When the worst season in Saturday Night Live history is discussed, a number of contenders are always mentioned. 1985/86, with Anthony Michael Hall and Robert Downey Jr., both still battling puberty. 1994/95, with the terribly miscast Janeane Garofalo and Chris Elliott. And we'll throw in anything recent in there as well, for the once-proud show has turned in one turd after another.
But probably the worst season of them all was 1980/81. We say probably, because no record of that season exists. DVDs stop at 1979/80 and continue later on. Finding a rerun on television? Good luck. It's like the season never happened.
So what went wrong? Well, producer Lorne Michaels left the show, to be replaced by Jean Doumanian, who was way out of her league. The entire cast left as well, so instead of Gilda Radner and Bill Murray, the viewers got Gail Matthius and Charles Rocket. Feel free to look them up.
The show was so bad that Doumanian didn't last a season. Dick Ebersol took over and retooled SNL around Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy. The show climbed to new heights, before Michaels returned in 1985.
One of the victims of the forgettable 80/81 season? The then-young Gilbert Gottfried, who was fired by Ebersol the moment he took over. During his time on SNL, Gottfried was marginalized, once reduced to playing a corpse. Thankfully for fans of squinting and shrieking voices, he recovered. Gottfried lent that voice to a number of memorable characters, including the parrot Iago in Disney's "Aladdin", and carved a rather successful comedic career for himself.
Just don't ask him about his time on SNL.