Tag Archives: SNL

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

Saturday Night’s All Right For Leaving

Screen shot 2013-05-21 at 6.42.30 PMMuch was made last week about the departure of Saturday Night Live stalwart Bill Hader, and still more was made when word broke just before (or, perhaps, during) last Saturday night’s show that longtime cast member Fred Armisen would be joining Hader in exiting Studio 8H. Add to that the speculation that Jason Sudeikis is a part of the exodus – only a year after show centerpiece Kristen Wiig left the show – and we seem to have a full-fledged panic. Hader, Armisen and Sudeikis – who accrued twenty-eight seasons of combined service on the show – will certainly leave a gaping hole, having portrayed such vital characters as President Obama, Vice President Biden, James Carville, David Patterson, the Devil, and, of course, Stefon. How could the show possibly survive such a great loss of talent, three of their leading men, a trio of go-tos. Losing one, sure, it happens. But all three, plus the farewell of Head Writer Seth Meyers at mid-season? Won’t that just be the end of SNL?

No, no it won’t. Despite some histrionics that seem to point to the opposite sentiment, the show will persist just fine. In fact, this is the circle of life for Saturday Night Live (it’s just Saturday Night Life?). Granted, if Sudeikis does, in fact, join Hader and Armisen, then you would have a more severe than normal bloodletting, but it’s not a lethal loss. The show has always and will always subsist on the infusion of new, exciting, eager talent. This season SNL was without Kristen Wiig, who seemed to have shouldered the load for so many seasons (to the show’s detriment, in our opinion) and it went on unencumbered in her absence, bolstered by noteworthy performances by newcomers Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong, two fantastic young talents who might have not had the chance to breakout if Wiig was still around. And the show has weathered the loss of every great star during its history, with someone waiting in the wings to step up. Chevy Chase leaves after the inaugural season and Bill Murray gets the call. Farley and Sandler leave and we get Will Ferrell. Ferrell leaves but Armisen and Will Forte join the show and Amy Poehler receives more screen time. Every time SNL closes a door it opens a window, a window cracked just wide enough for a talented young sketch comedian to crawl.

And it will be the same with this loss, which should better be classified as a transition than a remaking; it’s certainly nothing as a dramatic as the turnover before Ferrell’s first season. Bobby Moynihan, who had a stellar season with his “Weekend Update” appearances as Drunk Uncle and Anthony Crispino, has already been doing much of the heavy lifting, appearing in cold opens, monologues, parodies, and Update visits, performing as straight man as well as Guy Fieri. He’s certainly more than capable of being the show’s anchor in his sixth season. Likewise of Taran Killam, whose squared-jaw good looks and Baryshnikovian dance moves make him possibly the show’s most valuable not-yet-ready-for-prime-time-player, and who is due for his breakout season. Then you have Kenan Thompson, who has only improved with age, as he shook off his All That trappings and grew into a reliable SNL presence, and Tim Robinson, who had a strong, confident debut season, and Jay Pharoah, who is an incredible mimic but still looking to find his groove, despite getting the nod to play Obama this season. Not to mention the fresh new talent they might recruit to replace the departing cast members. And add to that the terrific female players that we already discussed, and you have a dynamic, hungry, inspired cast ready to make their mark and define their era on SNL. If the show is guilty of anything over its last 38 seasons, it’s of being lazy, relying on the old standbys. With the old guard on its way out, SNL just might not have that luxury next season, and we might be better off for it.

Yes, we had to say goodbye to Stefon, and that was very, very sad. But Stefon had to move on, and so do we. Because there’s another Stefon out there. There always is. We just don’t know him yet.

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Filed under Analysis, Be careful what you wish for, Makes You Think, Saved by the Bell

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

‘Survivor: Caramoan’ – Vanilla Gorilla

Previously on Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites 2 Legit 2 Quit we found out that Corinne has a truly curious and rather unsettling affection (affectation?) for gays. Well, it seems that everyone is letting all their skeletons out of the closet now, as this person who is apparently named Julia has decided she wants to pretend she has some semblance of a personality and reveal something very private and kind of gross.

