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Thursday, October 17, 2013

The End Of An Error. 2.

I think one of the major problems I've had with "Saturday Night Live" over the years has been the continuing looming presence of Lorne Michaels, the very public and private face of "SNL".
Aside from not thinking much of his taste in comedy, I've felt, and have certainly heard from others, that he has brought an overwhelming tenseness to the entire proceedings over the years.
There was an article in the New York Times recently, entitled "The God of "SNL" Will See You Now.", which sums up that tenseness from many who have worked on the show.
It has been well documented that he is one of those people who will keep a prospective cast applicant waiting in his outer office a good eight hours after his or her scheduled appointment.
If you know me well enough, you'll know that this is the kind of thing that engenders instant dislike in me.
But if Steve Martin, or Alec Baldwin showed up unannounced, they would be ushered right in.
The regular cast members are always treated like underlings, like trained seals, all fighting over whatever fish Lorne might throw at them.
He makes them competitive, fighting to get their own material used on the show that week, at the expense of the others.
Competition doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing, but the end result has mostly not resulted in wonderful work.
So there's a sense that the cast is always scared shitless in this environment.
He also has always maintained a caste system, dividing the cast into Regulars and, on a lesser rung, Featured Players.
You really have to feel bad for the Featured Players, because they know their place, and you know that they don't like their place.
They are basically people who are being "tried out".
And I don't particularly like the Featured Players.
This is a problem that has gone on for over twenty years with me.
Because each group of Featured Players are younger than the last group, some of whom went on to become regulars, and more of whom have simply disappeared from sight.
As a result, I only feel that much older when I see them.
I don't like feeling older when I see anybody.
It's another reason why I have finally owned up to having outgrown this show.
Another thing that Lorne Michaels has insisted on from the very beginning is that the entire show be done with the performers reading their lines off of cue cards.
Some performers do it better than others.
Some don't.
The end result is almost a total lack of spontaneity.
On Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows", everyone knew their lines.
And it always seemed spontaneous.
And sometimes they strayed from the script.
Same thing with Carol Burnett.
The only other shows that I can recall that relied on cue cards were the Bob Hope specials of the 1960's, where Hope relentlessly read off cue cards in sketches, and was terrible at it, and The Dean Martin Show, where everybody except Dean knew their lines, but Dean used cue cards.
But that was part of the joke.
And it worked.
By the end of last season, the only cast member that I had any use for was Bill Hader.
And I thought he was hilarious in everything he did.
Once I started watching the premiere episode this season, and saw the new group of Featured Players, and saw that Bill Hader was gone, I became the camel's back, and that was the straw that broke me.

Next time, I will recall the actual times that the show DID make me laugh out loud.
Since I used the number 14 the last time, I have thought of a handful more.
Until then....

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And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne & Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.

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6 comments:

  1. I mostly agree. I have rarely watched an SNL episode all the way through. Many times I'll just tune in in time for the Weekend Update segment, which often has some very sharp material -- along with, unfortunately, some deadly "character" bits that go on for way too long.

    What kills me is that SNL has some kind of "legendary" status, whereas SCTV was much more consistently funny but seems relatively forgotten. And with a few exceptions, the SCTV crew didn't beat an idea to death.

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  2. Dean Martin also had an underappreciated talent for ad libbing. In fact, he sometimes ad libbed about the cue cards themselves. As you said, part of the joke.

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  3. Mark ,I was wondering if you can ask Michael McKean who worked with you on Laverne & Shirley and was a cast member on SNL which process he liked best.

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  4. 'Laverne & Shirley", he did whatever he wanted. On SNL, he wasn't given much to do. So, what do you think?

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  5. You could be eligible to receive a Apple iPhone 7.

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  6. There is a chance you're eligible to receive a $1,000 Amazon Gift Card.

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About Me

Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at macchus999@aol.com. Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."