Tuesday, May 22, 2018

TV: SNL goes out on a sad and sour note

In 1940, MGM offered DR. KILDARE GOES HOME.  Over the weekend, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE tried the same thing with their former writer Tina Fey.  It was not pretty.

Why was she hosting?

Apparently because she couldn't get any work elsewhere.

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Once upon a time, Tina was a big name -- a name that conjured up the notion of hilarity and a solid future.  That was long ago.  Her most recent film, WHISKEY TANGO FOX TROT, couldn't even make up its shooting budget with ticket sales.  Her film before that did a little bit better, SISTERS made $87 million in ticket sales in north America.  If this were 1985, people would be applauding that box office.  But for a heavily promoted film in 2018, it just underscored that she couldn't connect with a larger audience.  (Most analysis of the film's box office notes that Amy Poehler was the draw.) TV hasn't been any kinder.

30 ROCK is gone (more on that in a minute).  Worse, NBC just axed GREAT NEWS.  That was Tina's big foray into producing.  She was going to sport her comic genius and her business sense.  Well, she tried anyway.  Season one was a disaster in the ratings.  Season two saw her trying to pump up the ratings by appearing on the show.  It didn't help at all.  At one point, season two saw an episode garner only 1.8 million rating.

Well there's Broadway -- where Tina's MEAN GIRLS is currently playing.  Ticket sales started off well but are now sluggish and, in fact, you can easily purchase half-price tickets online because the house is never filled these days.  There's hope that the show will score some major Tony awards and that will help the box office.  But the reality is a tween film favorite doesn't make for a long running Broadway hit.

She's striking out everywhere.  So why not go back to SNL?

All hail the faded glory.

As if to demonstrate just how much in the past her glories are, she trotted out her Sarah Palin impersonation.  Ah, yes, she was riding high back in 2008.  She was going to be the biggest thing in everything.  Only it didn't work out that way.

Riding the social media sharing buzz for her Palin impersonation, her 30 ROCK's season three debuted with 8.7 million viewers -- a record high for the show, one it would never achieve again.  Six episodes later, it was back to the likes of five million because people just didn't watch the show.  The show would continue to run off viewers.  There's a reason Tina needed to become a successful TV producer: No one wanted to watch a show she starred in.

Not many even wanted to watch her return to SNL.  Last year's season finale posted a 5.3 million audience while this season, wrapping up with Fey, was down to 4.5 million.

Isn't the hometown gal supposed to increase ratings?

Maybe if she ever had something to offer.

But she didn't.  As previously noted, she was digging into 2008 to do Sarah Palin.  Why?  Because she's known for so little else on SNL.

She took part in a sketch that fell flat about the royal wedding but at least it used members of the current cast.  She wasn't funny as an attorney in spoof of MORNING JOE.  The MEAN GIRLS sketch was even worse.  She next appears in a skit known as PREDATOR HUNTERS where she poses as a woman named Svetla -- yeah, she trotted that tired gag out yet again.

Then it was time for her to do Sarah Palin.  The sketch started with real enthusiasm but you can feel the audience growing bored as the skit offers nothing.

Next up is a spoof of a mother-daughter talent performance that isn't funny.  Then the final skit -- the one they throw in at the end knowing it might not be funny.  It wasn't.  It was a spoof of Dick Wolf's latest franchise -- CHICAGO IMPROV.  It should have been something.  It was nothing.

Like so much of the episode.

Like so much of the season.

Why did Lorne Michaels return to the show?

We can remember how he trashed what Dick Ebersol had done when Ebersol produced the show.  It wasn't funny, he insisted and relied too heavily on spoofs of TV and too much on celebrities.  For example, he would never -- he insisted -- have put established star Billy Crystal in the cast.


The opening skit didn't have many spots for regular cast members but did include Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro.  And the opening monlogue that followed?  Jerry Seinfeld, Donald Glover, Anne Hathaway, Benedict Cumberbatch . . .

Lorne thought he was more talented and more tasteful than Dick Ebersol.  Lorne kids himself a lot.  Dick Ebersol knew what he was doing and did it on purpose.  Lorne's now aping Dick but won't cop to it.  He has become everything he slammed Dick for.  In the process, SNL has had another lousy season where no real break through characters were created but didn't we get to have a lot of fun with various celebs showing up to do one skit an episode -- playing a character that a cast member actually should have been playing.

There's no point in being in the cast of SNL these days.  If you're Leslie Jones or Kate McKinnon, it doesn't matter that you're talented -- the writers are going to give you the exact same character with a different name because Lorne's not pushing -- not pushing the writers to be funny, not pushing them to be creative, not pushing them to push the envelope.

For the second season in a row, SNL makes the point that there's no reason for it to be on the air anymore.  Tina Fey's return only confirmed that.  At least when Dr. Kildare went home, the community got a medical clinic.

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