SNL Marathon Strikes Right but Long Note
February 16, 2014

If you are a fan of late night television, you have to be a fan of Saturday Night Live. And if you are old enough to remember the show's original cast (say, 47 or so), this was a can't miss. NBC celebrated the 40th anniversary of it's signature weekend program Sunday, not only with a three-and-a-half hour prime time special, but with a one-hour red carpet show before that—you know, to give the Today show hosts something to do.

If you missed the pre-show, I would say good for you. Unless you want to see gratuitous shots of Alec Baldwin with his arm around his wife, or Eddie Murphy with his squeeze, there wasn't a whole lot to offer. There were several quick interviews with current and former cast members who weren't allowed to say what they would be doing in the show. There was a nice interview with Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi, but right before the start of the show, Matt Lauer and Al Roker had to stage a segment where Kanye West interrupts them. West would also sing on the show, and continues to get a lot of praise and reward for being such a jackass.

If you wanted to see the older stuff, you got a treat early. The first live sketch of the night was Aykroyd doing his famous 'Bass-O-Matic'. Liquid fish, just put a bass in a blender, and turn it on. And he did. Another thing we remembered, though, is how long some sketches are. Even the ones we think we liked. Will Farrell brought back 'Celebrity Jeopardy' with contestants Sean Connery (played by Mike Myers), Justin Beber (Kate McKinnon), and Tony Bennett (Baldwin). And of course there had to be an appearance by Burt Reynolds (Norm MacDonald). Like most SNL sketches, cut a minute or so off and it would have been better.

If you wanted to see a lot of live sketches (and you think you would have in three plus hours), you would have been disappointed. By my count, there were only four. Fred Armisen, Vanessa Bayer, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, and company all teamed up for 'The Californians' (the only sketches Wiig was ever funny in), and even got cameos from Bradley Cooper, Taylor Swift (that was the best they could do to get her on the show?), original cast member Larraine Newman, Kerry Washington, and Betty White. You had to wait a couple more hours to see Myers and Dana Carvey's 'Wayne's World', which took eight minutes to unveil the top ten things about SNL.

If you were hoping for live musical performances, there were four of those. Two of them would be easy choices, and the other two, not so much. Paul McCartney did Maybe I'm Amazed and Paul Simon closed the show with Still Crazy After All These Years. West and Miley Cyrus were the other performers, with Cyrus for some reason singing Simon's Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover. A couple of strange selections.

If you were looking for all the elements of SNL, they were all there for you. There were clips of political humor, music, sports, the pre-recorded 'films', whether it was a Robert Smigel cartoon or a SNL Digital short, a segment where cast members break up laughing during the sketch (Stefon: You know how they have Blackula, the black Dracula? Well they also have a Jewish Dracula. Seth Meyers: Oh yeah? What's his name? Stefon: Sidney Applebaum).

If you were looking for Weekend Update highlights, they did have them, but that was one segment that seemed to end too quickly. Jane Curtin, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler opened at the desk with guest shots of Emma Stone doing Gilda Radner's Roseanne Roseannadanna, and Melissa McCarthy as Chris Farley's motivational speaker Matt Foley (I'm 35, I'm divorced, and I live in a van down by the river). Edward Norton did a poor impression of Stefon, but Bill Hader (as Stefon) came on to help. We then got to see former Update anchors Kevin Nealon, MacDonald, Meyers, and Colin Quinn, who then introduced Chevy Chase. Chase was the first Update anchor, but some say he was singled out because none of the other original cast members can stand him.

If you were watching to find something odd, there were some moments there, too. Former SNL musical director and David Letterman sidekick Paul Shafer playing piano while Bill Murray sang the 'Love Theme from Jaws.” There was a death montage segment—introduced by Murray, but it was ruined (or turned funny depending on your point of view) when it including Jon Lovitz, then the camera panned to Lovitz in the audience pretending to be outraged. Going into commercials, they would also show pictures of guys like Belushi, Farley, and NBC Executive Dick Ebersol who have all passed on, but did the same thing with Tracy Morgan, who is still alive.

And if you were watching just to see the people, you got to see a lot of them. Many segments were just excuses to introduce people, like Jerry Seinfeld taking 'questions' from the audience (former cast members Ellen Cleghorn and Tim Meadows, and Seinfeld's buddy Larry David who was an SNL writer for one season). Looking at shots of the audience was also fun, because every one in there was part of the show.

Notable absences: Maybe they were there, but I didn't see them. Dennis Miller, Victoria Jackson, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Chris Kattan—just to think of a handful.

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