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SNL starts this weekend

Discussion in 'Other Sports' started by Old School, Oct 3, 2002.

  1. Old School

    Old School Member

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    'SNL' is still live and kicking

    By Gary Levin, USA TODAY

    NEW YORK — This weekend, according to tradition, Saturday Night Live will begin its new season with a political sketch, something on the order of President Bush preparing to go to war against Iraq. There's only one problem. As of midweek, executive producer Lorne Michaels still hadn't decided who would play the president, filling the shoes of Will Ferrell.

    Michaels hemmed and hawed over the summer, saying he was reluctant to anoint the obvious successor — Darrell Hammond — because he relies on Hammond for nearly every other political impression, from Bill Clinton and Al Gore to Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft.

    "Darrell's 80% of our political cast," Michaels says. And the choice of who will play Bush "will literally depend on what's written for the political opening."

    But he appears to be reconsidering. Until last weekend, "I didn't think it was going to be me," Hammond says, but then he began hearing cryptic comments from staffers. "I'm trying to stay in the middle. The whole idea of preparing this character I might not play is something I'm pretty used to."

    The decision is critical: The entire merit of 90 minutes' worth of SNL is often judged solely on the basis of a strong political sketch, an amusing Weekend Update, a spot on commercial parody. But the fact that the show, which is kicking off its 28th season Saturday (11:30 p.m. ET/PT, NBC), can create something of an event out of it — Internet chat rooms have been buzzing with speculation and so has the cast — is something of a testament to the show's stature.

    Over the decades, SNL has survived more upheavals and cast changes than any other TV show, and yet it has managed to win a loyal audience and give people a reason to go home early on Saturday nights. Sure, there are complaints: Characters are overused, some hosts are stiff, sketches are too long, commercials are unceasing.

    But consider its prowess at reinvention:

    The show has been top of mind since its 25th anniversary rekindled affection with a top-rated prime-time celebration and a watershed comedy event — the seemingly endless 2000 presidential campaign — that added spark and a ratings boost.

    The latest Weekend Update anchor team, Jimmy Fallon and co-head writer Tina Fey, haveparlayed their playful banter into stardom. Fallon released a music and comedy CD in August.

    SNL won an Emmy last month for writing, its first since 1989.

    This Saturday's premiere, the first of 20 new shows this season, stars Matt Damon as host and musical guest Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

    But missing are Ana Gasteyer, who gave birth to a daughter in June, and Ferrell, a utility player who nailed impersonations from Dubya to Alex Trebek but left after seven years to pursue a film career.

    Other performers have left over the past two years — Cheri Oteri, Colin Quinn, Tim Meadows and Molly Shannon — but Ferrell leaves an especially large void because of his ability to seamlessly inhabit many characters.

    "It's a giant loss, because he was built for the show," Michaels says. "Like Phil Hartman, like Dana Carvey, like Dan Aykroyd — their versatility is so remarkable; they are so great in this form. We would've been very happy for Will to stay on another decade."

    The show has never fully recovered from a string of departures nearly a decade ago, when Carvey, Hartman, Mike Myers and Chris Rock bailed, causing a big ratings drop. (A similar plunge followed the original cast's departure in 1980.) And there's some question how the show will weather this latest defection. Breakout stars have been mostly absent in recent years.

    Another concern: A new generation of late-night comedy fans, namely teens, has favored Fox's Mad TV over Saturday Night Live for the last three years. Mad's brand of sex-laced humor and its emphasis on TV and movie parodies seem more suited to teens than SNL's political bent. "Younger kids, when they came to late-night TV, found Mad to be their show," co-creator Adam Small says.

    SNL barely acknowledges its rival, which is taped a month before airtime. But the official spin on its own makeover is that fresh blood is a welcome wake-up call.

    "It's kind of good when the cast changes," says Fallon, who at 28 is as old as the show itself. "I'm going to miss those guys, but you don't want to keep seeing the same people over and over again."

