From 1980 to 1982 ABC ran a live comedy show on Friday nights at 11:30 pm—live, just like Saturday Night Live; it had the appropriate (and similar) name of Fridays. As Dennis Perrin, author of Mr. Mike: The Life and Work of Michael O’Donoghue, the Man Who Made Comedy Dangerous, observed at the comedy blog Splitsider, Fridays was “the SNL ripoff that nearly surpassed the original,” given that the mix of comedy and pop music performances owed a hell of a lot to Saturday Night Live. Indeed, according to Wikipedia, the very first sketch of the very first episode tried to defuse that issue by joking about it: “Backstage, the producers remind the cast that the show will not be a clone of Saturday Night Live and the cast (dressed as SNL recurring characters) take off their costumes.”
Fridays two-year run was marked by some controversies. In an early episode, a sketch about a zombie diner cost them some much-needed affiliates. The most famous Fridays episode is likely the February 20, 1981, episode, for an incident involving Andy Kaufman, who was hosting that night. During a sketch about two couples at a restaurant who keep sneaking off to the bathroom to smoke pot, Kaufman seemed to break character, saying, “I can’t play stoned,” and there was an altercation with Michael Richards, who was also in the sketch. It turned out that the whole apparently authentic breakdown had been orchestrated by Kaufman and Richards and a couple others on the Fridays staff.
According to Perrin, for many years a DVD edition of Fridays was blocked by Larry David, but finally a 4-disc set was released in 2013.
The cast of Fridays. Standing at upper right is Larry David; seated at lower left is Michael Richards.
Fridays benefited from SNL’s rocky 1980-1981 season, the one with Charles Rocket and Gilbert Gottfried and headed by Jean Doumanian. Suddenly the ripoff didn’t seem so derivative anymore. As Splitsider’s Perrin wrote, “If SNL was classic rock, then Fridays was decidedly punk.”
Ah, punk! That’s right, I remember now, punk rock on the tee-vee. SNL may have had Fear and Patti Smith and Elvis Costello, but only Fridays could boast an appearance by the Jam. Here we have Paul Weller and Co. playing “Start!” off of Sound Affects (1980) and “Private Hell” off of 1979’s Setting Sons.
After the jump, the Jam play “Private Hell”.....