Sunday, December 14, 2008

Amy Poehler leaves SNL (Ava and C.I.)

Amy Poehler ended her run on Saturday Night Live last night and, as Jim explained last week, it's been stated we've been less than fair to Amy. So for SNL friends, we'll note Amy made her announcement at the end of Weekend Update.

"This is my last show," she informed and added that "being able to do over 140 shows with my friends and my family has been a dream come true." Not for us, but we had to watch.

The best thing about Amy leaving is she's actually better in film than she is in live sketch comedy. She lacks the ability to portray a wide variety of characters and tended to allow the bulk of her characters to run together. In film, where she'll be expected to play only one character (presumably), she can delve into layers. That's why she walked away with Baby Mama. It's her film. Her character's scheming, lying and, honestly, trashy. But she holds your attention in every scene and you're rooting for her within the first ten minutes. She's demonstrated that in small film roles but she carried Baby Mama. Films not where she's set her sights; she's hoping for prime time TV stardom. That could take place because she is likable (Fey isn't) and that quality is not to be underestimated.

For her last show, Maya Rudolph returned to do a skit with her, Bronx Beat with Betty and Jodi. One of the few characters she's created that's truly different from her usual parade, Betty was a solid sendoff for Poehler.

She also deserves praise for her original Weekend Update work. We stand by our criticism from last season that she was popping her eyes too much and falling back on that to get a laugh when she should have been shading the line. Fortunately, she improved on that last season and managed, last night, to get off a wonderful reading on a joke about KFC employees fired for bathing in the sink where dishes and equipment are washed, "Which makes me wonder: where is this magical, mythical KFC that has dishes?" She received a loud laugh and earned it.

Amy's return to Weekend Update two Saturdays ago is said to have worried Lorne. Why? All sorts of excuses have been offered for the substandard job Seth's been doing including (we love this one), "Well they clap at jokes in LA." Uh-huh, and was SNL taping in Los Angeles? Seth's 'jokes' get applause sometimes. Even loud applause. They rarely get laughs. And were Seth not telegraphing to the audience how cute he thinks he is, would they be tossing out applause? Think about it, they can't muster a laugh but he's begging so they toss him some applause.

Amy's return proved that some Culver City Bus Company wasn't shipping in studio audiences to 30 Rock. The audience laughs when Amy tells a joke.

An SNL friend (who is male) also raised the issue with us of all that women have to put up with on that show. That's true as well. So let's turn to some of the messages that SNL sends to women.

Thus far this season, SNL has had eleven hosts. Can you name them? Can you provide their ages?

1) Micheal Phelps 23 years old

2) James Franco 30 years old

3) Anna Faris 32 years old

4) Anne Hathaway 26 years old

5) Josh Brolin 40 years old

6) Jon Hamm 37 years old

7) Ben Affleck 36 years old

8) Paul Rudd 39 years old

9) Tim McGraw 41 years old

10) John Malkovich 55 years old

11) Hugh Laurie 49 years old

The average age of female hosts was 29 years old.

The average age of male hosts is 39 years old.

That's the environment all the women have to work in and it does send a message to women. And when was the last time a woman of 55 hosted the show?

As a slew of female featured players try desperately to make their mark and move on to the regular cast (Casey's already made her mark and should be a cast member), don't think they're not watching and absorbing these 'lessons,' internalizing them. And don't think the audience isn't doing the same.

Audience? SNL alumni Tina Fey's 30 Rock is being hailed as a 'hit' because for the first time all since this season's debut, an episode didn't lose ratings. Thursday's broadcast had 7.5 million. It, as E! noted, "seemed to benefit from Grey's Anatomy's virtual night off" -- and you can add Supernatural was in repeats as well.

Consider last week the TV equivalent of Alex Rodriquez (June 10, 2001) surrendering short stop position to Cal Ripken Jr. In other words, if NBC can persuade the other networks to all air repeats, they might be able to break even with the faltering show yet.

However, for those of us who have departed Fantasy Island, the most obvious issue regarding the ratings was the surrounding programs. The Office, airing before 30 Rock, brought in 8.8 million viewers while ER, airing after 30 Rock, brought in 8.9 million viewers. Approximately 1.3 million viewers disappeared the minute Tina Fey's annoying show began airing but returned when ER began. For those paying attention, the term is: Union Square.

For years, NBC rewarded its ratings win on Thursday nights by pissing on viewers, forcing them to endure Union Square, Joey, the US version of Coupling, The Single Guy, Boston Common, Fired Up, Madman of the People, Cursed, Inside Schwartz, Leap of Faith, Stark Raving Mad, Four Kings, etc. People like to say remote controls broke up block viewing but, if you ask us, it was 'Must-See-TV'.

How does this apply to Amy? Find us a successful sitcom with a woman in the or a lead and we'll have someone with a best friend. (That Girl's the only exception we can think of.) Tina Fey, for all her yammering about adoring The Mary Tyler Moore Show, either didn't absorb the lesson or is too worried to share much camera time with another woman (which is why Liz and Jack are practically their own little sewing circle). Flounder like Tina (or Kath & Kim) by defining your character solely through male eyes.

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