    Two newcomers will join the cast as "featured players," a sort of minor-league role filled from SNL's favored farm system, in which Michaels recruits improv players from the ranks of Chicago's Second City and L.A.'s the Groundlings, stand-up comedians and fresh-scrubbed Harvard grads. Will Forte, an established TV writer (That '70s Show) and Groundlings performer, and Fred Armisen, who worked the stand-up circuit, started work this week.

    Hammond says the cast is more "comfortable" and "consistent" than when he started (along with Ferrell, Oteri, Shannon and Colin Quinn) in the dark days of 1995.

    "We're now in a more favorable light, but before it was 'Saturday Night Dead' wherever you looked," producer Steve Higgins says. One crucial barometer: the scene outside Rockefeller Center's Studio 8-H after the show at 1 a.m. "No one was waiting. The lobby would be empty when we're leaving to go to the party."

    Now, because he is besieged by fans, "it takes Jimmy a half hour to get to his car," Higgins says.

    Even SNL's golden years had their share of misfires. That is obscured by the fact that syndicated reruns (seen several times a day on cable's E! and Comedy Central) have been edited to an hour. "Sometimes people actually see the (entire) old shows, and they realize all the casts have in fact been mortal," Fey says.

    How does she feel about being compared to an illustrious string of Weekend Update anchors, from Chevy Chase to Dennis Miller to the famously fired Norm Macdonald? "Before we started, we were nervous about it. But we decided as long as we're not the worst people at it, we'll be all right."

    James Andrew Miller, co-author of new SNL history Live from New York, says: "The show really has had this amazing ability to reinvent itself and adapt to changing times. It's amazing how every single time there's a cast departure and you think, 'How is this show ever going to survive this?' Lo and behold, someone comes out of the woodwork. But this is a really challenging year, because they've lost Will, and they've lost Ana, and we have to see if they can fill that vacuum."

    The show you'll see this Saturday barely existed three days ago. After a meeting Monday with the week's host and cast to hash out ideas, the writing staff pulled an all-nighter Tuesday, pitching out 40 to 50 sketches competing for the 12 or 13 slots.

    Lately, producers have emphasized recurring character sketches over original material, under the theory that the familiar is more comforting. The cheerleading couple played by Ferrell and Oteri were seen far more frequently than the Coneheads, a sketch that Michaels says was done maybe "five or six" times in the late 1970s but achieved legendary status (and became a movie in 1993).

    The pitch list is whittled down, and after read-throughs on Wednesday, sketches are rewritten, staged for camera positions and rehearsed on camera by Friday night, when Weekend Update also is assembled. After a dress rehearsal at 8 p.m. Saturday, some sketches are cut because the show is too long or because the studio audience doesn't laugh.

    Topical humor is key for Update, which is often revised just before airtime. "You drum up sillier stories when there's nothing going on," says Fey, describing last week's story about a virgin shark giving birth as perfect fodder. ("The shark is lying.")

    But well aware that many viewers head off to bed after their weekly fix of Update, Michaels has in recent years cannily moved the bit, which aired unfailingly at midnight ET/PT for years, 20 minutes or so later in the broadcast.

    Now, writers must conceive material without Ferrell's cheerleader, singing couple Bobbi and Marty or Celebrity Jeopardy! to lean on.

    But they say there's plenty of material even without a presidential election to mine or a terrorist attack to tiptoe around. And Fey, for one, can't wait. "President Bush is starting, like, four wars. He's going for the grand slam of warmongers." Fey sees the looming conflict in Iraq as ripe material, at least "until human lives become involved." Then there's the tanking economy and midterm elections.

    Higgins says the show's political humor is sharper and less "cartoony" than when he started. With Ferrell and Gasteyer gone, "we'll be leaning heavily on Darrell, Horatio (Sanz) and Jimmy."

    Michaels acknowledges that he's worried but says that hasn't changed from any other year.

    "I always look forward to it with dread," he says. "I'm always more consumed with what won't work than what will."

