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A reunion that's now ready for prime time

In a guest shot on Jim Belushi's ABC sitcom, Laraine Newman and Dan Aykroyd still have 'Saturday Night' fever.

January 21, 2003|Greg Braxton | Times Staff Writer

With soft music playing and bright lights blazing on a Studio City soundstage, Dan Aykroyd and Laraine Newman were dancing in prime time. And no one on the set -- extras, crew members, visitors -- could take their eyes off the two, who were original Not Ready for Prime Time Players on "Saturday Night Live."

Aykroyd and Newman, who used to skewer network sitcoms as part of the irreverent humor on the sketch variety show during its initial heyday in the mid-1970s, were guest-starring on ABC's family sitcom "According to Jim." They played police officers who may have more than a professional interest in each other.

It was the first time the two had worked together since appearing in the 1993 movie "The Coneheads," which was based on one of their most famous "Saturday Night Live" routines.

But this time, there were no cones in sight. Aykroyd was wearing a policeman's uniform and Newman was dressed in an elegant gown.

On the episode, which airs tonight, Jim (Jim Belushi) attempts to play matchmaker for the two.

The reunion evoked deeper feelings beyond nostalgia, courtesy of the two veterans working with Belushi. He bears a close physical resemblance to his brother John, another original Not Ready for Prime Time Player and Aykroyd's partner in the Blues Brothers and several movies. John Belushi died in 1982 of a drug overdose.

Jim Belushi has followed in his brother's comedic and musical footsteps, joining Aykroyd regularly during the last several years in an updated version of the Blues Brothers. And Aykroyd's guest-shot marked his second appearance on Belushi's show, reprising his Danny Michalski character.

No one seemed more thrilled to witness the Aykroyd-Newman pairing than Belushi, who beamed as the two rehearsed a scene where they danced at a policemen's party.

"They don't act like they're legends, which they certainly are," Belushi said during a break in filming. "They just stay focused on the work. They don't realize that everyone is looking at them when they do their thing. It's like magic."

The two former colleagues have remained friends through the years, and their chemistry was apparent on and off the set as they joked and teased each other.

"There is a shorthand with us," explained Aykroyd, who has focused much of his energy during the last 10 years helping to manage the chain of House of Blues restaurants and clubs.

"We don't work together often enough," said Newman, whose principal work during the last several years has been as a voice on animated series and in features such as "Monsters, Inc." and "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius."

The two had differing views on their "Saturday Night Live" legacy. Newman said she often watches the reruns of the series on E! Entertainment, and that she is proud of the work performed by the troupe.

"Those shows impacted so many people, and folks on the street come up to me all the time, telling me what true affection they have for the series," she said. "I wonder how much longer it can last. I'm constantly amazed by it."

Aykroyd said he watches the new editions of the show, but stays away from the older episodes where he appeared.

"I don't have to watch them," he said. "I lived them. But the continued popularity of those shows speaks for the legacy."

Newman said she is still hoping for a future reunion where she, Aykroyd and others can work together: "Maybe we can do one of those 'Cannonball Run' movies. That would be a hoot."

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