11 February 2005

The Death of Saturday Night Live...

This past Saturday, home in CT where I'd watched hundreds of episodes growing up, I watched what I really and truly believe to be the absolute death knell of Saturday Night Live. I wasn't holding out hope for rebound after years of awful shows, and I had in recent months completely abandoned even giving the show a chance on a given night. So this wasn't news to me. But it happened.

There are a number of problems with SNL that are seemingly ingrained in the culture of the show now- besides the writing, which has been consistently bad for something close to ten years. Without getting too pre-teen about it, SNL has flat-out sold themselves out. The last thing on the mind of anyone involved in that show, it seems, is the quality of the show on a week-to-week basis. SNL as become enamored of itself as a promotional machine/ Saturday event. It counts on you to have company over, drink a little, and put it on in the background. The show withers under a close inspection.

For instance, there is Horatio Sanz. Horatio can be funny- intermittently- but rarely can he carry a sketch. He's the fat silly guy on the show- fine, whatever. What's striking about Sanz though is how little interest, effort, or conviction he puts into his work on one of the famous American institutions on television. Consistently trying to get everyone laughing during a sketch instead of reading their marginally humorous lines, breaking character, doing every part exactly the same to get his castmates to laugh. If it didn't seem wholly calculated to be "cute" or "memorable," I'd wonder why he hadn't been fired yet. But there he is every week, this seemingly slovenly guy, drooling over himself not giving a shit he's on SNL, sabotaging every piece of material he appears in.

Don't break character. It's lazy, it's not funny, and it actively undermines the show you're on, one that's a sinking ship to begin with.

Now, there have been bad hosts in the past- stunt ideas like Joe Montana or Steve Forbes or whatever. It's ok once in a while.

But now it's every week- Johnny Moseley, Al Sharpton, John McCain, Al Gore, Christina Aguilera hosting (but not performing). There seems to be a couple of things at play here- the bowing to some external pressure to allow stars a chance to "promote," the need to make up for bad product by substituting (and praying for) "Oh, I gotta see that- how can Al Sharpton do SNL?"

Well, he can't. SNL as an entity seems convinced there is some value in a guest host- which of course there isn't, unless it's someone that's been good on the show, like Tom Hanks or Alec Baldwin. The hosts invariably bring a show down in pursuit of (one would hope is) the end goal- great sketch comedy. Why they waste their time making an event out of the host over-and-above a star who can actually perform the task is beyond me. Just ridiculous.

Of course, what would seem to be the most insidious bit of stunt casting ever happened this past Saturday, when Paris Hilton hosted and unwittingly killed SNL forever. It was a silent death, really- you didn't hear a goddamn thing from the audience the entire show. I mean nothing.

And I loathe Paris Hilton, but that has nothing to do with it. SNL didn't lower their standards to bring her on as host, they obliterated them, they eliminated any semblance of a level of "caring" about the quality of the show. Mike was screaming at the TV- "SHE'S ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE BECAUSE HER PARENTS ARE FUCKING RICH! THINK ABOUT THAT!" For Paris Hilton to host SNL blows my mind. It really does. But there she was, smiling her bitch smile (I'd call her the "c" word, cos it's what she is, but my Mom reads this blog, and it'd really rev her engines), holding her dog (and in nearly every subsequent skit!), introducing herself, the show, and the musical act.

And it got worse. Every sketch- EVERY sketch- got literally no response. It was like everyone showed up amped to see SNL in person, then realized they got tickets to the show with the worst, most inappropriate host in the show's history. They couldn't even bring themselves to muster a TV-audience-fake-laugh. Just embarassing. Every time Paris would hit a line she was told was a joke, and there was just dead air, she'd get this horrified look, almost like they all held up copies of One Night In Paris to taunt her. It was that bad.

And while I watched in utter disbelief at the lack of laughs, the sheer absurdity of the low quality sketches, and Paris Hilton in almost every one of them, I really thought to myself, "that's it. The show is dead. It can't resurrect itself from this." I don't know what anyone else thought when watching it, maybe "eh, par for the course," but I was considerably more pissed. The show is dead. PARIS HILTON HOSTED! MY GOD!

Also, one more thing- last night on E!, they played the episode hosted by Christina Aguilera, containing one of the more awkward moments in TV history. Here's a step-by-step chronicling:

  • Christina arrives to audience applause. She's wearing a respectable black power suit and hot, long black hair. Looks pretty good.

  • Christina starts on whatever bit she's using to fill time until Fallon interrupts.

  • Fallon interrupts.

  • They talk about her respectable outfit, and how she's usually a little more "revealing."

  • Christina says she ain't gon' change for no Jimmy Fallon, especially with what he says in Weekend Update about her. He claims never to have said anything. She says, "Roll it, Beth," of course hinting that her week of preparation there was so intense, she knows the "roll it" girl's name.

  • They play the funny bit with Fallon saying "Christina Aguilera had to pull out of a recent bit of tour dates due to a bout of acute bronchitis. Actually, at first it was acute, now it's just kind of a-skanky." Really funny stuff. Cut back to Jimmy, who's wincing.