Survivor Caramoan Julia Peed Herself

TMI, Ju…damn, forgot her name.

Michael is taking the loss of his partner in crime (the crime being losing every Immunity Challenge) BMX Bike Sales Matt surprisingly well. In fact, he’s single and ready to mingle. And he’s in luck! Corinne is more than eager to envelop Michael and keep him close to her bosom, Mama Corinne keeping him safe in this game as long as she can. Good thing she’s been quiet about her love of gays or else someone in her alliance might start to grow suspicious. Way to play it close to the blue bikini top!

In case you’ve missed every episode so far, Former Federal Agent(?) Fillip is in phenomenal shape. The guy is a freak of nature. Unbeatable in anything that emphasizes upper body strength, which, as we know, is every Survivor challenge ever. He’s so strong that he can even beat a physical specimen like John Cochran at arm wrestling. JOHN COCHRAN! A pasty yet sunburnt indoor kid who could serve as Captain America’s “before” photo; someone who is probably half Fillip’s size (which means that if Cochran played basketball at Fill’s gym then he’d be balling against guys four times his size. Wow!). So how could FFAF defeat the Hulk-like Cochran (Hulk-like in so far as he’s probably really good at physics)? Well, he’s got a can’t-lose technique.

Read on: Phil goes over the top, but is he too top heavy?

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Filed under Analysis, Century 21 Reality, Count Bleh, Golden Girls, Tribal Council, What? Too fabulous?, Winterfallen

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

Elliott Ghoul’d: JT Joins the ‘SNL’ Five Timers Club But One Member is Conspicuously Absent

Justin Timberlake made his triumphant return to Studio 8H this past weekend, delivering the episode that it felt like SNL and its fans had been waiting for all season long. The affair marked Timberlake’s fifth turn as host, inducting him into the esteemed “Five Timers Club” that includes such SNL luminaries such as Steve Martin, Paul Simon, Alec Baldwin and Tom Hanks. In fact, it was during Hanks fifth hosting appearance in December of 1990  (and before fifteen of Baldwin’s sixteen hosting turns) when we first learned about the existence of the exclusive club, with a young Conan O’Brien (going by the alias “Sean”) presenting Hanks with his club robe. For the first time in just over twenty-two years we revisited this VIP lounge this past Saturday night, with Timberlake receiving his robe from another O’Brien, SNL writer and 7 Minutes in Heaven star Mike O’Brien. Martin, Simon and Hanks were once again present, as well as fellow club members Chevy Chase and Candice Bergen (and non-club but former cast members Dan Ackroyd and Martin Short). But shockingly absent from the distinguished proceedings was Five Timer Elliott Gould, who helped initiate Hanks back in ’90. Sure, by that time Gould hadn’t hosted for ten years, and hasn’t in the twenty-two since, but once a Five Timer always a Five Timer, right? In fact, Gould was the third host to join the club (behind Buck Henry and Martin), which essentially makes him a charter member. So why then has Gould essentially been excommunicated from Saturday Night Live? Why has someone who was so instrumental and loyal in those early SNL years become a persona non-grata at the Five Timers Club? Was it his role on FriendsA falling out with Don Pardo? Or, perhaps he and his friends stole from Lorne? Most likely, while fellow club members Martin and Baldwin climb higher and higher into the double digits, we’ll never know why Gould has been away for over two decades, whether by banishment or by self-righteous declaration of independence. No matter what though, they can never take away his pool privileges.

Btw, Lindsay Lohan is one hosting appearance away from joining the club. Should she be tapped for that fifth time, expect stricter membership requirements to follow soon after.

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Filed under Flashback!, Good Humor, Hanx, Makes You Think, Saturday Night Live

Parting Shot: 2 Cool

Taco Bell Cool Ranch

 

Cool Ranch Doritos, now that’s what I call a Taco

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Filed under Freak Out Control, Local Flavor, Parting Shot, Saturday Night Live