    'SNL' cast of characters

    Rachel Dratch
    Bostonian teen Denise (whose boyfriend Sully is played by Jimmy Fallon)
    Virginia, the creepily amorous wife and “lover” to Professor Klarvin (Will Ferrell)

    Jimmy Fallon
    Nick Burns, Your Company’s Computer Guy
    The online collegiate talk show host Jarrett of "Jarrett’s Room"

    Tina Fey
    Co-anchor of “Weekend Update” along with Jimmy Fallon

    Darrell Hammond
    Performs numerous impersonations, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Ted Koppelt and Sean Connery

    Chris Kattan
    Exotic dancer Mango
    Half-monkey Mr. Peepers
    He and Amy Poehler fight their way through numerous domestic disturbances as a white trash couple who “love each other so hard.”

    Tracy Morgan
    Safari Planet host
    “Dominican Lou.”
    Impressions include Mike Tyson, Star Jones, Della Reese, Busta Rhymes, Maya Angelou and Samuel L. Jackson

    Chris Parnell
    Impressions include Tom Hanks, Eminem and Senator John McCain
    Portrays Sean DeMarco, Dancer wannabe and loser barfly Wayne Bloater


    Amy Pohler
    One-legged dating show contestant

    Maya Rudolph
    Britannica of the pop group Gemini’s Twin
    Megan, Co-host of high school morning talk show “Wake Up Wakefield”
    Impressions include Condoleeza Rice, Halle Berry, Liza Minnelli, Nelly Furtado and Macy Gray

    Horatio Sanz
    Jasper Hahn, political cartoonist for Weekend Update
    Stoner student Gobi on “Jarrett’s Room”
    “Wake Up Wakefield” faculty advisor Mr. Banglian
     
  2. Oski2005

    Oski2005 Contributing Member

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    I'm gonna miss Will, but I'm excited to see new shows again. I hope the new guys can make some solid contributions. Hopefully they'll give more sketches to young guys like Dean Edwards who deos a great impersonation of that guy Sway from MTV, Seth Meyers who is New Jersey's DJ Jonathan Feinstein, and Jeff Richards who plays drunk girl and loser roommate of Jarrett in the Jarrett's Room sketches.

    I know that one of the new guys, Fred Armisen, used to be one of the many members of the Blue Man Group.
     
  3. Old School

    Old School Member

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    I'm gonna miss Will Ferrell big time. SNL's The Best Of Will Ferrell almost brought a tear to my eye last weekend.



    os
     
  4. mav3434

    mav3434 Member

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    I saw Tina Fey walking down the street the other day. She is small, small, small and pale in person. I didn't ask her about the scar.
     
  5. Sonny

    Sonny Contributing Member

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    I am very excited for the new show - I have been watching SNL since I was a baby. My mom said I could tell her the whole cast when I was only 2yrs old. Gilda Wadna, Shevy Shase, Sheve Mawtin :D

    One of my favorite shows of all time. Too bad about Will, best of luck to his movie career, hope this doesn't backfire for him (like Tim Meadows). Does anyone know if Anna will be back for next season? Does this mean no more Gemini's Twin?


    Mav3434 - Tina is pretty hot, why didn't you say something to her? Was it in New York?
     
  6. Smokey

    Smokey Contributing Member

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    You can't watch SNL with someone without them mentioning "The Scar" :D
     
  7. Sonny

    Sonny Contributing Member

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    Are you talking about the one on Tina's face? That's all I could find about a scar. :confused:
     
    #7 Sonny, Oct 3, 2002
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2002
  8. Smokey

    Smokey Contributing Member

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    Yes, that's the one.
     
  9. Sonny

    Sonny Contributing Member

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    What's so funny/interesting about it though?
     
  10. Mrs. JB

    Mrs. JB Member

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    I think Hammond is fantastic, but there's no way he can do a better job of impersonating Dubya than Will did. That's going to be a tough loss for SNL.

    I am happy to see that Amy Poehler is back. She is one of the most fearless female players that show has ever had. Her one-legged Playmate wannabe character had me laughing for days.
     
  11. Old School

    Old School Member

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    I think it's mentioned a lot because she won't say where and when it came from. The more she won't talk about it the more intrigue it seems to bring.




    os
     
  12. mav3434

    mav3434 Member

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    I don't think she's hot, but but I am strangely attracted to her for some reason anyway. She was wearing kind of strange looking clothes, this wierd denim skirt thingie. She looked like sort of a kind of girl from high school or college who would hang out and and smoke cigarettes while listening to music on her headphones and ignore everybody else.

