The Rasta Gourmet Nat E. Dred may have faded from memory, but it’s unlikely The Clash has gone away, as well. Such is the fate of much of what was originally broadcast on the ABC late-night television show Fridays, the networks answer to Saturday Night Live, which ran from 1980-1982. A five-DVD set gathers the best of the irreverent sketch comedy for another appraisal, but even more the pearls are the performances of the musical guests including Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Dire Straits, Devo, Kiss, The Clash, and more.
While only a brief role as competitor to SNL, Fridays did serve as an introduction for the careers of actors Michael Richards (Seinfeld) and Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), and their partners in funny, several of which turn in minor parts in future Seinfeld shows. The sketches are often dated, but for those that spent time in the 80s, the topics of ridicule and parody will offer nostalgia and fun. Even early Ronald Reagan impressions still find a humorous mark, though not as much for his debate opponent and former Presidential candidate John Anderson, presently thought of less as late-night night target than as trivia answer. Yes, that infamous Andy Kaufman appearance is included, with plenty of backstory and bonus explanations from producers and stars of a then-controversial ‘incident’ that has grown far tamer in retrospect.
What have not lost any of their bite are the music segments. For some of the bands, this was the first entry into American TV. Supporting the London Calling record, The Clash blitz through the title track and “Train in Vain.” Dire Straits present “Skateaway” and “Romeo and Juliet” from the Making Movies release, with some wonderful camera work on Mark Knopfler’s unique and fluid fingerpicking, while Petty (on double-neck guitar, no less) tears through “American Girl.” Despite some audience response that spills into the mix, it’s easy to forgive for these sharp productions are some of the better translations of rock and roll on TV.
The combination of comedy skits and rock concert is one that has succeeded in entertaining well the sleep-deprived or past-curfew nocturnal channel surfers. While comedy can be elusive, as some jokes just don’t work, the music more than holds its end of the deal. Fridays may have only had two seasons on the air, but with this second chance may find renewed support from its faithful and perhaps their children who get to see these classic artists in their earlier days.