When the show premiered in October 1975, it was known simply as "Saturday Night" -- the name "Saturday Night Live" had already been claimed by a variety series hosted by Howard Cosell on
The first episode was hosted by comedian George Carlin, included musical perfomances by Billy Preston and Janis Ian and featured both a Muppets sketch and a short film by Albert Brooks. Other early episodes were hosted by
Here's a look back at how the fledgling show was viewed by critics long before it became a pop culture institution.
Los Angeles Times:
"If NBC is looking for something unusual and attractive to bolster its sagging prime-time lineup, it could do a lot worse than shift its new Saturday Night Series down a couple of hours. Minus half its commercials, this bright and bouncy 90-minute outing (which debuted last Saturday at 11:30 pm) could become the freshest and most imaginative comedy-variety hour on the air."
New York Times:
"The future of 'Saturday Night' is uncertain -- intentionally so. [
"Sometimes [Saturday Night] is awful. Comedian Albert Brooks' taped films were at first a regular feature, but offered only ten minutes of boredom. The Muppets are cloying grotesques. ... SN's most endearing and human quality is its unevenness."
New York magazine:
"Based on a first look, it is an uneven show, with all of the pitfalls and possibilities of something never tried before. But in intention, outlook, and personnel, NBC's 'Saturday Night' is surely the sharpest departure from the TV-comedy norm since the debut of 'Laugh-In.'...
"TV comedy today is very different from 1949, when 28-year-old
The New Yorker:
"The truth is that it's a funny show and has enough comic spirit behind it so that even an actress of no notable comic expertise, such as Candice Bergen, can work easily along with the program. Still, it's not really the gross tonnage of the jokes in the skits which makes 'Saturday Night Live' worth looking at. What is attractive and unusual about the program is that it is an attempt, finally, to provide entertainment on the television in a recognizable, human, non-celebrity voice -- and in a voice, too, that tries to deal with the morass of media-induced show-business culture that increasingly pervades American life."
"Sometimes the material is tastelessly juvenile. A chat with