Monday, June 06, 2016


Can a variety show succeed in the 21st century?

NBC can think of two reasons why not: Rosie O'Donnell and Neil Patrick Harris.

Both headlined high profile variety flops on NBC.

Both wanted to bring back the variety format.

Or said they did.


Neil actually just appear to want, as we noted last year, to rip-off Joseph Gordon-Levitt's HITRECORD ON TV.

If you don't like the format, don't do the genre.

Rosie O'Donnell loves the format but she bombed in November 2008 because she mistook YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS for political satire.

It's a mistake Lorne Michaels again made last week when MAYA & MARTY debuted on NBC.

The mistake NBC made was letting Lorne Michaels produce to begin with.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE is a struggling staple that's been airing since 1975.  Other than a break in the 80s, Lorne's been responsible the entire time.

Maybe a 71-year-old isn't the best bet for producing a variety show?

He's built up so much ill will over the years and being given THE TONIGHT SHOW and moving it to New York City did not help.

Now he's done his one trick dog and pony show yet again and a smarter network would be easing him out and turning to some of the talent that's been putting on their winter live theater events instead.

Maybe a non-elderly man who wasn't cloistered in Manhattan would've realized last week's skit mocking Melania Trump was crossing a line?

Melania Trump, for those who do not know, is the latest woman unfortunate enough to be married to Donald Trump.

For some reason, she was mocked by Maya Rudolph in a skit whose 'humor' revolved around the fact that Melania has an accent because she was born in Slovenia.

That's progressive humor?

Mocking someone because of their accent?

Turning them into "the other"?

It's amazing how often, on the left, we drop our beliefs if we think it will help us.  It's why so many will quickly traffic in racism (hello, David Brock) or sexism (Keith Olbermann, you are never forgotten) to attempt a takedown 'from the left.'

It was a disgusting moment.

It was also a puzzling one.

If you needed to do political -- and we honestly do not believe a summer variety show needs to -- skit, last week it would have made more sense to do a skit about Hillary Clinton's e-mails since all of her public statements were rebuked by the report from the State Department's Inspector General.

So a skit on that would have at least passed for timely.

Even stranger still, the skit featured Kate McKinnon.

That would be the same McKinnon whose been getting laughs this year and last on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE for her impersonation of candidate Hillary Clinton.

But McKinnon didn't play Hillary.

She just participated in a tasteless skit making fun of the fact that a foreign-born person had an accent.

It was offensive and it wasn't funny -- not even in a so-crudely-offensive-you-laugh-in-shock manner.

The show got off to a very sad start with a stillborn taped skit in which Maya Rudolph was the wife of Tom Hanks' astronaut.

Tom Hanks.

Well, in 1971, the first episode of THE SONNY & CHER COMEDY HOUR featured Jimmy Durante as a guest.

So faded performers appearing on variety shows is nothing new.

But the emphasis on Tom Hanks made the show seem dated from it's opening, as though it were 1998 and Hanks was fresh off the one-two punch of YOU'VE GOT MAIL and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.

There were a few bright spots.

The show closed with Savion Glover and the cast of SHUFFLE ALONG, OR, THE MAKING OF THE MUSICAL SENSATION OF 1921 AND ALL THAT FOLLOWED (Glover choreographed the musical -- and is Tony nominated for that choreography -- awards will be handed out June 12th).

It was a great moment for variety television and the only reason to justify doing the show in NYC -- to provide Broadway casts with a number showcase each week.

The show could use a larger cast.

Despite the fact that Cher's classic character Laverne needed Olivia (Teri Garr), there's no woman other than Maya in the show's cast.  Mikey Day is in the cast and as eager to make an impression now as in his infamous 2011 breast pump fixated character.

Day is comedic gold and he teamed with Maya for the hour's funniest skit -- a re-enactment of letters from a husband and wife during the Civil War.  More skits like that and the hour would have been off to a classic comedic start.

Kenan Thompson is the other cast member.  He was funny as Steve Harvey in a goofy sketch with Martin Short and guest Jimmy Fallon.

And Martin Short was great interviewing Larry David.  Short brought out his classic celebrity interviewer Jiminy Glick for the skit.  Here's hoping it will be a staple of all six episodes because the Jiminy skits have always had a long life on YouTube.

Miley Cyrus did a great job with Leonard Cohen's "I'm Your Man" and then segued into "I'm A Woman" as a duet with Maya.

So the episode had its highs and lows.

The most important thing they need to do is hire some stronger writers.

After that, figuring out how to open the show would be nice.  Maya and Marty were stiff in their opening monologue.

Then they should probably grasp that there's no need for political humor.

First off, more adults watch TV than register to vote.  Second off, when you're 'political sketch' revolves around a foreign accent, you really lack the insight or maturity to handle political comedy.

A little more care with the remaining episodes and MAYA & MARTY could be the strongest variety show since FOX's Emmy winning THE TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW.

A lot more care with the remaining episodes and the variety genre just might be back.

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