The Larger SNL Issue: An Open Challenge to Lorne Michaels

Aaron's post on SNL's missing content raises for me a more interesting question: when is NBC going to put this show out of its misery. My open question to Team Barrelhouse: do any of you (at least those of you who are younger than say Housley or me) have any idea who Lawrence Welk was? I didn't think so. Unless you were really high and your local PBS station was running a repeat and the remote was broken and the couch was really surprisingly comfortable, the most comfortable couch ever manufactured. Not at all like a futon, more like a luxurious mattress-like couch.

And of course, in this time of satire, this time of great national events dominating the front page, we found time for a sketch (in the first half-hour of the show-where the strong material is supposed to go) about a bandleader who has been dead for 16 years and whose television show has been off the air for 26.

I'm awfully fond of wagers, dares, bets, propositions and open challenges. So here is my open challenge to Lorne Michaels.


I'm just a poor graduate student, but I will put up $1,000 of my own money (editor's note: assuming that my wife is ok with it) earmarked for the charity of Lorne Michaels's choosing, if he can manage to produce an episode of SNL that meets the following conditions:

1) Absolutely no recurring characters.

Memo to Lorne: as none of the current ones are funny anyway, this should not be an issue. Memo to Team Barrelhouse: did you know that the primary motivation for the appearance of recurring characters is the fact that a production company owned by (you guessed it) Lorne Michaels gets the first crack at making said recurring characters into truly idiotic 87-minute films (see Molly Shannon's Superstar!)

2) Not a single suggestion that a sketch is an actual television show, or even a parody television show.

"Mark Walberg Talks to Animals" was almost actually funny, but every time you wheel out the ghost of Don Pardo to voiceover a graphic that actually says "Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals," you are telling the American public that they are stupid.

2A) This is especially true of anything resembling game shows. No one watches game shows, except for SNL writers and Alex Trebek's mother, and the friends and family of the people who are on those special Teen Week episodes of Wheel of Fortune.

3) A host who has some live stage training or comic ability who does NOT have a tie-in film, album or series to promote.

I know that you guys smoked a lot of pot in the seventies, but seriously, isn't there anyone around who remembers how funny it was to have Buck Henry host, precisely because no one outside of Hollywood and New York knew who the hell Buck Henry was until Buck Henry explained it to them?

4) God, we love Daryl Hammond, but one of the things that made Chevy Chase's President Ford (and for that matter, Dan Ackroyd's Jimmy Carter) funny was their awkwardness, their sheer lack of effort at being either impersonation or impression.

4a). Other cast notes: it is not always necessary to have a fat guy.

5) You live in New York. You work in New York. Yet the only time you can manage to have shows that communicate with the times in SNL's history are those strangely awkward anniversary/clip shows that happen every five years, regardless of whether the intervening five years have had any moments worth remembering. So here's a thought straight from Billy Crystal's desk planner: Old Timers' Day. Get 2-3 former cast members to appear on the same show, for the whole show. No walk-ons during the monologue, no crappy Sandler song during Weekend Update. Just use them as auxiliary cast members for the week. Or the month.

Oh, and they can't bring back their own recurring characters either.

I'm done here, except to ask: what would you do (within reason) to save the show? Or has it reached that classic moment where it must be burned in order to be saved?

And as for you Mr. Michaels, my email address is kistulentz at gmail. I'm available for consulting. My sense is that you aren't used to people telling the emperor he has no clothes.


Mike said...

Hey, I know who Lawrence Welk is (was)! Mainly because my grandmother was a huge fan, and so I spent more nights than I would've liked, as a kid, half-watching Welk while half-listening to Grandma tell me about the good (bad) old days.

The problem w/ SNL is just a problem with its very nature: if you start out as a counter-cultural "stick it to the man" kinda operation, you'll eventually find it hard to maintain your street cred as you get bigger and richer and more popular.

Though I'll also say this: not too long ago, I watched the first few seasons of SNL on DVD, and there were a lot of dumb skits back then, too. It's just you don't see those nearly as often, since obviously they're never in those "best of" packages.

Anonymous said...

i do remember a time a few years back when i would be channel surfing and stumble across the Lawrence Welk show and would be awestruck by the unbearable whitenss of it all.

At the same time, Mark Wahlberg talks to animals is a stroke of genius, not just because of the dead-on impression, but also because it basically describes his career.

JP said...

First of all, has anyone used "the unbearable whiteness of being" yet? Because if not, I call dibs.

Secondly, I pretty much only know Lawrence Welk from the classic American Beauty debacle dinner scene.

Thirdly, yes. SNL is a sad shell of its former self. (Even if I agree that its former self only shined in brief intervals.)

However, I'd still turn for Tina Fey. In or out of her Sarah Palin garb.