Buckwheat Is Shot, and ‘SNL’ Is There


In the long run, it was Eddie Murphy who murdered Buckwheat.

OK, so the Saturday Night Live famous person had assist in assassinating one in every of his hottest recurring characters, the grown-up model of The Little Rascals‘ Billie “Buckwheat” Thomas. But it surely was Murphy who, uninterested in being accosted by followers anticipating him to do Buckwheat in all places he went, instructed producer Dick Ebersol that sufficient was sufficient.

Ebersol, to his credit score (and bearing in mind the immensely common Murphy’s significance to SNL), didn’t attempt to speak Murphy out of the thought, as an alternative suggesting his star sit down together with his two favored SNL writers, Barry Blaustein and David Sheffield, and give you an acceptable send-off. What the trio created was an elaborate, multi-episode demise for Murphy’s Buckwheat, an prolonged satire of American gun tradition and media sensationalism Ebersol later known as “the very best piece of satire within the 4 or 5 years I used to be there.”

The saga started innocently sufficient on the Bruce Dern-hosted March 12, 1983, episode. Murphy’s grinning, word-garbling model of the previous youngster star confirmed up in a industrial for Buckwheat Denims, parodying the then ubiquitous Calvin Klein denims adverts. Then a sketch with Gary Kroeger and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Donnie and Marie Osmond was interrupted by Joe Piscopo as newsman Ted Koppel, who solemnly introduced, “We now have simply obtained phrase that Buckwheat has been shot.”

Fortunately for Koppel and followers of sensationalized homicide footage in all places, footage of Buckwheat’s assault as he was leaving the SNL studios to enter his limousine was being filmed by the paparazzi, permitting Piscopo’s Koppel to repeat the footage many, many instances. It was a parody of how equally the information media had coated the filmed assassination try on Ronald Reagan just a few years earlier than, full with Buckwheat’s entourage snapping into motion and the footage being rewound and slowed right down to seize the carnage in each horrifying element. (The footage itself is cold, as Sheffield notes that their preliminary, squib-heavy tackle the bit regarded far too actual for the comedy to have labored.)

As Buckwheat is rushed to a close-by hospital, Koppel, keen to maintain viewers riveted to the printed, repeats the footage in between frequent updates and the rapidly cobbled-together graphics from the present’s fictional sponsor, a stentorian announcer labeling the tragedy, “The Capturing of Buckwheat: America Shocked. Delivered to you by Texxon. Life goes on. And Texxon is there.”

Buckwheat doesn’t make it, with horrified former costar Alfalfa (a cowlicked Mary Gross) ambushed within the hospital hall by Koppel’s digicam, the anchor asking him if he’s seen the precise footage of his buddy being shot. “Oh, I’m harm and confused,” gasps Alfalfa after being subjected to the movie. “No remark!” Piscopo’s keen Koppel then topics Buckwheat’s harried surgeon to the footage simply earlier than the physician goes into the working room. Reducing again to the studio, Koppel is lastly interrupted as soon as extra, sadly saying, “We now have simply … now we have simply obtained some tragic information. Buckwheat … is useless.” Cue an up to date Texxon graphic, the announcer this time stating, “Buckwheat Lifeless: America Mourns. Delivered to you by Texxon. Life goes on, and Texxon is there. As a result of Buckwheat would have needed it that method.”

Watch America Mourn Buckwheat on ‘SNL’

Koppel repeats the footage as soon as extra because the particular report ends (“I nub nou!” Murphy’s Buckwheat says, waving, earlier than somebody offscreen addresses him as “Mr. Wheat” and opens hearth) throwing again to Saturday Evening Stay already in progress, the place there’s a later commercial for The Buckwheat Story, a no-doubt rapidly assembled TV film concerning the late Buckwheat’s life starring comic Byron Allen.

It’s, as Ebersol says, a powerful piece of media satire, constructed out of Eddie Murphy’s irritated want to easily make one in every of his most quotable characters go away. The gag is repeated throughout “Weekend Replace” with anchor Brad Corridor opening on the Buckwheat story, full with one other replay of the demise footage and supposed testimonials from the likes of the actor (and future NRA head) Charlton Heston calling Buckwheat “one in every of our best actors,” Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger and eventually the Pope — who pauses in his eulogy to throw to the assassination footage for the good thing about the assembled Vatican crowd.

However that wouldn’t be the top of the story, even when NBC tried to make it so. The following week, Murphy, Sheffield and Blaustein had deliberate a follow-up piece surrounding the identification, seize and eventual, Lee Harvey Oswald-style assassination of 1 John David Stutts, the obsessed fan who’d killed Buckwheat the week earlier than. Murphy, taking part in Stutts, is apprehended for the returning Koppel’s cameras as soon as extra, with Piscopo once more narrating hungrily because the deranged killer dreamily explains that his canine had instructed him Buckwheat was the antichrist. When Stutts is gunned down on his solution to jail (“Ow, I’ve been shot,” Stutts states dispassionately), Piscopo’s Koppel swings proper again into self-serious exploitation mode, whilst a visiting analyst explains that killers like Stutts are largely motivated by simply the kind of publicity and fame that Koppel’s nonstop protection is offering. This time, the printed’s sponsor is insurance coverage firm Mutual Life, the identical spokesperson intoning, “Mutual Life — since you may die tomorrow.”

Saturday Evening Life doesn’t do a lot of this kind of episode-spanning operating gag, and this continuation virtually didn’t make it to air, as NBC executives initially torpedoed the finished follow-up piece earlier than airtime. Citing the potential controversy anticipated by the community’s upcoming fake newscast film Particular Bulletin, introduced as an precise information bulletin a couple of nuclear incident, NBC company counsel Corydon Dunham instructed Ebersol that requirements and practices have been pulling the plug. Ebersol, as soon as extra to his credit score, caught to his weapons, even threatening to stop until the choice was reversed. It was, and the March 19 episode hosted by Robert Guillaume certainly noticed the “Buckwheat shot” saga play out to its inevitable, hilarious finish.

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