Tag Archives: Lorne Michaels

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

A Jumped the Snark Shorty: Dave, Lindsay & Alec

Yesterday we talked about how greatly Dave Letterman is revered, how, despite Leno winning the ratings battle, Letterman has clearly won the Late Night war. Part of his appeal, admittedly,  has been his aloofness, his refusal to play by the rules and pander to either the audience or the guests. His rough edge is what, ironically, has made him endearing for three decades. But there are times, rare but documented, when Dave abandons his cranky side, however briefly  and shows true compassion. It is that sensitive, caring, paternal part of Dave that is the flip side to his default curmudgeon state, the yin to his prickly yang that has made him so beloved and appreciated. And it was precisely that element of Dave that was on display when Lindsay Lohan appeared on The Late Show to, ostensibly, promote her appearances with Charlie Sheen in Scary Movie 5 and on Anger Management. However, with Lindsay due to enter court mandated rehab in May, and with Dave’s history of engaging troubled starlets, including Lohan, Letterman not surprisingly steered the conversation towards off-camera matters, boldly confronting Lohan about her personal problems. It was awkward and sad and kind of hard to watch, and certainly not something you’d see from Jay Leno, but it was also classic Dave. And, despite Lohan’s obvious discomfort you can see that she appreciates Dave’s concern, and, conversely, it is plain that Dave’s concern is genuine.

[full interview here]

You can argue that Dave was wrong to drudge up her personal life – clearly Lohan is not in the right state of mind to address these things on-camera – but despite whatever sensationalist motive Dave might have had, you can’t argue that Dave does not care about Lohan. He’s a lot of things, but disingenuous it not one.

In other late night news, reports are indicating that Alec Baldwin is interested in hosting a late night talk show, potentially taking over the 1:35am slot currently (still, somewhat shockingly) occupied by Last Call with Carson Daly,* and that NBC is likewise interested in continuing their relationship with Baldwin. This show would most likely take on the form of an intimate one-on-one interview, something like a television version of Baldwin’s WNYC podcast Here’s the Thing. It would also be akin to Tom Snyder’s Late Late Show, which we discussed in yesterday’s post. As opposed to the possibility of Seth Meyers taking over for Jimmy Fallon on Late Night,  which we explained might be an ill-advised choice, we think this makes more sense. Baldwin is already in the Lorne Michaels/Broadway Video family, having just finished his career redefining stint on the Michael’s produced 30 Rock and having become the definitive SNL host (non-Justin Timberlake category). He’s arguably as popular as ever, and, as his podcast interview with Billy Joel showed, he can be simultaneously intelligent and well-read while still just feeling like a regular guy from Long Island. It’s that easy-going charisma that would make Baldwin a successful interviewer, and it’s not absurd to think that people would enjoy tuning in to see him chat with other actors, writers, musicians for an hour. In fact, it has so much promise, and is so different from what Jimmy Fallon does, it might actually make for a better companion directly after The Tonight Show, whether under the banner of Late Night or as something entirely new. With Fallon’s show being so frantic, so silly, so irreverent, it might be nice to pair it with something more old-fashioned and slower-paced, even if it’s just a Baldwin hosted show one night a week. And Baldwin can do it as long as he wants, until either he or Lorne is ready to for someone or something else. Worst case scenario, it can’t be as bad as The Chevy Chase Show.

*While this post was being written Deadline reported that Last Call with Carson Daly has been renewed for another (13th!) season, so all those words might have been for naught. Still, this might not affect the Baldwin situation, or, perhaps, indicate that he would, in fact, be considered for the Late Night slot.

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Filed under Analysis, Shorties, Talkies, Yasmine Bleeth

Deja View: Why Seth Meyers Would be the Wrong Choice as ‘Late Night’ Heir

The plot keeps thickening with the NBC late night situation, and it continued today with the buzz  that Lorne Michaels would like to anoint current “Weekend Update” anchor Seth Meyers as successor to Jimmy Fallon on Late Night, just as Meyers followed Fallon behind the Update desk (albeit, with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in the interregnum). However, we think, in this case, Lorne might be making a poor decision.

With sources reporting that Jimmy Fallon will take over The Tonight Show in 2014 it’s only natural to start speculating who will replace him at 12:35am. And, similarly, it’s only natural to start speculating who Lorne Michaels will nominate for that position, as the show is produced his Broadway Video and it was he who plucked Conan O’Brien out of relative obscurity to launch the program in 1993 and who rescued Fallon from near-irrelevance to grab the reins in 2009. So whomever the next tenant of Studio 6B is will probably be chosen by Michaels and will likely come out of his comedy stable. However, while Meyers fits that bill, a longtime writer and cast member on SNL, he might be the wrong guy at the wrong time. He’s just too much in the Fallon mold, and the show would be wise to move in another direction.

More: History should repeat itself, but not exactly…

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Filed under Analysis, Local Flavor, Saturday Night Live, Talkies

Gratuitous Search Term Bait of the Day: Not Lorne Michaels

Today some of you ended up here by searching for the term “lorne michaels,” and it’s no surprise that query directed you to this blog, as rarely an SNL post goes by without a mention the father of the Not Yet Ready For Prime Time Players.  But you already know about Lorne Michaels: creator of SNL, executive producer of Late Night, inspiration for Dr. Evil, point of obsession for Marc Maron, Canadian.  So we tried to find something different, something new, and in doing so came across a sketch titled “Not Lorne Michaels.”  Except, upon watching the sketch, we discovered that Hulu must have posted the wrong clip.  The description says “Tommy Flanagan tricks Rosanna Arquette into her thinking he’s executive producer Lorne Michaels,” but what plays is an introduction from New York Mets pitcher Ron Darling, apologizing to the audience for the Mets’ epic game six victory in the 1986 World Series, an extra-innings affair that preempted SNL and resulted in the episode airing on tape delay two weeks later, new but not live.  This fascinated us for three reasons: 1) we’re colossal Mets fans, and basically worship the 1986 team as if they are demigods, 2) we didn’t know their victory had an effect on something we love with almost as much reverence, and 3) a clip that is titled “Not Lorne Michaels” is also not the right clip.  It’s almost as if Lorne was determined to get the last laugh, refusing to let anyone impersonate him.  Either that or someone at Hulu just totally screwed up.

