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5 Reasons to watch Saturday Night Live's 40th Anniversary Special

1Saturday Night Live.

Is there anything more uniquely tied to Americana than those three words.

Over the past 40 years, SNL has done something that's unmatched in Hollywood: it's lasted.

The cast is ever-evolving, but thanks to the stewardship of Lorne Michaels and a host of revolutionary ideas that include satirical commercials, news (you're welcome Jon Stewart), skits and mostly avant garde musical performances, Saturday Night Live has become something akin to the game of baseball.

While times have changed over the years the one thing you can always count on is Saturday Night Live.

Here are five things to look forward to during tonight's special:

5. The Unknown

There's always been a hint of mystery surrounding Saturday Night Live, of things that could happen. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't. Regardless, there's been enough Urban Legend surrounding the 40 years of SNL, that who knows what could happen on Sunday Night's 40th Anniversary show.

Perhaps the best of these occurred during the early stages of SNL when producer Lorne Michaels offered $3,000 to the Beatles to appear on the late-night show. Little did Michaels know, but according to both Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono, both McCartney and Lennon were watching the broadcast at Lennon's New York City apartment, the Dakota. The two pondered showing up at the show the night Michaels made his offer.

Imagine that.

There were numerous rumors that there were discussions for the Beatles to reunite on the Live show after Lennon's resurgence prior to his death in 1980. Unfortunately, we'll never know.

What could happen tonight?

Some of the most interesting rumors being tossed around start with the likely, to the jaw-dropping.

There have been many hints dropped that Justin Timberlake and his N'Sync buddies will be reuniting for the special. A day ago, the reunion was "confirmed" by very suspect sources. Today, Lance Bass tried to quell rumors that the boy band would be regrouping for a one-off by saying the rumors weren't true.

Perhaps both rumors are right.

Justin Timberlake's bro-mance with The Tonight Show host and former SNL cast member Jimmy Fallon is well known, and it's possible that Fallon has something special in mind for Timberlake that could involve a reunion.

Could we have some sorta reunion along the lines of Fallon's recent 'Saved By the Bell' rehash on the Tonight Show? We shall see.

Two of my favorite rumors involve a Kanye beatdown, and a return of a "dead" Andy Kaufman, who was famously voted off the show in 1982. Wouldn't that be something.

There's one thing you can be sure of of the 3 1/2 hour show, there will be plenty of unexpected.

4. The guests and their skits

Will we get to see Alec Baldwin's Schweddy Balls?

Will Christopher Walken have a fever...and will the only prescription be more cowbell, or will he return as The Continental

Will we get to see Justin Timberlake's D&$( in a Box, or as Robin Gibb in The Barry Gibb Talk Show, or going to some sorta Ville?

Will Tom Hanks get shunned by passing women with Jon Lovitz.."Hello...Goodbye...never had a chance," or will he show up as Mr. Short Term Memory one more time?

And what will Steve Martin do? Martin was never a regular cast member, but in the early years, he seemed to be on weekly. Might he rejoining Dan Aykroyd as the Festrunk Brothers? "We're two Wild and Crrazzyy guys!"

I could really go on forever here, but the possibilities are endless.

3. Honoring the cast members who have passed away

No, I'm not morbid, but some of the most poignant moments of these anniversary shows are showcasing those that have died prematurely. Saturday Night Live has a host of memorable former cast members and hosts that are gone, but not forgotten.

Probably the most famous is John Belushi, who truly was a larger-than-life talent when he died in 1982. Belushi was one of the original cast members, and his characters remain some of the most famous. He was a Killer Bee, the Samurai, and my favorite, Joe Cocker (who recently passed away). I don't know that I ever laughed harder as a kid than when Belushi, hilariously dubbed as a decathlon champion by Marv Albert, attributed "Little Chocolate Donuts" as his Donuts of Champions. He died of a drug overdose.

