This is the penultimate entry in our series of posts looking back at the NBC’s Thursday Night comedies. Still to come is a brief review of the ‘Community’ finale (not to be confused with our already published thoughts on the show’s move to Friday nights and the exiling of Dan Harmon), but today we check-in on ’30 Rock.’
30 Rock is a curious case. We’ve contended for years that it often is the funniest show on NBC Thursday nights. That is to say that it contains the most laughs per minute ratio (lpms) of the four programs. However, that has never necessarily been a compliment. In fact – and you might be smelling a “but” coming – that proclamation has frequently preceded our criticism of the show, or, more often, been the central tenet of our negative remarks. For much of the show’s six seasons it’s felt as if Tina Fey’s creation valued the laugh above all else, and sometimes praying at the altar of the almighty chuckle does not pay the dividends one expects.
For the last week we’ve been taking a look at NBC’s Thursday night comedies, but with Kristen Wiig’s sendoff on ‘SNL’ this past weekend we decided to add her departure to the conversation.
It’s not worth going into detail about how the season finale of SNL – and the season as a whole – was middling. The Mick Jagger-hosted episode was a hit-or-miss mixed bag which typifies nearly every episode and every season. As we’ve learned from several seasons of recaps and now over a decade-and-a-half of religious viewing, that’s the show. It will never be too far up or too far down, so just try to enjoy it. What is worth discussing, as all of the internet has been doing for the past two days, is the exit of Kristen Wiig after seven stellar seasons, leaving behind a body of work that positions her as arguably the strongest female cast member of all-time.
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.
No, we’re not talking about the Mighty Ducks 3 (although we kind of wish we were), but rather the upcoming third season of Adult Swim’s Delocated, as today’s search term is “will there be a delocated season 3.” Well, kids, as we reported last month, the answer is YES! Shooting starts this spring and hopefully we’ll see new episodes before the end of the year. But we’re happy to offer you a special exclusive behind the scenes look inside the Delocated Season 3 writers’ room:
Vodpod videos no longer available.
And more good news: Delocated creator and star Jon Glaser’s new book My Dead Dad was in ZZ Top was released yesterday. The book, a collection of “100% Real,* Never Before Seen Documents from the World of Rock and Roll,” is inspired by one of Glaser’s live bits, the act that gives the book its title. Glaser celebrated the release of the book at Brooklyn’s The Bell House last night with readings from the likes of John Hodgman, Scott Adsit, Paul Rudd and Jon Hamm. Here’s Rudd delivering one of the book’s entries, complete with his best Jay Leno impression:
Do yourself a favor and pick up the book. Makes the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for that special someone.
Back in May we had every intention of compiling a “best of” list for SNL‘s 35th season. However, for one reason, or another, that never happened. So, instead of just abandoning this intention altogether we decided to put together a list for the 2010 calendar year, and then come spring we’ll post revised rankings that only pertain to the 2010-2011 campaign. Sound good? Great. And hopefully this will hold you over until Jim Carrey graces Studio 8H on Saturday night.
1. Jeff Bridges/Cookie Monster Monologue: Obviously we’re completely biased towards this piece, but nothing from the previous 12 months provided us with nearly as much glee. It gave us much the same feeling we imagine Cookie Monster experiences when he devours a particularly delicious cookie.
Two weeks back we talked in-depth about Jon Hamm’s third hosting appearance on Saturday Night Live and how in the third go-round we often see a distinct sense of adventure, how the host is now comfortable with the cast, the cast is at ease with the host, they’re all on the same page and are willing to try something that might be hit or miss, but is often still entertaining in the attempt. We also mentioned that this past weekend would be Scarlett Johansson’s third hosting turn, so it’d be interesting to see if she took the same kind of leap as Hamm, or if she settled into a more predictable role, functional, competent but not exceptionally ambitious or outrageous, more along the lines of Drew Barrymore’sSNL resume. Well, it certainly wasn’t the former, but not so much the latter either. We’re kind of confused actually. Cause, really, more than anything, it seemed like a showcase for Johansson’s hair, her sense of style, her brassy broad persona and her variations on NY-NJ accents.
Last week we hypothesized that the Halloween episode of SNL hosted by Jon Hamm would either be the best of the season or the laziest. Hamm, making his third hosting appearance, has already proven to be a go-to, top-notch host, one that brings out the best in the cast and crew. But, on the other hand, what often happens when the show is blessed with a skilled host is that they relax, relying too much on the host’s charm and natural comedic talents (see: Galifiankis, Zach). However, what we were treated to this week was something in between, and something, in hindsight, typical of a third hosting go ’round. During a debut performance the material can often be safe, figuring out if the host has what it takes, a bit of a feeling out process. If that host succeeds, then when he or she comes back for a second stint the crew is energized, knowing that they have someone who will deliver. You could see that confidence, motivation and excitement in Hamm’s second hosting job last winter. But when a host comes back for the three-peat, the crew is now so comfortable and at ease that they’re willing to taking more chances, throwing more caution to the wind. So what you receive is not mainstream yuks and recurring sketches, or weary, unmotivated punchlines and recurring sketches, but a sense of adventure laced with apathy for the viewer. This is what happens when you have a host who no longer needs to prove himself, who has tenure, which is why so many of Alec Baldwin’s shows are peppered with offbeat sketches, some that delight (like last season’s bizarre “Timecrowave“) and some that crash and burn (like “Arizona Evenings” from the same episode). Judging from this past weekend’s show, it seems that Hamm is now in that class.
First, let’s just get it out of the way and say that Emma Stone, whether or not she had (Easy) A material, was excellent in her first, of hopefully many, SNL hosting gig. Running the gamut from an uninterested sweepstakes winner to Lindsay Lohan to a Ke$ha-like pop-tart to a French hipster to a fixated teen to a hoochie spokesmodel, Stone was pretty flawless. What was written for or around her wasn’t always top-notch, but she was, and we think her debut was even more impressive than that of her BFF Taylor Swift last season, even if that one might have elicited a bigger buzz. Many have compared Stone to Lohan (as happened in the episode itself, and on this blog); let’s hope that she continues on the path of Lohan’s early career, which includes hosting this show many times, BUT then let’s pray that Stone goes left where Lohan turned right, eventually veering totally off the tracks. However, despite her charms, it wasn’t Stone that left us with the greatest impression.
Not that Jane Lynch was sub-par in her first (of hopefully many) outing as host of SNL, quite the contrary, but it’s that, once again, the material failed to live up to the vast talents of the host. It’s confusing, bewildering and frustrating that they keep wasting their resources. Perhaps, as we felt with the Zach Galifianakis show last season, the writing staff is actually less motivated by a talented host; they rely on the host to elevate the material, so what they deliver is second-rate. It’s just a theory, and probably misguided and misinformed, but you also can’t ignore the body of evidence, because, while this week’s show was better than last week, it wasn’t a great improvement. We saw plenty of Jane Lynch (and plenty of wigs), but nothing truly memorable.