The Television Academy has made a bold, creative choice to induct the original cast of “Saturday Night Live” in the TV Hall of Fame next month. But the selection committee has made an egregious error in not including Bill Murray in that group. It’s an outrage because he belongs with his co-stars Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, and Gilda Radner when they join the class of 2017 on November 15 in North Hollywood.
When the show began its long (and still ongoing) run on NBC in 1975, the names listed above were in the cast called the “Not Ready for Prime-Time Players.” Chase had been hired on a one-year writing contract but became the breakout star of the first season. He had not signed a performing contract and was getting major movie offers, so he surprisingly left the program. Executive producer and creator Lorne Michaels, a future TV Hall of Fame inductee in 1999, had wanted Murray from the beginning but had to wait due to budget constraints. He was then hired to replace Chase and became a superstar on the show, remaining with the cast until they all left together after the fifth season ended in 1980 (actually Akyroyd and Belushi had departed after four years).
Murray is a two-time Emmy winner with one victory for “Saturday Night Live” as part of the writing team (1977) and another for his supporting role in “Olive Kitteridge” (2015). Aykroyd and Belushi also won on the 1977 writing staff. Chase and Radner took home Emmys for performing on “SNL,” in 1976 and 1978, respectively. Chase also has writing awards for “SNL” in 1976 and “The Paul Simon Special” in 1978. Curtin has two Emmy Awards for her lead role on “Kate and Allie” (1984, 1985).
Yes, technically the committee is right. Murray was not a part of the “SNL” first year. But any fan of the variety program or historian who has researched the show considers him as a key member of the original cast. That’s why they should do the right thing and not nitpick: add Murray’s name to the roster and include him for the induction ceremony and as a member of the Hall of Fame. Go ask Lorne, Dan, Jane, Garrett, Laraine, and maybe even Chevy (unfortunately John and Gilda will be inducted posthumously). They will agree and make it a priority he is part of their tribute.
The rest of this year’s induction class consists of production designer Roy Christopher, producer Shonda Rhimes, comedian Joan Rivers, and producer John Wells. Christopher is a 10-time Emmy champ for his work designing several Academy Awards ceremonies. Rhimes is a three-time nominee who has created “Grey’s Anatomy,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” and “Scandal.” Rivers is a Daytime Emmy winner for her self-named talk show who got her biggest fame as a guest and host on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” Wells is a six-time Emmy winner for producing and co-creating “E.R.” and “The West Wing” and currently has “Shameless” on Showtime.
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