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'Saturday Night Live' and I Celebrate Our 40th Anniversary
February 14, 2015  | By David Bianculli  | 4 comments

NBC celebrates 40 years of Saturday Night Live with a massive live TV special Sunday, Feb. 15, at 8 p.m. ET. It arrives about seven months early, but it’s indeed something to celebrate – especially for me…

That’s because, back in 1975, that show’s premiere – back when its original title was NBC’s Saturday Night, to distinguish it from ABC’s then-new, short-lived prime-time series, Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell – was the way I talked my way into becoming a TV critic for a daily newspaper.

The newspaper was The Gainesville Sun, the city was Gainesville, FL, and I was a senior at the University of Florida there, double majoring in Journalism and Communications and in Education. One of our UF journalism classes had us working at the local paper, under the tutelage of a professor and farmed out to various editors as unpaid interns. One week, Diane Chun from the features department bought my argument that there was a new TV show about to premiere that was aimed at college students – and since I was a college student, and Gainesville was a college town, I ought to be allowed to review it.

So I did. After the story ran, the paper’s editor, Ed Johnson, called me into his office. Instead of reprimanding me, he offered me a deal: four more reviews, of other TV shows, for $5 a pop. That was big money for me back then, but it wasn’t all about the Lincolns – he was opening the door to the world of professional journalism, and letting me slip inside. Thanks again, Ed.

I kept working at The Gainesville Sun, and writing TV columns, until 1977, when I graduated with a Master’s Degree in Journalism and Communications – and got my first full-time newspaper job of many as a daily television critic. Though I eventually made the transition to full-time teaching, at New Jersey’s Rowan University in 2008, I’m still a TV critic, for NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross and for this website.
Saturday Night Live actually premiered on Oct. 11, 1975, with George Carlin as the opening guest host, and Billy Preston and Janis Ian as the musical guests. On Feb. 14 in the regular late-night Saturday Night Live time slot (11:29 p.m. ET), that original show is being repeated. It’s a good program – but I’ve said that before.

In that original Gainesville Sun review, I wrote that Saturday Night Live was “one of the more innovative and entertaining shows on television, with “a distinct identity” and “showing a great deal of promise.”

And now, as SNL is celebrating 40 years of television, so am I…

(To see a PDF of that first SNL review, click here and scroll down to the PDF.)
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Kathleen BSJM78
Go Gators,

David, it is with sadness that I write this. Diane Chun has passed away. Today, the Gainesville Sun shared with readers this news.
Sep 3, 2018   |  Reply
Via my DVR, saw Sunday night's airing on Monday (2/16). Did not understand why Kanye West and Miley Cyrus were there. They seemed out of place. Missed seeing Julia Louis Dreyfus and Victoria Jackson. Why celebrities un- or remotely associated with SNL?: J. Nicholson, Keith Richards, and J. Seinfeld, for instance??? The best was Celebrity Jeopardy. Whore Ads, Alex!! N. McDonald as Burt Reynolds/Turd Ferguson was hilarious.
Feb 17, 2015   |  Reply
Congratulations on 40 years of high-quality work. Here's to many more...
Feb 15, 2015   |  Reply
So why not a clickable image of that original review, that opened into a full-size version that we could read for ourselves? (#missed_opportunity)
Feb 14, 2015   |  Reply
Linda Donovan
Good point, Neil. We've added a link at the bottom of the story to a PDF of the original review. Thank you!
Feb 14, 2015
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