Category Archives: Back to the Past

An Earlier ‘Late Night’

Q: When is a sitdown a standup? 

A: When Seth Meyers premieres as host of Late Night and takes his act out from behind the “Weekend Update” desk and moves it to center stage. 

Seth Meyers Late NightIt was a much less of an auspicious debut for Late Night with Seth Meyers than Jimmy Fallon’s maiden Tonight Show voyage, even with a visit from Vice President “Crazy” Joe Biden (indeed, maybe the most notable part of the evening came from Amy Poehler, who utilized the opportunity to announce a second season renewal for Comedy Central’s Broad City). However, that it was a low-key evening was not a surprise, it was probably by design. In fact, whereas Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night distinguished itself for being the late night show for millennials, the first one crafted with YouTube and Twitter in mind, this iteration of Late Night might stand out for being something quite the opposite. And if it’s balance that Lorne Michaels’ late night lineup is after, then Meyers’ hour might bring it.

It’s foolhardy to judge the long-term success of a program based off of one show, or the first week of shows, or even the first moth, maybe even the first year. Conan O’Brien famously took some time to adjust, and Meyer’s predecessor Fallon slowly settled into his groove, and even after his promotion he still struggles mightily as an interviewer. So it was both no surprise and no cause for alarm that Meyers’ first outing left much room for improvement. His monologue, something that likewise remains a weak spot in Fallon’s arsenal, felt awkward, unnatural, and Meyers seemed uncomfortable finding his mark on the studio floor instead of behind a newsdesk. Indeed, leading up the premiere, we wondered if Meyers should dispense with the traditional stand-up monologue all together and just do it all from the desk, Daily Show style. However, after seeing what we feel is a beautiful, vibrant studio with distinctive sliding doors in place of curtains, we’re rethinking that sentiment; the setting is right, it’s just the style, subject and delivery that needs some work. More topical, pop-culture and current event setups, less obscure, strange-but-true stories. Similarly, his first desk piece, “Venn Diagrams,” had promise, but quickly lost momentum, and had little to separate itself from a Buzzfeed slideshow. We applaud the concept, but it needs more. Or less, like some cheap, low-concept Late Show segments. But, unfortunately, it was caught between a throwaway sight gag and entertaining, clever wordplay. What it maybe missed most was more of Meyers himself.

Which is where the show might need to go to find its sweet-spot. Meyers’ strength, as opposed to Fallon, is interviewing, is engaging with his guests in a way that’s neither fanboy nor sycophant. It was for precisely that skill that he was considered as a replacement for Regis Philbin on Live!, and it’s that ability he needs to exploit, even if, in the current talk show landscape, traditional interviewing is something that seems to be reserved for Charlie Rose. Perhaps, then, it is not any of Meyers’ Late Night forebears that he should strive to emulate, but Tom Snyder, whose Tomorrow Show was the precursor to Late Night with David Letterman. While we’re far from suggesting that Meyers dispense with the live audience, only interview one guest per show and take up smoking, emphasizing a more straightforward format – interesting, revealing interviews that allow for both Meyers’ and his guest’s personalities to shine through – might make the most sense, might allow Late Night with Seth Meyers to find its own voice. In fact, the new Late Night set itself – a sparse, almost teacher-like desk, and 70s style chairs instead of a plush couch – evokes the feeling of The Dick Cavett Show, another early talker that stressed insightful interviews over bits and punchlines. If Jimmy Fallon is the cutting-edge, high-energy, internet-savvy model at 11:30pm, then Meyers can be the more relaxed, subtler throwback at 12:30pm. He might need to go back, if he wants to stay late.

And, if Meyers focuses on those things, then he can leave the fun stuff to Fred Armisen.

