My SNL reviews will begin again this week, and I will try to get Robert Urich, Blythe Danner and Daniel J. Travanti done as quickly as possible to make up for lost time. I'll give a few teasers for each:
- Robert Urich's episode is notable for being the first broadcast after John Belushi's death, and the original airing had Brian Doyle-Murray give a brief tribute to him at the end of the show.
- Blythe Danner's episode is the first show where Christine Ebersole is Weekend Update co-anchor, and Mary Gross is moved to a recurring "bumbling correspondent" role. We also get the first appearance of Eddie Murphy's Gumby.
- Daniel J. Travanti's episode starts a gimmick that was done a few more times over the Dick Ebersol period of SNL, where 1-900 numbers were given to the audience to vote on something: in this episode, it is to decide the fate of a lobster. Next season's Drew Barrymore show would have a vote to determine whether Andy Kaufman be banned from SNL, and the Father Guido Sarducci episode from January 1984 would have the "Phone-in Democratic Primary".
I've been watching the new shows on the weekends, of course. I see a good amount of promise from the new castmembers, but the show still has a lot of the problems of last year. It's too early to write off the whole season, though, and they have been getting some good hosts (Jane Lynch was the best of the three), but I still see a lot of lame one-joke premises, unwelcome rehashes of previous sketches, lazy writing, and over-reliance on gross-out humor and using homosexuality as the joke. (Tangent: I know there've definitely been a few out SNL writers over the years, but it seems odd they've gone 25 years without an out gay cast member. I don't advocate they hire someone just because they're gay, and I recognize the trap of pigeonholing, but perhaps it is time again.) There's at least one good sketch per show, though, and even that Bjelland Brothers sketch from Bryan Cranston's show was so bad it was actually pretty funny.
I have to wonder what's dictating the direction the show's been going in the last year or so, though. I want to be reminded why I liked Kristen Wiig instead of gnashing my teeth every time I see her on screen, and I want to not predict how the sketch is going to go in the first 15 seconds. I doubt any of the SNL writers or cast will see this (they had to learn early on that us nerds on the Internet are nasty and don't like anything), and they're not writing or booking for my own personal "elitist fuck" tastes, but I really would like to know if the stronger material's just not playing with the right people or if, God forbid, this truly is the best they're capable of now.
I realize my blog's becoming nothing but SNL reviews and commentary so I'll just mention I've been watching Dollhouse season one on DVD. Good show: it did take a few episode to find its bearings but I've finished through "Omega", and look forward to "Epitaph One" and the second season when it comes out this week. Kind of a shame it didn't last but oh well, at least FOX didn't make Whedon retool it into Gleehouse or something like that.