‘SNL Backstage’: More Like ‘SNL Backstab’

There’s literally nothing we like more than Saturday Night Live retrospectives.  Okay, well, maybe we like pizza, beer, the Muppets, 1986 Mets retrospectives and maps more.  But really that’s about it.  And it’s close.  Which is why we were so extremely disappointed in last week’s “new” two-hour prime-time special SNL Backstage. We were eager for the broadcast all week, making sure to set our DVRs before heading out to Philadelphia for the weekend.  We were far more excited about it than any regular episode of SNL all season, save for Jim Carrey’s return.  And from those great expectations came a great letdown.

The show was billed as, or so it seemed to us, a look behind the scenes at SNL, which we thought meant going beyond the origin of sketches and past cast changes and instead delving further into the process of the show, bringing us stories and details not found in the previous behind the scenes specials (SNL in the 80s: Lost and Found, SNL in the 90s: Pop Culture Nation, SNL in the 00s: Time and Again). Indeed, judging from the promo, we were going to be treated to some new never heard before insights and, most intriguing to us, a glimpse at how they pull up a live show with so many set and costume changes.  What we thought we’d be getting was a truly illuminating look under the hood of SNL, an expose on all its moving parts.

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But, basically, we were lied to.

The footage of a set being madly assembled in the above clip was essentially the only clip of that nature in the actual special.  And, yes, the interview with Jon Hamm is new.  But, outside of that, they very obviously cobbled together two hours of programming from recycled footage, re-purposing the same exact sound bytes from the previous specials or including unused bits from five year-old interviews.  Clearly, we can tell a young, shaggy Jimmy Fallon from the current, clean-cut, suit and tie Jimmy (James?) Fallon.  The fact that they thought they could trick us into believing that this was a “new” by sticking in a new background is insulting (although, we guess it was smart of them to shoot the interviews in front of a green screen, because now they can recut and reuse the clips for years to come).   On the whole, the entire show probably featured 70% old material, and of the remaining 30%, little of it was illuminating.  Essentially, what they did was take the previous three specials and reorganize the content, arranging the narrative thematically instead of chronologically.  But as far as “revealing their biggest secrets,” this was about the extent of it:

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And this segment with Albert Brooks was fairly interesting, and we think original:

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Including these two clips, Hulu currently offers five excerpts from the show, referred to as “sneak peeks.”  And those are basically the only new parts to the special.  So, if you’ve yet to see the show, do yourself a favor and save an hour 45 min and just watch the five minutes of “sneak peeks” online.

The irony is that if they just reran SNL in the 00s we probably would have watched it and not complained one bit.  We certainly DVR it every time it’s on VH1.

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Filed under Analysis, Be careful what you wish for, Matt Christopher Books, Saturday Night Live, The Roaring 10s!

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