SNL 40 Year Anniversary:
You Can’t Go Home Again
By L. Stewart Marsden
One of the first sketches I remember of Saturday Night Live was a filmed bit Eddie Murphy did of an inmate who had been “discovered” by the art community. “Cil My Landlord,” I believe was the title of the sketch.
It was that perfect mix of satire and contemporary news – of the art community gravitating to the expressions of an incarcerated criminal – celebrating the creative genius of the riff-raff, and patting themselves on the back for their (the art community) sensitivity.
Cil, my landlord.
There’s something about new and breaking-the-mold events that are nearly impossible to recreate.
Star Wars. Jaws. Jurassic Park. Apple MacIntosh. A Chorus Line.
It’s difficult to repeat the same kind of response. The impact. So new. So different. So much beyond and outside the lines.
So, too, SNL.
If you could capture the moment and bottle it – the first “Live, it’s Saturday Night!” – and bottle it, it would have been like the Fountain of Youth; the elixir that would change the world.
The timing, the risk, the veritable uniqueness of the show was a one-time event.
And try as he might, the great Lorne Michaels could not duplicate the atom-smashing moment, and has not throughout the years.
Like so many other attempts: That Was the Week That Was; Hee-Haw; Laugh-In.
The 40th anniversary of SNL simply reminded me of how much time has elapsed. Forty damn years! Most of the stalwarts of the show have either died or gone to Hollywood to star in SNL-type movies – none of which I spent good money to see on the big screen, but waited to see on television. Netflix fare.
There are those I miss: Gilda Radner; the creative Eddie Murphy; the thinner, prat-falling Chevy Chase. Of course, John Belushi.
Now, SNL seems to be the bush league training ground for those who aim for bigger and better, even though bigger and better is relative. Their time at SNL seemingly unappreciated.
Today the humor is strained, at best. Actually, it’s unfair of me to assess it, because I no longer stay up for the show. Most of the times it’s reruns anyway.
The celebration of forty years on television was more of a statement of refusal to die than successful living. Somewhat pathetic. What once was unique and fresh is strained and filled with undo effort, like trying to pass a kidney stone, or correct an impacted bowel.
Tonight the celebratory three-hour telecast was more like a wake without the whiskey. There were laughs, of course, but they tended to be – at least for me – at the first few years. When SNL was new. When no one knew if it would extend beyond its first contract year. When Loren Michaels had something to prove and nothing to lose.
Tonight was almost like a Mad Magazine parody of SNL. All of the famous faces. Some of the funny snippets of sketches. And why the hell put Miley Cyrus as the featured artist, for god’s sake?
It was NBC’s vain attempt to mask the Brian Williams fiasco – even though several people – thank you Jim Carey – asked where Brian was. It was also the night when most sports fans were watching the NBA All-Star game (except me). It was the weekend when winter weather was the prevailing news.
Did you hear the thud?
Alas and alack, the 40th Anniversary of SNL did not live up to the 2-hour hype. Some moments, of course. But mostly, blah.
I wonder what the audience for the broadcast was?
After all, we’ve got the three-hour Oscars coming up. Oh, joy.
Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 15 February, 2015