  • Cut to Tina Fey watching backstage with various SNL people, saying she agrees with Christina- she shouldn't have to "whore it up."

  • Tina leaves, and Finesse Mitchell tells Lorne n' the Gang he'll go talk some sense into her.

  • The whole "Lorne doesn't know who that black castmember gag" props up. MUCH funnier with Tracy Morgan.

  • Finesse requests of Christina that she "whore it up," even doing some example dances from her "Dirrty" video.

  • Christina does her "ghetto" body language, suggesting that, in "whoring it up," he means "do you want me to sing a song?" She brushes at her nose like a drunk barfly ready to punch as she says this.

  • Everyone cheers as she grabs a microphone, and inexplicably changes gear to "serious mode" and goes into "Beautiful," her chart-topping single. This is where it gets really awkward and uncomfortable to watch. The gear-changing doesn't go smoothly. Right before she starts though, she clears her throat and gets this momentary look on her face like she's pushing out a crap (or taking something in, nahmean?)

  • Sings the song a cappella. Even does her hand things/ riffs uncontrollably.

  • Song ends, she looks embarassed as crowd claps.

  • Just as she stops the song, she sort of mutters under her breath, "Yea, thanks well, that was on a whim, so... we have a GREAT SHOW tonight..." In other words, she lied about a clearly scripted performance being extemporaneous.


    Good times. Mike couldn't even make it through the whole thing, it was so awkward.

    ______________________________ |


    SNL has had hills and valleys since it's inception, though most of them really depend on the viewer which were high points and low points. For example, I liked the 76-78 seasons, 86-91 seasons, and 00-02 seasons. Granted there were high points in the other seasons(i.e. Eddie Murphy, late 90's Ferrell(I thought he was leaps and bounds better in the 00's), Hartman, etc.) those are the ones that I loved.

    That being said, Paris Hilton just put the final nail on the coffin for SNL. I can't see how they can make another Lazarus-like comeback unless if Lorne Micheals pulls his head out of his ass and realizes what's going on.

    I wholeheartedly agree on the guest host selections. I like that once and a while that there's a sports star or politician mixed in, but here it's EVERY SINGLE FUCKING NIGHT!!! Ugh! Gimmick shows can only go so far!

    And I thought Jimmy Fallon wasted his talent on SNL buying into the bumbling giggling retard niche, and Sanz was crap. I like Meyers but I haven't watched in a while because I'm just disgusted with the show.

    Congratulations Paris Hilton, you just killed SNL. I wonder what else this fucking whore will kill? Hopefully she can do some good and kill reality TV. I don't see the appeal in her. She's a fucking twig with a face that looks like she's always drunk...she probably is always drunk anyway. She's so goddamn ugly but the money and her twig body seem to win over others. I'm surprised she didn't go for plastic surgery yet. Fucking no-talent whorebag....

    Yes, I am pissed...oh yeah and regarding the Aguilera episode, it had one of the best jokes on Weekend Update on there AND Aguilera had a funny impression of one of the Sex in the City girls.

    The joke: "Alex Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees today, after being nearly being traded to the Red Sox. Apparently, the Yankees had something the Red Sox couldn't give him....a boyfriend"

    Okay I shut up now...


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/11/2005 4:21 PM  

    I have it on a pretty decent word that Fallon/ Sanz choreograph those giggling matches. Makes em even more lame.

    The good times at SNL definitely make you more upset about the bad times.

    By Blogger BS Memorial, at 2/11/2005 4:51 PM  

    I'll save SNL...watch me.

    By Blogger Mike Rogan, at 2/11/2005 5:14 PM  

    Dude! Paul Giamatti was on last week and it was a great episode! He was the first host I've seen in years who actually took a peek at his lines beforehand. You seem to admire him as an actor, so I was hoping you'd seeen this episode. But I guess you were off by a week. I practice the "Just don't look" method when it comes to you know who (the host of the show you saw), hoping she'll go away, but there she is on SNL. Terrible. But anyway, in us fashion, I was about to write a thing about SNL on my blahg, but I'll just say what I was going to here (without the filler): I, too, have watched many an episode in my CT home, (I am a month older than the show, and my folks had me hooked at a young age, watching it on tape from the night before on Sunday mornings, while the other families were at church) and, as bad as the show gets at times, what I'll always love about it is that it's indeed live. This is why I listen to a lot of talk/sports radio. There's something reassuring (I guess) about the fact that the people performing are doing it at that moment, and you're seeing it as it happens. I'd rather watch a LIVE SNL with a host who I know will be crappy--like the all time worst, miss dog-holder--than a "previously recorded" one that was pretty good. Or even a classic, because I can always watch it at any time.

    Horatio's schtick is getting kind of old, but he still cracks me pretty consistently up, so I'm still giving him a pass. And I still can root for Seth Myers because he's a Sox fan. We'll see what happens with this show. After 30 years, I gotta give it a few more before I give up.

