Sunday, May 9, 2010

Classic, Must-See TV--SNL, for a change

Did anyone else watch Saturday Night Live last night? It sparkled throughout the 90 minute show--which has not happened for many years. Viewers picked the host through a Facebook petition, NBC complied with the results, and veteran comic Betty White did not disappoint. Her delivery and comic timing were superb, and the writing seemed several cuts above the usual. It did not hurt to have former stellar cast members back for the show, including Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon. In one bit, comic-master White led Gasteyer and Shannon through a "Muffin" routine on a take off of an NPR high-brow, food appreciation show, "Delicious Dish," that recalled the Alec Baldwin classic "Schwetty Balls" routine. But, this was just one of many wonderful sketches.

Ms. White appeared in just about every bit throughout the show, and was her sweet, modest, charming, sassy, salty, sexy, and often outrageous self, and she always seemed to know how to get the best out of the material--she homered on whatever pitch they threw at her, often donning outrageous wigs and clothing to put across the scene.

SNL has become a show hosted by the flavor or the flame of the week--often taking a future one-hit wonder pushing a recent movie, CD, or TV hit, who has not shown much talent beyond the confines of the hit. Thus, the show often peaks during the introductory, "live from New York" bit, and maybe has one more routine that's decent, plus a few lines from "Weekend Update."

But tonight was very different, and it showed what the show once was and could be--masters of comedy at work, backed by crisp comic writing, and supported by a great musical guest who clearly respects the guest host. Betty White, the returning and current cast members, and Jay-Z put on a great show tonight, and it was extraordinary to see them at the top of their game. This is what TV can be, and what it rarely is today--a classic album of funny routines, worth watching in its entirety, rather than in bits and pieces for those with short-attention span, on the Hulu/You Tube-laden web.

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