Sunday, December 03, 2006

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y, Night!

Today's column, inspired by a viewing of the bulk of the new "Saturday Night Live: The Complete First Season" DVD set:

This is not going to be another one of those columns complaining about how "Saturday Night Live" isn't as good as it used to be. Everyone's written that one. I've written it. You've written it (or said it, or thought it). Declaring that the new "SNL" can't compete with the vintage stuff is about as insightful as a treatise on how the Earth revolves around the sun or why Paris Hilton is a blot on civilization.

And, to be honest, I'm starting to wonder if we're being too hard on the current show.

Every few years, I'll run into Lorne Michaels at a press event and badger him about various flaws in the show's operating system. Why does all the material need to be produced in the week of the show when only a small portion is ever topical? Why does almost all of it have to be performed live when some of the most memorable sketches ever were elaborately-produced short films? Hasn't "The Daily Show" made "Weekend Update" irrelevant?

And Lorne, in that implacable Dr. Evil way he has, will calmly explain that this is the way they've always done it, and that the show always has been and always will be uneven. He'll politely excuse himself to be badgered by someone else who wants a "More Cowbell" movie to be produced, and I'll stand around wondering how he can be so smug and oblivious to the show's problems.

Then I watched the bulk of the new DVD set, "SNL: The Complete First Season," and Michael's stubborn reliance on history began to make sense. Because the dawn of the "SNL" golden age was ... not so great.

To read the rest, click here.

5 comments:

J said...

Comedy (especially pacing-wise) doesn't age well.

But last night's show was DOA. While the monologue is always bad, has anyone ever sucked the life out of a show the way Fox did? Some of the pro athletes that have hosted have had more lively delivery. Couldn't they get Sawyer or Hurley or Mr. Eko or -- hell, what are the kids who played Owen on Po5 up to?

And the writing was so bad (other than the Safe*Mart ad, which was smart) I was checking the credits for Aaron Sorkin's name.

SNL: After 31 years, still fun to bash.

Fred App said...

You've got to remember that some of the sketches that seem tame or tired now were cutting-edge at the time. So they may not impress us today, but, then again, neither do the special effects in "Star Wars." The point is not whether 1975 SNL is better than 2006 SNL. The point is that the 1975 SNL was so much better than anything else at the time. You can't say the same about the current version.

sm said...

If nothing else, "SNL: The Complete First Season" makes a very strong argument that, three decades in, it might be time to cut down to 60 minutes. Because once you start going past that, all kinds of badness tends to happen.

But wait, any good sketches generally appear at 12:50, right? Cutting it to an hour wouldn't get rid of the dull ones, it would get rid of those end-of-show "what the hell" sketches. And those are often the best.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Fred, I hear what you're saying, and the good stuff is still really good. But for the most part, we've only seen the good stuff in clip shows or the 30 and 60-minute repackagings of the show that have been on Nick at Nite and Comedy Central and E!. In the original format, the chaff-to-wheat ratio was incredibly high.

Matt said...

The Sale*Mart ad had apparently been cut from every episode since the premiere this season. Don't quite know why, since it was actually funny. The elevator sketch was OK, but didn't have an ending, and I admired the bizarre meta-ness of the "Mountain Man" sketch, even if it, too, didn't have an ending.