Sunday, May 08, 2011

TV: The show that keeps getting worse

Watching the season finale* of Saturday Night Live last night drove home that not only was America's sourheart Tina Fey the new Clara Peller and Ellen Albertini Dow long after they had worn out their welcome but so was the program itself.


In what was supposed to be a comedic skit, you had various 'actors' dressed up as various Republicans to 'spoof' last week's debate apparently just so Tina could yet again trot out her tired Sarah Palin 'impression.' Since that was the whole point of the skit, other things didn't matter -- pesky things, minor points, what most call "facts."

In that skit, unironically, they mocked Fox News for being less than factual. Last week, the GOP held a presidential debate and the participants were: Herman Cain, Gary Johnson, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum. Should be some jokes in that, right?

Well maybe to spoof a debate, you need to have first watched the debate?

Nothing in the SNL skit indicated they had.

For example, Sarah Palin wasn't present for the debate but was the focal point of the skit. Herman Cain, Gary Johnson, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul were present for the debate but not represented in the skit. Instead, the participants were Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Jimmy McMillan and, as already noted, Palin.

This was so embarrassing it was not unlike the attempts by Fox News to do a comedy show. We always knew that 2007's The 1/2 Hour News Hour would fail because we knew Fox News would play it one-sided to advance partisan dogma and not laughs.

Under Seth Meyer's 'leadership' as head writer, that's exactly what's happened to Saturday Night Live and we think it's past time that complaints started being filed with the FCC (go for "unlawful or illegal advertising"). For 90 minutes, between commercials, NBC used the public airwaves to uplift and promote the Democratic Party while sliming the Republican Party.

The debate skit ended with, "In closing, we'd like to congratulate Barack Obama on his re-election." Waiting for the skit that rips Barack apart the way Michelle Bachman -- who is not running for president -- was?

Keep waiting.

Despite being a public figure for many years now, Barack's never gotten the Saturday Night Live treatment. It's why past SNL alumni consider the last two years the worst of Saturday Night Live. Seth & company have pulled the punches, have repeatedly refused to take on the powerful and turned the show that was the class clown into the teacher's pet.

For the worst episode of the worst season of the show, it was fitting that the highly limited Tina was the host. Tina, high on herself as always, decided that what the world needed now was non-stop pregnancy jokes. SNL's core audience really isn't into pregnancy. They tried to pretend it was a mother's day special.

A mother's day special, it should be noted, that lived to trash actual mothers. Or is no one aware that Palin and Bachmann are mothers? Apparently, they're 'bad mothers.' At least to SNL. And the Bachmann portrayal was sexist and offensive and tired -- indicating that the 37-year-old Seth Meyers needs to be moved on down the road and fresh blood found.

Not every skit tried (and failed) to be topical. There was a bad prom skit that has aired at least three times before -- not with the same group of performers but that bad skit has been recycled over and over. There was a Stefan moment on Weekend Update that wasn't funny. If the actor can't stop laughing before the jokes, Stefan needs to suck on the mothballs with other abandoned characterizations. It's unprofessional and it gets a laugh not because it's a funny skit but because everyone laughs at the performer who can't stop laughing. There was a spoof of a Bravo reality show. There was a birthing class skit.

There weren't really any moments that stood out. An original Not Ready For Prime Timer told us the episode was the worst ever and topped the one Milton Berle hosted in 1979. (And certainly having the band repeatedly applaud Tina during her 'monologue' was as bad as the standing ovation Milton Berle staged for himself in 1979.) Tina Fey was never funny and apparently has even fewer skills than even we thought.

So you were left to notice how painfully unfunny the host and most of the skits were. And you were left to notice the superiority wafting from the show.

You really have to be ignorant to write for Saturday Night Live today and you have to be surpremely stupid to write for the show and feel superior. That was driven home in the cold open which featured Osama bin Laden.

For those who missed it, last Sunday, Barack went on national TV to announce Osama bin Laden's death (see our "TV: Blather"). After the initial blather from the White House, the week was spent offering one 'clarification' after another. For examples, see The Takeaway's "Changing Narrative: The Developing Story of Attack on Bin Laden" (PRI), Robert Booth's "The killing of Osama bin Laden: how the White House changed its story" (The Guardian), Adam Martin's "The Changing Story of the Fight in Bin Laden's Compound" (The Atlantic), The World's "The evolving myth of Bin Laden" (PRI), Tom Cohen's "Administration's intial misstatements raise questions" (CNN), Mark Landler and Mark Mazzetti's "Account Tells of One-Sided Battle in Bin Laden Raid" (New York Times), Josh Gerstein and Charles Hoskinson's "Questions linger after Osama bin Laden raid" (POLITICO), "Journalists Are Grumbling About Chaning Raid Details" (The Atlantic) and Patrick Martin's "Unanswered questions on raid that killed bin Laden" (WSWS). The blather changed throughout the week and the media actually noted that and questioned it.

Saturday Night Live could have had a hilarious commentary on that. But that would mean questioning Barack and to do so would mean Seth's two-incher would never get semi-hard again. So instead of spoofing a White House -- the sort of thing SNL was created to do -- they offered squishy little skits singing the praises of the White House. (Don't get us started on their efforts to enlist the characters from The Little Mermaid into the 'war on terrorism.')

Which brings us back to the cold open. So enamored of the White House is Seth Meyers that he will stick to their original story as opposed to any of the numerous corrections. Which is how you had a 'joke' about a wife being a "human shield" for Osama bin Laden last night, despite the fact that Michael D. Shear (in "White House Corrects Bin Laden Narrative," New York Times) had already reported Tuesday:

White House officials on Tuesday sought to correct the official account of the raid in Pakistan that ended in the killing of Osama bin Laden, saying that the Qaeda leader was not armed and that his wife was not killed. But they added that Bin Laden resisted when confronted during the raid.

The day before that, Elizabeth Flock had made it even more clear in "Updated: Bin Laden's wife not used as human shield" (Washington Post). But there was the lie in the first skit of the night. "Skit" is actually too strong of a word. Skit would imply action. As usual, SNL had no ideas, had no way to shape a laugh or do anything at all. So the 'skit' was a video tape CSPAN was airing of bin Laden's last will and testament -- in other words, another talking head, static shot. To watch today is to be unaware that SNL once embraced physical comedy (see Molly Shannon, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, etc.)

So a dull skit was also fact-free. Could it be any worse?


A girl who is not an adult? Her virginity should be off limits as a joke. Whether she's famous or not doesn't matter. Their weak opening skit was so bad that the only way they could garner laughs was to repeatedly invoke Dakota Fanning's name and ponder whether or not she was a virgin. It was disgusting. If the point was to portray bin Laden as a creepy sexual predator, it should be remembered that bin Laden didn't actually write the skit.

Saturday Night Live is a tired, one-trick pony that either needs an immediate transfusion of new blood or it needs to be taken out back behind the barn and shot. America can't afford to suffer through much more of this.

** Correction added May 10, 2011: It was not the season finale. Sadly, it was not the season finale.
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