Brief thoughts on #SNL40

Other people are probably going to write more extensively about tonight's SNL 40th Anniversary special, so I'll leave it to them, but I'll say my piece about a few things:

Most of the show was entertaining; the clip montages were well-chosen and edited, and it was good to see the lesser-celebrated Doumanian and Ebersol years get more "deep cuts" covered in the highlight reels, as opposed to the same Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo clips they normally rely on.  

The music performances weren't bad; nothing on par with Prince doing "Electric Chair" at the 15th anniversary or the Eurythmics and Al Green medleys at the 25th. Miley Cyrus doing "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" was surprisingly good, though.  

Jane Curtin doing Weekend Update with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler was a highlight, and she killed it with her Fox News joke. She was always the secret weapon of the original years, or at least the one hidden in plain sight.  

The biggest misstep of the night was the Californians sketch, which didn't seem to play too well in studio. Despite the participation of Laraine Newman and cameos from Bradley Cooper, Kerry Washington, Taylor Swift and Betty White, the sketch dragged.  David Spade posted a close-up of the script on Instagram earlier, which revealed this was the handiwork of James Anderson and Kent Sublette; for all I know they may be wonderful people, but this was all too typical of their other work on the show*.  The same could be said for Garth and Kat, which ground the pacing of the "salute to musical sketches" segment to a halt.

The "In Memoriam" montage was well-done, but I noticed a few glaring omissions:

  • Joe Bodolai (writer, 1981-82)
  • Nelson Lyon (writer, 1981-82)
  • Mark O'Donnell (writer, 1981-82)
  • Terry Southern (writer, 1981-82)
  • Alan P. Rubin (band, 1975-83)
  • Drake Sather (writer, 1994-95)
  • Mauricio Smith (band, 1975-79)

They may have kept to a "more than one season" rule for writers, but I found it odd they didn't count the other band members who have passed.  I believe there were also a few other crew and staff members that had been memorialized beforehand but not here.  That said, it was nice to see some others get their due.  I was most concerned that Charles Rocket, Danitra Vance, Michael O'Donoghue and Tom Davis would get short shrift, and was pleased to see they were counted.  The same goes for Don Pardo, Dave Wilson and Audrey Peart Dickman (from many accounts, she was the engine that kept the show running, production-wise). 

Other than those issues, the special served its purpose: it reminded the audience why this show (and it's history) is special, and it was good to see a lot of familiar faces again.  I hope everyone there had a good time (even Anderson and Sublette).

*A partial list of other Anderlette sketches this season: "Forgotten Television Gems", "Women In The Workplace", "Campfire Song", "Nest-presso", "Amy Adams Monologue", "Singing Sisters", "Soap Opera Reunion", "The Journey", "Casablanca".

Announcement regarding the future of SNL reviews

I still haven't bothered watching the beginning of the Kerry Washington show; I did watch the Lady Gaga episode but I don't think I'll be posting a post-mortem on the show.  I actually found myself a little distracted and eager for the show to end last night, and not in any mood to regurgitate details of the show for my review, which would have been another variation of "the cast is strong, but the writing lets them down".  Even Lady Gaga, whose whole raison d'etre is to draw attention to herself, seemed like she was grasping at straws with her performances: the dry-hump with R. Kelly almost seemed like a parody of the lengths she goes to in performances.  My response to this was simply "And....?"

I see the show still has these bright spots, but the fact is I don't feel like staying up until 2am my time just to watch SNL anymore.  If there's something going on in the real world, I'd rather do that than watch something that will be mostly made available online the next day anyway.  There's always the chance something infamous may happen in the live show, or the audience may be witness to the birth of a new classic, but when was the last time either happened?

I watch it because it's a routine more than anything.  I may tune in to see a particular guest or to see if there's a big change after Seth Meyers finally leaves the show, but the show just doesn't have the importance it once held for me.

I would have thought that the thing that would have turned me off the show would be another disastrous season on the level of the Janeane Garofalo/Michael McKean year, but I honestly have no problem with the cast in general; most of them are very strong performers who find ways to work with whatever they're given.  I just don't know if SNL is really the best use of their talents anymore.  Landing a spot on the show is an achievement and a way to get name recognition, but I can't get over the feeling that they rein themselves in to belong to the institution.

I still plan on completing my 1982-83 reviews, but afterwards I'm going to take a long break from dissecting the show.  I'd rather watch to be entertained than watch to analyze; I have other priorities, and there are only so many hours in a day.