Monday, June 27, 2016

Keepers of the Flame

The Beloved Spouse™ and I watched Saturday Night Live a few weekends ago and were solidly unimpressed with the show. This is where it’s hip and groovy to say, “I remember SNL when it was funny.” I’m not going to do that because
  1. There are still people around (me, for instance) who remember when it debuted and can speak from experience about the caliber of the show over time, and not just from “When I started watching around 1993.” Hold that thought, Junior.
  2. It was always so.
Sturgeon’s Law says, “ninety percent of everything is crap.” Absolutely. Go back to the Golden Age of Anything: TV, movies, music, art, literature, dance, pipe fitting, sun bathing, breast augmentation surgery, you name it. We remember what’s good. The rest falls by the way.

Here are some examples, chosen by picking a year more or less at random. 1950 saw the release of what some consider the greatest film noir: Sunset Boulevard. (When I say “some,” I mean, “me,” though I am not alone in this assessment.) The Oscar for Best Picture went to All About Eve. Below are some of the other timeless gems released in 1950, with their iMDB descriptions:
  • The Flying Saucer. Both the CIA and KGB investigate UFOs in Alaska: friend or foe?
  • Prehistoric Women. Tigri and her stone-age girlfriends hate all men, but realizing they are a necessary evil, capture some for potential (strictly business, no recreation allowed) husbands.
  • Radar Secret Service. G-men track stolen Uranium-238 shipment using new radar technology; they also recruit the girlfriend of a gang member as an informant. Radar helps, but it takes an undercover blonde to really get the goods on criminal masterminds.
  • The Invisible Monster. Evil villain plots to take over the world using an army of invisible soldiers.
  • The Silver Bandit. Tycoon Van Fleet Stooglehammer, owner of the Green Valley silver mine, sends his mild-mannered, milquetoast bookkeeper out to investigate the robberies of his silver-wagons... (Editor’s Note: I swear on the heads of my grandchildren I did not make that up.)
Those are five that people remembered well enough to write even a brief description about, and rated in iMDB. How many others weren’t even that good? How many were so bad the studio didn’t bother to release them?

A few months ago SNL did a sketch about alien abduction. Kate MacKinnon had everyone
on stage breaking up; host Ryan Gosling was in tears. It’s a bit that should go into the 50th anniversary special when the time comes, along with the Killer Bees and Bass-O-Matic and Gumby and “I gotta have more cowbell” and whatever your personal favorite SNL sketch is. What I’m tempted to do sometime is to go back to the 1975 shows—or whichever year you like best—and watch all the sketches, not just the ones we all know and can recite lines from. I dare say that, while some years will have higher peaks, the percentage of gold to quartz is pretty close to the same from year to year.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I haven't watched it in many years. There are so many funnier political commentary shows on now. I think that's is main problem. And also, they never learn their lines and I hate watching them read them.

JD Rhoades said...

Go back and watch some of the original Monty Python shows in their entirety. There are more hits than misses. But that's true of every sketch comedy show. When they did hit, they hit big.

BTW. Mystery Science Theater 3000's take on Radar Secret Service is a scream.

Rick Ollerman said...

I'm with Patti about the cast reading their lines. That turns out to be a big part of what I end up focusing on, especially when, as it frequently does, it screws up the comedic timing of the sketch.

The most consistent highlight through the years has always been the Weekend Update segments. It made people like Chevy Chase and Jane Curtin much funnier than they probably ever were in their sketches. Most of the fake guests didn't do a whole lot for me, though.

But at least it was okay for them to read their lines....