    By Blogger Jere, at 2/11/2005 10:36 PM  

    Good piece on SNL. However, I disagree with alot of it. Yes, the Paris Hilton episode was one of the worst episodes of the show I have ever seen. Getting Paris Hiton to host SNL is a ratings ploy which I wholeheartedly disagree with. You cannot, however blame the shitty quality of the episode on her entirely. The finger must be firmly pointed at the writing. With better writing the show can be funny with any host. Sure, a great host like Walken or Martin can make the show rise to a higher level, but when a show is abysmal, it is the writing ultimately that is to blame. I'd also like to note that the point of SNL is not solely great sketch comedy. It is the last real network variety show. Sketch, music etc. SNL from its inception had a mix of taped pieces and stand up. It's event tv, that when done right, mixes a number of forms and yes - mainly sketch. To say SNL is dead is just a foolish entertainment magazine gag. The great thing about the show is that it is constantly evolving. People say - oh the first 5 years is when it was good. Bullshit! Hartman, Carvey, Myers, Jackson and Miller might disagree with that. Remember after Sandler and Farley left? SNL was awful. People called it "Saturday Night Dead." But alas, Cheri Oteri, Molly Shannon, and Will Ferrell walked in the door. They are in a period similar right now as the show is on the downslope. Is it dead? No. Is it ailing? Yes. Don't believe me? Well, there's some guy at the Groundlings or Second City right now who is working his ass off to prove you wrong. Hopefully there's some writers out there too.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/12/2005 1:13 AM  

    1. I never blamed the shitty quality of the show on her entirely. I simply pointed out that, as a grand gesture, something like putting her in the host spot of an episode says such volumes about how the creative bodies of the show take no real concern over their responsibility to the show's quality. She was awful, which is to be blamed on whoever let her have a host spot. The sketches were awful, which is to blame on the writers. The performance of the sketches was filled by actors who (in large part) clearly don't even give a shit about making what little they have good anymore. That's the cast's fault. I wouldn't blame the audience there for not laughing, though.

    2. The point of SNL is to ultimately be funny, I would assume. Even though their musical guest selections have been far less adventurous in recent years- whatever. The music's the music. That's a constant. The rest of the show is the substantive part- the comedy. It's just not a variety show. At least, the "variety" isn't what I'm worried/ talking about. It's the complete lack of comedy on a comedy program. You call it "event TV that mixes other forms"- what, outside sketch comedy, would that be, exactly? And whatever it is, why aren't they doing more of it to substitute for the lack of quality in the show.

    3. The declaring SNL "dead" wasn't an attempt at anything but describing how I felt about the show last weekend sitting on my couch. I wouldn't call it foolish considering it's currently in it's longest and worst dry patch, ratings are declining, there's nothing even remotely redeeming about the show anymore, the cast is a total bore, and they respond to the poor quality by NOT revamping the writing staff and letting Paris Hilton host. I mean, you can have hope all you want and are entitled to it. I'd say I've already given the show too many chances. Maybe some miracle comes along and makes it worth watching again- but right now, it's a dead show.

    4. The evolution of the show is not great, inasmuch as it is an evolution from good to awful to decent to brilliant to terrible to brilliant again back to awful and now, the worst it's ever been. Outside of quality, the tone of the show hasn't really evolved in a positive way- it's just gotten a lot safer. I don't see any evolution worth crediting the show with.

    5. I agree the fist five years are overrated, but they beat the pants off anything else in the last ten by a mile. But look! Here comes the 30th Anniversary Party on primetime (not to be confused with the 25th Anniversary one) to bring up all the great times again hoping it'll drum up interest instead of just IMPROVING THE GODDAMNED SHOW!

    6. They are not in a period right now to be classified as a "downslope," which if true, would be even more depressing. My point is, they hit rock bottom a long time ago and have been stangnating there for far too many years. Last week was my final straw- I thought "fuck it, this show doesn't want to be better." I can't say how you can claim it does. Obviously,
    a) Lorne doesn't care, or he'd make big changes.
    b) The producers don't care, or they wouldn't cast Paris Hilton.
    c) The writers don't care, or they'd quit and offer their jobs to talented people.
    d) The cast doesn't care, or else they wouldn't find ways to ram Sanz' fat ass into a sketch to get laughs from the cast's inability to keep it together through these truly awesome gags.
    d) Obviously the audience cares, because I defy you to find someone who enjoys it on any objective level.

    If this show started today, it wouldn't even make it out of the third week. That's the measure you should hold it against, or otherwise, you're doing what they're doing- resting on some increasingly more long-ago laurels.

    By Blogger BS Memorial, at 2/12/2005 1:40 PM  

    The problem with SNL as long as I can remember is that the skits never go anywhere; they're premised on a single joke, and that gag gets run into the ground again and again and again and again. The best sketch-comedy shows understand the power of the narrative -- that the best comedy builds on its jokes as it goes along.

    By Anonymous Culture Snob, at 2/14/2005 3:05 PM  

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