londo, Featuring Bill Slazso.” The recurring Bee characters were introduced. Chevy Chase set the tone for all fake news anchors to follow on and off “SNL” in the first “Weekend Update” segment. Plus, audiences enjoyed two musical guests: Billy Preston and Janis Ian. Jim Henson premiered his very adult muppets Ploobis, Scred, and the Mighty Favog. Albert Brooks contributed his first short film to the show. And the world was introduced to Andy Kaufman’s off-the-wall humor as he lip synced to the “Mighty Mouse” theme song. Contrary to future “SNL” style, Carlin didn’t do skits, only stand-up and musical guest intros. And a nervous Don Pardo accidentally called the cast “The Not For Ready Prime Time Players” during the opening montage.
- Season 3, Episode 18 – Aired: April 22, 1978. Not only does this episode make the list of the five best “SNL” episodes, it may be one of the best episodes of any TV series ever. This one show included the Blues Brothers singing "Hey, Bartender" and "I Don't Know," comedian Steve Martin in his fifth of fifteen hosting appearances (the most in show history), the Festrunk brothers (aka, the “wild and crazy guys”), “Weekend Update” with Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd, a classic sketch in which Martin dances with Gilda Radner, and the comedian’s performance of “King Tut.”
- Season 20, Episode 3 – Aired: October 15th 1994. There may have been some forgettable cast members on “SNL” in the ‘90s (Ellen Gleghorne, for example), but the decade also boasted some of the show’s most legendary talent. So at least one episode from the period that brought fans Chris Farley, Phil Hartman, and Adam Sandler needed to grace the list of the five best “SNL” episodes. One of the better shows was hosted by John Travolta and featured classic skits including “Coffee Talk” with Linda Richman, “Weekend Update” with Norm MacDonald, John Travolta as a sexuality challenged Dracula, and Quentin Tarantino’s “Welcome Back, Kotter” featuring Jay Mohr as Mr. Woodman. Musical guest Seal may seem dated now, but at the time his "Crazy" was way cool.
- Season 26, Episode 16 – Aired: April 7, 2001. This is clearly one of most deserving entries on the five best “SNL” episodes. Besides the fact that Alec Baldwin hosted, the show gave viewers Will Ferrell as George W. Bush and Darrell Hammond as Bill Clinton, a great performance by Coldplay, and “Weekend Update” with Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey. Plus, Baldwin delivered two of the funniest skits in “SNL” history, playing Charles Nelson Reilly to Will Ferrell’s James Lipton on an “Inside the Actor’s Studio” sketch and as Pete Schweddy on the oh-so saccharine talk radio cooking show “Delicious Dish.” Who didn’t love his Schweddy balls?
- Season 34, Episode 21 – Aired: May 9, 2009. When the “Saturday Night Live” history books are written, there will be much debate about which Justin Timberlake hosted episode deserves to make the list of the five best “SNL” episodes. Will it be the one with the Emmy Award winning “D*#k in a Box” short? Will his performance of Beyonce’s “Put a Ring on It” make the cut? Surely the final choice will be this show from May of 2009 which included J.T.’s ancestor’s predictions about his future mega-star great-grandson, the Digital Short “Mother Lovers,” a “bring it on down to Plasticville” sketch, and an episode of “The Barry Gibb Talk Show.” Oh, the pop star sang a couple of songs, too.