Saturday Night Live has had its finger on the pulse of this country for 40 years and counting. What other television show or phenomenon is as woven into pop culture and every day water cooler conversation as SNL? Last night's 40th Anniversary Special was chock full of memories and guest appearances, some memorable, some strange and some just noticeable for their absence. It was overall a really nice ode to a fabulously relevant show. Sure, SNL's had it's ups and downs over the years, but like loyal fans, we've stuck it out with them. In return we've had some good laughs and great memories.
Here's my personal take on the highs and lows of the 40th anniversary special:
1. Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake''s monologue rap. I'm a sucker for everything these two do together and since they were both pretty big parts of the history of the show, it felt right to start off this way. Here it is again because it was so great:
2. Steve Martin as opening host. I think Steve is a great representative of SNL's past but is still relevant (and funny) now. Plus he's preserved nicely. I wish they would have stuck with him for the the whole show. And added Alec Baldwin or Tina Fey/Amy Poehler as co-hosts for good measure.
3. Cameos, in a good way. Mary Catherine Gallagher. Debbie Downer. King Tut. Bass-o-Matic. Garrett Morris. Marty & Bobbi Culp. Nick Ocean. The Blues Brothers (with a sub in from John's brother Jim Belushi). G.E. Smith and the SNL band. Wayne and Garth. Jim Carrey's Matthew McConaghey. The 9/11 Tribute. Opera Man. Dana Carvey's Choppin' Broccoli." And to cap it all off: Paul Simon singing "Still Crazy After All These Years." Perfection.
4. Tributes. I loved Emma Stone doing Gilda Radner's Rosanna Rosanna Danna and Melissa McCarthy's ode to Chris Farley's Matt Foley. (But alas, there's a low too: I'm not sure why they needed Ed Norton to play Stefan. Stefan can play Stefan. Which he did. Right after that.)
5. Montages. They did a really bang up job piecing together the footage of sketches and appearances spanning the 40 years. It was the one of most nostalgic parts of the special. There were a lot of montages, in a lot of different categories, but I think that's what we as viewers love to see. It's the stuff that brings back all the fun memories.
6. Weekend Update. It only took them 2 hours but finally -- they gave us a little Tina and Amy and the fabulous Jane Curtin. I wanted it to last longer.
7. Our favorite commercials. Loved seeing "Oops, I crapped my pants" and "Mom Jeans" and "Colon Blow" ads. I wish there had been more. Seriously, NBC - couldn't you have given us one at every real commercial break? There are so many great ones to choose from.
8. Maya Rudolph. Maya's hot shit! Her gig as Beyonce seemed a little random in that spot but she knocked it out of the park. Her version of "Drunk in Love" was magic. Check it out again here (zip along to the 2:40 mark for the best part):
1. The length. Seriously, three and a half hours? Sure, I get that you have 40 years of material to choose from. It couldn't have been an easy task to pick what made it and what didn't. But extended sketches of The Californians and Celebrity Jeopardy are not what the doctor ordered. Those sketches run too long on a normal night. I would have been very satisfied if the show had ended after that first hour, with maybe the Wayne's World and tribute to those who passed added for good measure. They had a lot of segments, special introductions and themed montages that we could have done without to keep this thing reasonable...and something we'd be able to watch again.
2. Who got what roles. Why didn't more speaking or hosting roles go to Will Ferrell, Kristin Wiig, Dana Carvey, Kevin Nealon, Jane Curtin, Dan Akroyd or even Lorne Michaels? These were some of the most successful performers from the show's history and they were relegated to reprising sketches - many of which were not favorite over the years anyway. I personally would to have loved to see more of Will and Kristin and Kevin and Dan and less of Louis CK, Seinfeld, Jack Nicholson and Robert DeNiro, all of whom I love, but just seemed out of place. I also have a beef with only using Christopher Walken to introduce Kanye West. Highway robbery!
3. Eddie Murphy. I'm not sure what's up with Eddie Murphy but he obviously got dragged into participating. It was awkward! And if he's not going to play ball, why'd they have Chris Rock gush about him for 2 precious minutes? NEXT!
4. Peyton Manning. I don't know if it was a scheduling thing or what, but shouldn't the role of representing the athletes in the history of SNL gone to Super Bowl champion QB Tom Brady? Or else Derek Jeter, NYC's hometown hero? I know Peyton is known for being silly, but I do recall a funny digital short Tom Brady did back in the day. (Yes, I admit I'm biased.)
5. Cameos, in a bad way. How the hell did Miley Cyrus get a spot in the opening monologue? And I love her but, Melissa McCarthy? And Kanye in the Wayne's World sketch? What about Sarah Palin in Seinfeld's Q&A with the audience? The bit about Jon Lovitz being dead? And a chat with Michael Douglas? Kerry Washington and Bradley Cooper? I stand confused.
6. The musical performances. You're telling me that Miley Cyrus and Kanye West were the best they could get for the 40 year anniversary? Was it an attempt to lure younger viewers? I hate to see how getting this kind of attention and opportunity is going to do for both of their already over-inflated egos. UGH with a side of UGH. I actually could have done without all the performances except Paul Simon's awesome "Still Crazy After All These Years."
7. Aging. It was sad to see a couple of icons going downhill. What was up with Paul Simon's face? One too many face lifts? Lip injections? Someone please tell me. And Chevy Chase. It was sad to see Chevy like that. There have been rumors for some time about his declining health and I think we saw proof of that last night.
8. No love for the current cast. Sure, Pete Davidson and Leslie Jones got to introduce the audition tapes, but they are literally the two newest members of the cast. How about some love for what one of the best casts SNL has had in years? Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, Jay Pharoah, Beck Bennett, Vanessa Bayer, Bobby Moynihan, Aidy Bryant and Taran Killam are preserving SNL's rep. A group song or intro for those guys would have been a nice promotional piece for the future of the show.
Overall, a great tribute. You and me had a lot of laughs over the past 40 years SNL. Here's to 40 more.