Monday, February 16, 2015

Saturday Night On a Sunday



I watched Saturday Night Live's 40th anniversary special last night. In fact, it may still be on. Let me go check. 

Nope, it did end. OK. 

Still, with a 1 hour red carpet lead in and the 3 1/2 hour show itself, that was a lot of time to commit to this. But I really and truly had nothing better to do with my time on a Sunday evening. Such is the sad, sad state of my social calender. 

The red carpet special had a couple of awkward moments for NBC when Jim Carrey asked Matt Lauer where NBC was hiding Brian Williams and former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani name checked the erstwhile NBC News anchor as well. Which were probably the only 2 real highlights of that hour. Mostly it was former SNL castmates and random celebrities being asked to name their favorite recurring character or favorite sketch which was usually greeted with "Oh, they were all great" or "There were so many great sketches."  Really feel like I should've given this a miss.  

The show itself got off to a great start with the always energetic ready for anything duo of Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake with a musical cold open. Rachel Dratch showed up mid way through as Debbie Downer to remind Jimmy and Justin that statistics show that SNL episodes that have a musical cold open tend to be lower rated. Wah-Wah-Wah. Molly Shannon shows up as Mary Catherine Gallagher for a quick "Superstar" moment with the two J's, I have no real idea why. But Fallon and Timberlake rocked the house with a raptastic opener. 

So first some of the good stuff: 
  • Steve Martin, Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin and other former guest hosts jockeying for position who makes the best guest host on SNL: comedians, actors or Alec Baldwin?  
  • Jon Lovitz is dead and Jon is very angry no one told him of this. 
  • A totally gonzo new edition of Celebrity Jeopardy with Darrell Hammond back as Sean Connery and Norm McDonald returning as Burt Reynolds Turd Ferguson. Also on hand were Kate McKinnon's dead on Justin Beiber, Jim Carrey's eerily perfect Matthew McConaughey, Alec Baldwin's clueless but cool Tony Bennent and Kenan Thompson as Bill Cosby in a video clip under the category of Potent Potables. Yes, they went there. Taran Killam popping up as Christoph Waltz seemed a bit off but Will Ferrell was delightfully flummoxed as Alex Trebek, trying and failing to keep control over these idiot celebrities. 
  • For sheer absurdity. what about SNL bringing back The Californians as a live sketch for the special? It was an oft recurring sketch that did not seem to get a lot of love and respect so it seemed an odd one to bring back. But it does involve using a lot of cast members and if someone forgets a line, just do that bad California accent gurgling sound. Kudos to original cast member Laraine Newman for being part of the sketch. Also thumbs up to guests Bradley Cooper, Kerry Washington,Taylor Swift and Betty White (who got to make out with Bradley). And damn it, I found myself laughing at this thing. And having David Spade joined by Cecily Strong as stewards from Total Bastard Airlines to escort the cast off the set was surreal but amusing. 






















  • It was a blast seeing Jane Curtin back at the Weekend Update desk, paired up with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Curtin has twice the skill behind that desk than Colin Jost and Michael Che combined. And she got one of the best lines of the night. 


































  • Martin Short and Beyonce (really Maya Rudolph) introducing performances of classic music comedy bits was hit or miss but it was worth it just to get to Bill Murray as Nick the Lounge Singer singing the love theme from Jaws. Bill's still got it! 
















  • Jerry Seinfeld's Q&A with the "audience" was pretty good. And thanks to an appearance by Dakota Johnson, we got in an obligatory Fifty Shades joke. (I'm sure there'll be more when Dakota returns to host SNL on February 28th).  
  • Specials like these have to acknowledge those who have left us with a memoriam segment and SNL's 40th anniversary special was no different. But it was very nice to see not just the cast members but also acknowledgement of the behind the scenes crew members as well. And there was still room for some irreverence as Jon Lovitz was included (Jon Lovitz, alive and sitting in the audience, is still not amused) and Bill Murray's addendum at the end, reminding us that Generalissimo Franco of Spain is still dead.  
  • Wayne's World returns where it began, as the last sketch of the night. (It's true: the very first Wayne's World sketch was a 10 to 1 piece.) It was great to see Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey together again. And Meyers and Carvey doing impressions of Lorne Michaels (or was it Dr. Evil?) was amusing. 
And some of the stuff that was not good, just off or both: 
  • Eddie Murphy came back for that? After all that build up Chris Rock gave him and all Eddie can do is say some platitudes about SNL for about 20 seconds and go? 
  • In the montage of Weekend Update anchors over the past 40 years, where was Cecily Strong? Charles Rocket and Brad Hall made the cut. Where the hell was Cecily?  
  • The odd appearance of people just to introduce other people: Candice Bergen and Christopher Walken just introduced Miley Cyrus and Kanye West respectively. 
  • The actor tributes to classic characters created by actors now dead seemed...wrong somehow. Emma Stone did a spot on Rosanne Roseannadanna but I think I would have rather seen a film clip of the wonderful Gilda Radner instead.
  • There seemed to be a lot more glitches and miscues in this one special than in an entire season of the regular season. Of course this special was almost as long as a regular season so... 
The music segments of the show were a mixed bag. 
  • Paul McCartney's Maybe I Amazed has always been one of my favorites written by Macca but I didn't enjoy this performance at all. Sorry, Paul's voice, your best days are clearly behind you. 
  • Miley Cyrus actually elevated herself beyond punchline twerker and did a surprisingly very solid rendition of Paul Simon's 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. 
  • Kanye West opened his segment lying flat on the stage while rapping into a mike suspended above him. Apparently, as someone noted on Twitter, Kanye was held down by the weight of his own ego. Things get weirder when Vic Mensa, Sia and SIa's wig joined Kanye on stage. Oddly enough, I gotta give props to Kanye for doing something different. But it was still Kanye and his ego trying to upstage SNL at its own party so I'm gonna take those props away. (They should go to Beyonce anyway.) 
  • Paul Simon closed the show with a very touching and soulful take on Still Crazy After All These Years, a most appropriate show to close out SNL's look back on 40 years. Paul's voice isn't much better than the other Paul's but Paul Simon wasn't trying to pretend to be a rock star at an advanced age. Indeed, Paul Simon's voice gave the song an added poignancy. It was a number that also gave the SNL band, composed of current and former members, a real chance to shine as well. 
So that was the SNL 40th Anniversary Special. Overlong but still overstuffed. Much like any given regular episode, some things worked well and others didn't. For the most part, it was an enjoyable look back at a TV show that has been off and on a part of my formative youth and much of my adult life. Thank you and a job well done to Lorne Michaels and all the cast, guests and crew who make SNL happen. 











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Today is President's Day here in the USA. For a post on that topic, check out my run down of US Presidents that I wrote last year. 

Tomorrow is another day and another post. Until then, remember to be good to one another. For now, I am outta here! 

Dave-El
I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You  

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