Last year’s DVD release of Saturday Night Live’s first season was rightly hailed as an archival treasure, but the late-night institution’s second season—during which the classic format really clicked into place—arguably makes for the better collection. Over the course of the ’76–’77 season, SNL lost its first cast member (see ya, Chevy Chase!), welcomed Bill Murray in the first show of 1977 (hosted by Ralph Nader) and added the word Live to the title (after ABC, which had broadcast Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell in 1975, surrendered its claim to the moniker). With the changes (also including the phasing out of season one’s residual variety-show elements) came a new confidence that made for the beginning of a golden age that lasted until the departure of Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi at the end of season four.
The new collection is as notable for the comedy segments as it is for the musical performances (including a visit from the baby-faced 27-year-old Tom Waits, and a solemn Paul Simon crooning “Still Crazy After All These Years” in a turkey costume). Though a sensation at the time, the ’76–’77 SNL defiantly eschewed trendiness, and the result was an eclecticism (typified by the Ruth Gordon–hosted episode featuring Chuck Berry and magician Ricky Jay) that made it sui generis.