Gilda Radner was always one of my favorites from the first cast, and with Gene Wilder, was one of the first comedy Super Couples. her Roseanne Roseannadanna character was one of the most memorable recurring sketches in the early years, and she is perhaps the best female cast member of all time even though many have forgotten her importance. She died in 1989 from Ovarian Cancer.

Many compared Chris Farley to John Belushi, and for good reason. While Belushi likely had more chops, both looked similar, and had the same energy in their skits. Farley's skits are HUGE, including the Chris Farley show, where he fumbles through asking questions and comments, or as Matt Foley, the motivational speaker that lived in a van down by the river. Perhaps his most famous skit was with Patrick Swayze, as a Chippendale dancer. Farley died in 1997 of a drug overdose.

Phil Hartman was unlike any cast member to ever graze the SNL stage, and while there are many more memorable cast members because of exuberance, it's quite possible that Hartman was the greatest SNL cast member of all time. He could do everything. He could play the straight man. He could act like a goof ball. He really wasn't a one-hit member that so many others were. My favorite character of Hartman's was of Frankenstein, where he simply grunted, but his unfrozen caveman lawyer was classic as well. Hartman was the heartbeat of the show for his entire run. He was murdered by his wife in a murder-suicide in 1998 at the age of 49.

Just this past year, Jan Hooks died of cancer, and while it was in the news, it certainly didn't carry the weight of many of the other cast members before her. It's too bad, because she was so good during her run on the show from 1986-1991. Her most popular characters were based in reality, and she played many president's wives, including Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan and Hillary Rodham Clinton. My favorite character though was Tammy Faye Bakker, crying over her husband's indiscretions.

There are many others that have passed, both as regular cast members, and memorable hosts, and I can't wait for the homage for each and every one. There's a lot of lore to SNL, and those that can't be there Live will play a big role in tonight's show, and well into the future.

2. Eddie Murphy is back for the first time since he left the show

I know how big Will Farrell is, but I don't think people remember just how HUGE Eddie Murphy was during his run at Saturday Night Live. He was only 19 when he debuted on the show in 1980, and over the course of his four-year run, had some of the most memorable moments in the show's history. His best characters were special, including James Brown's "Hot Tub," Gumby ("I'm Gumby, Damn It), and the most enduring, Buckwheat. In perhaps his finest moments on the show, Buckwheat was assassinated, in a mock-up of Ronald Reagan's assassination attempt. Who killed Buckwheat? John David Stutts...who was portrayed by...you guessed it, Eddie Murphy.

The one character that to this day makes me laugh the most though is Mr. Robinson, who was the thug version of Mr. Rogers. Mr. Robinson's neighborhood had Murphy teaching the kids he was talking to how to steal, and get away from the police.

Murphy turned himself into the biggest start in Hollywood while a cast member, showing up in 48 Hours and Beverly Hills Cop, while still on the show. Farrell is more popular today, but only because he's more recent. I'm not sure there's ever been a bigger star in the history of the show than Murphy, although that certainly is a fun debate.

1. The casts reunited

What has always made the show special has been

Since I was a kid in the 70's, there have been special casts from the start, and the bulk of each special cast will be back in full force for tonight's episode. Every living member of the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players will be back in the studio, including Lorraine Newman, Jane Curtin, Dan Aykroyd, Garrett Morris and Chevy Chase will be there as well as Bill Murray, who took over for Chevy Chase, when he abruptly left.

Over the course of the next four decades, there have been enduring casts that included Murphy, Joe Piscopo, Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, Mike Myers, Nora Dunn, Darrell Hammond, David Spade, Adam Sandler, Will Farrell, Taran Killam, Seth Meyers, Norm Macdonald, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Tim Meadows, Billy Crystal, Martin Short, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis, Rachel Dratch, Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell, just to name a few.

The show has faced cancellation, writer's strikes, bad casting, the loss of Lorne Michaels, and several other major issues over the years but it's the cast that has always brought the show back. Tonight will be a celebration of those cast members, guests and musical performances that have created one of the most unique television experiences in American television.
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