Saturday Night Live – “May 8th: Betty White and Jay-Z”

“Betty White and Jay-Z”

May 8th, 2010

I wrote yesterday that I didn’t think that Saturday Night Live could pull of an episode which lived up to the hype surrounding Betty White’s triumphant ascension to the position of host for this week’s penultimate episode of the season, but I’ll admit I underestimated the infectiousness of her personality and the amount of material they would choose to give her (keeping the returning alumni largely sidelined in favour of White). However, I was right in that the show didn’t really have much material for her, relying too heavily on sex jokes, her age (which worked for a while but felt overdone), and the incongruity of an old lady saying dirty/angry things for me to say that they really rose to the occasion.

As a celebration of women on “SNL,” the episode showed that there have been some funny performers from the show’s past who are part of an important legacy of comedy on television; however, as an episode of “SNL,” the episode indicated that they still don’t entirely know how to write for those women in a way which delivers on their potential.

For all of my thoughts on the episode, though, you can check out my complete recap of the show over at HitFix.com, where I run down all of the individual sketches, including the genius of the Digital Short. Here’s a brief introduction to that review, then head over to HitFix for the rest.

Betty White is an extremely funny lady, Jay-Z is a darn engaging performer, and when you start listing off “Saturday Night Live” alumni like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ana Gasteyer, Molly Shannon, Maya Rudolph and Rachel Dratch you can’t help but think back to some pretty darn memorable sketches and characters. In other words, on paper, this has the potential to be one of the strongest episodes of the series in a very long time.

However, the big question I had going into tonight’s episode is whether it will actually be able to properly do justice to this potential: White seems too old to be able to carry a full host’s load, and while bringing in a wheelbarrow full of past cast members allows her to take on fewer sketches it may also crowd out her contribution to the episode. The balance between the internet-appointed host and the likes of Fey and Poehler is not going to be easy, and I don’t know how Betty White fans will respond to Jay-Z as the musical guest.

Ultimately, the most-hyped “SNL” since the 2008 election delivers what it promises: with an absolutely journeywoman-esque performance from White and some energy from the returning cast members, the show turns in one of its most enjoyable episodes in recent memory even if the material never quite feels like it earns the talent who bring it to life.

[For my complete recap of Betty White on SNL, click here.]

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2 Comments

Filed under Saturday Night Live

2 responses to “Saturday Night Live – “May 8th: Betty White and Jay-Z”

  1. brian

    I generally like your writings on the shows I watch but I never liked the reviews of SNL over at HitFix. Imagine my surprise yesterday when I found out it was you writing them. No I never really looked at the name of the person writing the SNL reviews. I’ll play nice though and not slam the reviews.

    On last night I will say I think you need to watch the Delicious Dish sketch again. The crowd absolutely reacted big to it when they realized what it was. They didn’t react to the title itself in the sketch because there wasn’t a huge spot for them to do so and it doesn’t really fit the nature of the skit. Molly Shannon’s Sally O’Malley is her yelling so there is more of a natural point for the crowd to jump in.

    Also, they did film a Debbie Downer sketch that got cut in dress rehearsal. it’s up on Hulu, and it’s ok but nothing spectacular. The first one had the element of being something completely ridiculous and unexpected. Every sketch of it since then has suffered diminishing returns.

    • I don’t think they qualify as reviews – they’re recaps with some opinion thrown in, and aren’t intended as more. That was before, I think, a deficiency, but with Alan Sepinwall writing at HitFix now I think the site’s got both sides of the coin covered.

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