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Filed under Gratuitous Search Term Bait, Matt Christopher Books, Saturday Night Live

Lindsay Lohan on ‘SNL’: Sobering Saturday

Four days have passed since Lindsay Lohan returned to host Saturday Night Live, and the benefit of time does nothing to portray her performance in any more of a positive light.  Yes, in spite of her wooden, stumbling, at times helpless appearance, the show delivered some of its strongest moments of the season (including Bill Hader reaching new levels of brilliance as both Shephard Smith and James Carville, and an inspired, if somewhat haphazardly placed, “Music of the 70s” commercial parody with a retro-coiffed Jason Sudeikis), but those sketches  don’t negate Lohan’s awkward struggle, her 90-minute death march, and nor has almost a week of reflection.

It wasn’t always this way.  And that’s why this is so sad, so tragic.  There was a time when Lindsay Lohan was a bona fide star, white-hot and electric.  The next big thing while simultaneously being the “it” the girl.  And, yes, she had curves, but she also had talent.  Was she a young Jodie Foster?  Outside of the freckles, no.  But she had something that a young Jodie Foster did not.  Sizzle.  Sparkle.  That special something.

But where does that special something go when it dies?

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Filed under Analysis, Be careful what you wish for, Makes You Think, Saturday Night Live, Yasmine Bleeth

Kieran’s Korner: Another Look at ‘SNL,’ Dana Carvey and “The Best Cast Ever”

Even before we finished our analysis of last weekend’s Dana Carvey hosted ‘Saturday Night Live’ we had no doubt that this particular episode, this particular crossroads, required additional insight.  Perhaps, more than ever, a Kieran’s Korner was needed.  As you know, we consider Kieran our elder statesmen when it comes to ‘SNL’ knowledge and personal experience, our very own living, breathing, sweater vest-wearing ‘Live From New York.’  To some degree, the Carvey years, ’86-’93, were always nostalgia to us; we were practically an infant when Carvey debuted, and thus only began to appreciate his talent towards the end of his tenure, largely because of the runaway success of ‘Wayne’s World.’  Our first time seeing the show live came just after Carvey’s exit, the final seasons of Farley and Sandler, and indeed we didn’t become regular viewers until the great cast turnover of 1995 (and, to be fair, like Kieran, we initially didn’t care for that group funny).  So while the Will Ferrell era was the first cast we became intimately familiar with, watched week in and week out, the Carvey period came during Kieran’s formative years.  We knew then that any effect the last episode had on us, there was a good chance that feeling would only be amplified for Kieran.  So we turned to Kieran for his special brand of wisdom, to discover his reaction considering his similar but much more personal relationship with ’86-’93 .  And, as usual, he obliged.

Speaking of the death of childhood, let me tell you about the flood of negative emotions I experienced watching the first episode of the 21st season of Saturday Night Live.

The date was September 30, 1995 and I was twenty-three years old. Mariel Hemingway was the host. There was an interminable sketch where Will Ferrell yelled at some kids who were, evidently, on a shed. Filmed pieces included a rather pallid spoof commercial for a “morning” beer named AM Ale. Against better judgment, Mark McKinney tried to import his Chicken Lady character from The Kids in the Hall.

I didn’t laugh.

Continue: Kieran’s Korner or: How Kieran Learned to Stop Worrying and Love ’95-’01. And a hindsight look back at Carvey’s auspicious beginnings…

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Filed under Fashion Show at Lunch, Kieran's Korner, Nostalgia Corner, Saturday Night Live

Gratuitious Search Term Bait of the Day: Ladies Night

Over on the wonderful Splitsider it’s “Women in Comedy Week,” so perhaps that’s why today we had the search term “best female cast members in snl history.”  If that’s the case, we welcome those readers.  And if that’s not why you’re here, we’re still thrilled to have you.

What would bring you to this site would most likely be a pair of in-depth SNL posts we’ve presented in previous years.  The first, Lorne Michaels Dismisses Michaela Watkins and Casey Wilson & It Makes Sense: SNL Past, Present and Future, we put together in the fall of 2009 to address concerns of SNL restricting its female constituency.  The second, The Real Women of SNL: They are Fambily; Plus: a Totally Unnecessary Look Back at the History of Female Not Yet Ready for Primetime Players, we posted last November following the SNL compilation special celebrating its female cast members, capitalizing on the momentum begun when Betty White hosted earlier in the year.  We think that both posts are two of our best, most informative pieces, so we’re happy to have the chance to link to them again.  And, for further reading, we recommend The Groundbreaking Women of Sketch Comedy, one of contributions to the aforementioned Women of Comedy Week on Slipsider.

And, of course, we’re going to leave you with an SNL sketch focused on the female contingent.  But instead of looking back on the past greats, let’s look forward to the future of women on SNL:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Filed under Gratuitous Search Term Bait, Saturday Night Live, Yvonne Hudson