5/9/10

RE: Betty White's SNL episode

Well, first of all, I'd just like to start out by saying...I told you so! All these long years, I've been going on and on and endlessly on about how legitimately funny, "The Golden Girls" was. Most people brushed it off as nostalgia, but a select few of us all these years have known and loved that show and all the actresses therein. Because it's a funny show. Truly and honestly funny. But then...I've gone on about that before. (See prior rant here.)

Betty White's timing and delivery are sharp as they've ever been, even at the age of 88. She is the model for aging well. A true legend, as evidenced by the appearance of so many SNL alumni at last night's show. They all came back to work with Betty.

White was phenomenal. Phenomenal. HOWEVER...


Yes, it's me, you had to know this was coming...I was a little bit disappointed with some of the material they gave her to work with as the evening wore on.

One of Betty's calling cards post-Golden Girls, has been the juxtaposition of cute little old lady doing things you don't expect cute little old ladies to do. In a way, she's moved on to the Sophia roles. (It all started with her part in, "Lake Placid". It was the first time we heard her curse a blue streak, and we couldn't get enough. Because again, seeing a sweet unassuming grandmotherly type swear like a sailor is funny after all. It really is.)

But that's not all that Betty White can do. It never crossed a line for me, I never felt offended. But I do feel like they missed (pun in 3...2....1) a Golden opportunity. They could've done a Golden Girls sketch instead of that crummy digital short. Samberg wasted his opportunity to use one of the living legends of comedy in order to do a worse version of what most of the sketches up to that point in the show had already done. Show White in a surprising scenario. His was a hard core music video. Har Har.

Samberg is very hit or miss for me, not much middle ground. He's a genius or a flop, and that's one of the things that I love about him. He's brave. But last night was a bad night to flop with the short on such an important occasion. I think he may be suffering from what happens to artists everywhere when they do something that everyone loves, which he's done a few times across several digital shorts. (The Mirror, Shy Ronnie, and Chronic-what-cles of Narnia, for example. So good.) Now, he can pretty much do whatever he wants, because he's proven himself trustworthy. But last night's short just seemed like some joke a drunken frat boy (no offense to drunken frat boys everywhere....of course) would've come up with at 3 a.m.

Anyway, back to Betty. It's like some of the cast just threw out the writing process and took the easy road with as much innuendo as possible. I get it, no judgement here. It just got...for lack of a better word, old. And expected. And not the only way to write a joke. Comedians, in my opinion, are like superheroes. Each with special talents and abilities of their own. White, much like her former co-star Bea Arthur, was a master of the slow burn, a champion at not breaking character, and again, the master of timing and delivery. Knowing all of that, I guess my expectations were pretty high.

I miss the days of SNL when it was about half and half with sketches being divided up under a little dirtier and more shocking, with the other half being more innocently clever and plot-driven. For example, I remember Chevy Chase in the early days doing a really controversial (but hilarious) sketch where he was carefully preparing to shoot cocaine, and instead, tried to push cigarettes into his arm. Around that same time, Gilda Radner did her monster-in-the-closet sketch. So SNL has always pushed the envelope and gone into adult territory, and there have also always been the more innocent sketches. I'm not one of those people who pretends like there was ever an innocent time in SNL history. For that matter, try finding finding an innocent time anywhere in the history of comedy. You won't find it.

So it's not that I'm naive. I just find myself wishing they'd work a little bit harder for laughs at least half the time. The immature humor is funny, because we're all immature. But I get tired of it when the entire show is saturated with junior high jokes. Too much of anything is, well, too much.

But not Betty. You could never get too much of her, no matter what the subject matter of the jokes. She was ON all night. Perfect in her delivery, making even the more lame ideas seem amazing. She was absolutely astounding.

The opening monologue was the best of the entire season, if not the best of the last many years. The last sketch with Tina Fey was fun, all the MacGruber promos were funny, and The Lawrence Welk Show always makes me laugh. The best thing about that sketch was that it was the opening, and the uproarious applause when she appeared was just about as happy as it gets. To see a modern crowd appreciate a classic comedian while they still have the chance is a fine, fine thing. Even if it is coming a little bit too late for my taste...

I also did really enjoy the fact that they worked so hard to put Betty in some of their more classic sketches. (Delicious Dish and Sally O'Malley, for example. Delicious Dish didn't make me laugh, but it did make me blush. I had a ball watching Sally and Dottie though!) There was a sense of respectful awe seeping through the screen at all times, even when the writers/cast did miss the mark from time to time. Which, by the way, is certainly understandable. I can't imagine the pressure of having to work with Betty White for crying out loud.

Bottom line? Classic episode with a classic and truly amazing comic actress. I'm not entirely convinced that everyone upped their game enough in the writers room for Betty, but by the same token...how could anyone possibly live up to those standards? The most fun I've had watching all year.

What about you?

1 comment:

  1. You are spot on in this. I found myself knowing she would say something crass rather than clever and just grew to expect it. The Jay Z dedication of "Forever Young" to Betty was perfect. A lot of the sketches made me laugh, even 'She's a lesbian.' But you hit the nail on the head, it could have been more.

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