    Anyway, it was about 8 in the morning and I saw her on the sidewalk outside Pier 59 studios in NYC. I was out jogging so I couldn't really think of a suitable line, and I was kind of sweating and gross . She's the head writer for the show so you have to be on your game you know.
     
  13. Sonny

    Sonny Contributing Member

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    Yeah I farted!!! :D
     
  14. CBrownFanClub

    CBrownFanClub Contributing Member

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    Notice that the women are the ones who brought SNL back from the dead. Other than Ferrell and Hammond -- who are geniuses -- Molly Shannon, Cheri O'Terri and Ana Gasteyer were the ones who busted their asses in every single sketch to make that show good again. I like Chris Kattan, Tim Meadows, Tracy Morgan, etc., but they rode the momentum of those top 5. I don't think a cast of that show -- any co-ed show -- was fueled that much by the women.

    Maya Rudolph is, to me, possibly the most bafflingly skilled SNL player ever. I don't think they really know how to write for yet; she's too subtle. Her Wake Up Wakefield character is a freaking tour-de-force. And Rachel Dratch, too, as Sheldon is more delirious than funny.

    I think Jimmy Fallon sucks for the most part. His best work is as an impressionist, and he damn near ruins every other single sketch he is in when he is not the focus of laughs. It's like freaking sabotage when he is not the one at the center of attention (all the luvah's sketches, the Christopher Walken/Will Ferrell Cowbell sketch, etc.) He always giggles in other people sketches, and his SNL-2K stuff (internet joks and so forth) are sort of lame. When he debuted with his Adam Sandler impression on the first celebrity jeapordy, it was incredible. Since then, its all cute-sy -- like Davy Jones wagging a tambourine.

    Well, actually, that Sully and Denise stuff is good, but the rest is suspect (Jarret's room, etc.). Especially his way-embarassing performace at the borderline embarassing "Concert For New York" last year. Or this year. Whenever it was that he and Paul McCartney embarassed themselves.

    cbfc
     
  15. Surfguy

    Surfguy Contributing Member

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    I don't think Jimmy Fallon ruined any sketches at all when he starts laughing, especially the cowbell sketch, the one when Will Ferrell rides in on a handicap scooter with a tiny cellphone in the clothes store, or the one in the hot tub. I think it makes it even more funny when the sketch characters have such a successful sketch on their hands that even they can't contain their laughter.

    I laugh much harder when I see that. Maybe it's just me...but I enjoy the hell out of it when they can't contain themselves. Now, if they couldn't continue the sketch, then I probably wouldn't enjoy it. But, they always do and....I do.

    I'm laughing right now inside my head at the cowbell sketch all over again.
     
  16. Old School

    Old School Member

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    Here's another article:

    By DAVID BAUDER
    Associated Press


    NEW YORK — A new season, the 28th, dawns on Saturday Night Live this week and, as always, the question is how the pendulum will swing.

    The NBC comedy institution is uniquely elastic in quality. You can chart its health on a graph like the stock market, from glory years to gory years and all sorts of middling seasons in-between.

    Right now, the show is on a high. After a descent into bathroom humor during the mid-1990s, the comedy is now sharp and topical.

    The Saturday Night Live writing staff, largely together for about seven years, returns to work this week with a new Emmy award in hand.

    But the loss of two performers, Ana Gasteyer and Will Ferrell, may herald a challenging year. Ferrell, in particular, was a valuable utility player in the mold of Dan Aykroyd or Phil Hartman.

    Matt Damon is host of Saturday's season-opener, with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Arizona Sen. John McCain on deck the next two weeks.

    ''Is it a transition year from several good years into one of its lulls?'' asked Tom Shales, a television critic for The Washington Post and co-author, with James Andrew Miller, of a just-published oral history of the show, Live From New York.

    He's anxious for the answer, and so is Lorne Michaels, the show's founder and executive producer.

    ''I think it's a big loss,'' Michaels said. ''But the nice part of the show is, having lived through these transitions a lot of times, from the audience's perspective, people are patient with it.''

