Tag Archives: Molly Shannon

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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Glee – “Bad Reputation”

“Bad Reputation”

May 4th, 2010

It’s never good for a show about high school to raise comparisons to Freaks and Geeks, but by choosing “Bad Reputation” as the title for this episode Glee entered into that dangerous territory. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ “Bad Reputation” was the theme song to that show, and it has to be said that there was an element of irony in its use. Deep down, all of the characters on that show cared about their reputations, but what set the show apart was that they cared about them for realistic and dynamic reasons that felt true to life. The show never felt like it needed to sensationalize high school to create conflict, and as a result is one of the best shows of the past decade.

I understand that the “point” of Glee is to sensationalize, but the show can’t have it both ways. The problem with “Bad Reputation” is that it wants to come to saccharine and emotional conclusions but it wants to get there through the sort of bombastic, over the top chaos the show enjoys so much. And while a few of the musical numbers nicely encapsulate the way the characters are feeling, the storylines the episode uses to crystallize and set up those qualities are so far off the mark that I never once believed what was happening on screen.

While the message of the episode seemed to be that people shouldn’t worry so much about their reputations in high school, I think we’re at the point where Glee should be worried about its own reputation as it heads into its second season.

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Pushing Daisies – “Bitter Sweets”

“Bitter Sweets”

November 27th, 2007

While Pushing Daisies has certainly deviated from its formula to some extent in the past, this week’s episode probably represents the largest departure from the show’s mystery of the week structure. Sure, there was still a central mystery, but there were actually two murders and a guest appearance by Molly Shannon, so the basic structure certainly changed this time around.

It wasn’t a bad episode, as there were certainly some charming moments and some continued charm. I enjoyed some of the character beats the episode provided, but it felt a little bit disoriented: the resolution to the murder felt tacked on and meaningless, and Ned’s central struggle was underrepresented within the narrative as a whole. I guess it seems like the series is just marking time until the fall finale in two weeks….until its cliffhanger conclusion, that is.

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Saturday Night Live (May 12th 2007): Molly Shannon & Linkin Park

There is something to be said for the fact that SNL’s host makes a difference each week. The entire concept of having a celebrity host is really a flawed one; it brings in big names, and ratings, but the comedy itself can often falter. When you have someone come in who doesn’t have comic timing, the show basically falls apart. It limits what the writers are able to work with, and it basically handicaps the program. It’s why the show has so many legacy hosts: Christopher Walken and Alec Baldwin each have fantastic comic timing, and the result is that they’ve each hosted numerous times. It’s also why, often, the show likes to bring back former cast members to host after they’ve made it big.

Well, Molly Shannon (IMDB) returning isn’t exactly because she made it big (The movie she’s promoting, Year of the Dog, is still fairly smalltime), but the fact remains that it’s a smart decision from a creative point of view. Well, okay, from a comic point of view, as relying on her past hit characters isn’t exactly “creative”, but the fact remains that Molly Shannon can do what few hosts can: flawlessly interject into sketches without it seeming forced. She can star in one, taking it over completely, and yet effortlessly play a supporting role when it is required of her. But did it result in a good show?

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