 

 

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Filed under Back to the Past, Must See TV, Reeeeeege, Saturday Night Live, Talkies, Weigh-in

Branch Closing – A Farewell to ‘The Office’

We very clearly remember the moment that we fell for The Office, the NBC stalwart that closes up shop at Dunder Mifflin tonight after nine mostly great seasons. It was the fall of 2005, when The Office was starting to find its legs after a rocky and uneven six episode first season, and we in our first autumn post-college, back at our parents’, and for the first time since we were four-years-old not attending school. We were at our best friend and future roommate’s house, hanging out, maybe barbecuing, maybe drinking a few beers, maybe watching the first season of Lost on DVD, which dominated much of our time (and thoughts) during that period. We knew about the The Office, another blatant attempt to import a UK hit stateside, but missed its brief run earlier that year, as was the case with the aforementioned Lost, as the only shows we watched religiously during our final year of college (and last few months before true adulthood) were The Simpsons and Survivor. We did, however, recall reading that it was an imperfect translation of the original, and the Steve Carell-led vehicle – who was then best known as the other Steve from The Daily Show –  was not likely to resurrect NBC Thursday night Must See TV, let alone make it past Season 2. So with the middling reviews in mind, and the fact that we were unfamiliar with the original Ricky Gervais version, we didn’t go out of our way to watch the show. But that night changed everything.

More: But that was just the beginning…

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Filed under Across the pond, Back to the Past, Brilliance, Dunder Mifflin, this is Pam, Freak Out Control, Good Humor, Is That Still On?, LOST, Must Flee TV, Must See TV

Time to Time Tunnel: A Jumped the Snark Family Tradition

Well, even without the unfortunate connection between the Adventures of Pete & Pete theme song and the once-in-several-lifetimes hurricane that caused so much damage and heartache, the redhead brothers from Wellsville would still be dominating this late October-early November stretch. First, there was “Halloweenie” and, now, we’re once again ready to jump back through the Time Tunnel. Truly, one of our nation’s greatest holidays, and one of our country’s all-time great television shows.

As always, be sure to stock up on your riboflavin. And be safe out there.

T-minus: 35 minutes

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Filed under Back to the Past, Krebstar, Lady Holiday, Snick

Must Flee TV: Managing Expectations – An Uneven Season of ‘The Office’ Comes to the Close

This week we’re looking back on the just completed/completing seasons of NBC’s Thursday night comedies.  Today we check in the senior member of the team, ‘The Office.’ 

For quite some time we were religious with our Office recaps, but then two things happened 1) we were working a paid job more than full-time and 2) the show became, well, inessential.  We hoped to check-in during Steve Carell’s final season, but analyses was few and far between.  But even though we weren’t providing regular reviews, the series was still required viewing.  We might not follow-up the next morning with our thoughts, but we were still going out of our way to watch it Thursday night, as much out of habit as desire.  But this season, with Carell’s Michael Scott off to Colorado, the show became the least appealing, least critical member of the lineup.  Wait til Friday to watch Community?  We’d rather not.  Skip an episode of Parks  and Rec?  No way.  But go a week without watching the latest The Office?  Sure.  View an episode of Robert California’s Dunder Mifflin out-of-order?  Fine.  We just didn’t care that much anymore.

But a funny thing happened at the end of The Office’s eighth season.  We were actually invested.  We almost felt things, things that just nearly came close to approximating the real emotions that the show’s best seasons elicited.  For the first time all year, the series seemed to find its voice.

More: How Andy Bernard got his groove back…

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Filed under Analysis, Back to the Past, Dunder Mifflin, this is Pam, Good Humor, Must Flee TV, Must See TV

THE FUTURE IS (ALMOST) NOW

It’s that (two times) of the year again!  Daylight Savings!  And this time we’re going into the future.  As always, EAT YOUR RIBOFLAVIN!

Remember to change your clocks from normal to awesome!

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Filed under Back to the Past, Krebstar, Lady Holiday

DOUBLE TIME TRAVEL!

Tonight is Daylight Savings, so obviously we’re linking to Pete & Pete‘s seminal “Time Tunnel“, as is our autumn tradition.  However, this year our night of Time Travel is special, because not only is tonight (well, 3am tomorrow morning) is the moment when we set our clocks back, but it’s also the date in 1955 to which Marty McFly travels back.  Yes, on this, the night of time travel, we also celebrate the 56th anniversary of the DeLorean’s arrival in 1955 Hill Valley.  Is it just coincidence that Daylight Savings falls on this very significant day?  Or does this mean that at 3am we’re going to go back more than just an hour?  A day?  A year?  A decade?  Who knows?  Just make sure to hold onto your smart phones.  They might be your only  means of checking this blog when you’re stuck in the past.

(thanks to Lourrine for the tip)

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Filed under Back to the Past, Conspiracy Theory, Freak Out Control, Krebstar, Lady Holiday