    Even during the down years, there are still a handful of good shows, he said.

    ''When a cast is at its peak and the writing staff is solid, you get an evenness,'' Michaels said. ''It never goes below a certain level. You never worry that when people are up there they're going to sort of forget why they're funny.''

    During the years that Saturday Night Live is bad — think early '90s or mid-'80s — viewers seem to take it personally, Shales said.

    ''It's like the official satirical television show of the United States,'' he said. ''Therefore, we demand that it be consistently hilarious and clever all the time. That's a lot to ask for. They sure work hard to do it and don't always succeed.''

    Shales and Miller's book is both breezy and illuminating, particularly about the show's formative years. Written with Michaels' blessing, it combines tabloid fodder with insights into the program's creative chemistry.

    SNL was the first network program controlled by baby boomers and has changed with each succeeding generation, Shales said.

    ''The form wasn't completely new but the content was — the attitude, the youthfulness, the point of view,'' he said. ''It put TV into the hands of a generation that had grown up with it. It's a pretty trite thing, but it's true. It hadn't been done before.''

    Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey, the two Weekend Update anchors, are the show's poster children, more so now that Ferrell is gone.

    ''It has its own audience,'' Michaels said. ''People stay with the first half-hour knowing that Update is coming. I think now with many people, the earliest time they go to sleep is after Update, and that's a tribute to Jimmy and Tina.''

    Fallon ''could walk away from the show right now and make two stupid teenage movies a year,'' Shales said. ''He's aiming higher than that, which I think is good. He also knows that he needs at least another year there to hone his craft.''
     
  17. Oski2005

    Oski2005 Contributing Member

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    Tina just got married, so it was for the best that you didin't hit on her, but I don't see the harm in having noticed her and just saying hi, then play it cool and going back to your run like it's no big deal.

    I agree about about Amy Poehler, have you ever seen her on that show undeclared where she played Resident hall advisor that was hitting on the british guy? She's still a member of upright citizen's brigade which Horatio Sanz co-founded. I don't think she's good at impersonations, just watch her try to do Paula Zahn on that one "How do you say, ah yes, show" sketch. She is good at created characters, the one legged girl kills me everytime.

    I liked Jimmy alot when he first came out, but now I don't know how to feel about him. I like what he does on the show, though his Carson Daly isn't very funny, but his standup stuff doesn't seem very good, thank god I didn't buy the cd.

    I don't know if it was the women who brought the show back with the guys riding the coat tails, I know that Shannon anoyed me with her characters though. Mary Catherine Galaghar got old fast and the "I love it! I love it! I love it!" sketches always caused me to change the channel. I think the show was revived with the whole cast overall plus Will Ferrell emerging. I also think that Darrell Hammond's Clinton sketches were a big part of it too.
     
  18. fromobile

    fromobile Contributing Member

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    They need to let Tracy Morgan do George Bush a la chase doing Ford. Maybe that's a terrible idea. Either way, has anyone here noticed that Tracy Morgan is taking over the world? He has had a steady rise in genious/popularity every year since his TV birth. It's not a fast rise...but it is steady. I'm not sure if it will ever stop. I'm hooooooooked!

    I've never been one for Ana Gasteyer. She can be funny, like on the NPR sketches, but she ruins stuff for me most of the time. I'm actually really glad to see her go. Can't help it.

    I dislike Jimmy Fallon, too. He just seems like a watered down Sandler.
     
  19. CriscoKidd

    CriscoKidd Member

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    Haven't really seen new SNL til tonite, but damn, it's like a train-wreck.

    Not funny.
     
  20. Htownhero

    Htownhero Member

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    I'm a huge SNL fan and I'm this close to stalking Sarah Michelle Gellar but tonights show was not very good. From the start it just lacked something, a force to push it along. Parnell's Bush wasn't very good, he had the voice down but his pace was rushed and his 'Bushisms' seemed forced. I remember feeling this way when the Ferrell, Shannon, Oteri cast first started though, so maybe there is hope.

    PS. The Christina "Dirty" video was hillarious, but making fun of that trainwreck always is.
     
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