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Tag Archive: Saturday Night Live


Review by C.J. Bunce

If you had a time machine and your goal was to find someone to give a master class in storytelling–a master class in worldbuilding–and bringing an idea to reality, would there be a better choice than Jim Henson?  Henson will be forever known first for his Sesame Street character Ernie and Muppets Kermit the Frog, Rowlf the Dog, Dr. Teeth, Waldorf, The Swedish Chef, and more.  The Muppet Movie and The Muppet Show are beloved by generations.  He made the unreal seem real, and fantasy as close to reality as we may ever see it.  Yet he was perhaps proudest of the creation of the first full-length, live-action motion picture where the stars were all creatures, The Dark Crystal, yet another of the unforgettable films from 1982 we’re celebrating this year here at borg.com.  The Henson family and The Jim Henson Company have opened their archive and published the remarkable story of the film from idea to the film’s release in The Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History, available this month from Insight Editions.

Writer Caseen Gaines’ new chronicle of The Dark Crystal is not a typical “visual companion.”  The story told in the text provides a most intriguing account of Henson, a behind the scenes look at the man from his family and all those who worked with him, as he talked through the idea for a darker story while delayed on a chance cancelled flight with his daughter, as he cast a team of puppet builders, creative performance artists, artisans, costumers, and concept design artists, as he leveraged the success of The Muppet Movie, and strategically negotiated his way to gain investment dollars to make a film that stands alone in the history of fantasy film.  As daughter Cheryl Henson states in the book, “I don’t think my father ever tried to hide how something was done, because how it’s done is often as interesting as the final product”–and that proves true in The Ultimate Visual History.  She provides a foreword to the book and an introduction is provided by film creators Brian and Wendy Froud.

Gaines includes tipped-in replica memorabilia from the Jim Henson archives, which she integrates into the narrative to illustrate the five years of Henson’s concept to screen process.  Readers gain new appreciation for Henson as we witness his own hand-written notebook pages of ideas for the characters that would transform into the dualism of the Skeksis and Mystics, Brian Froud’s original concept book created to sell the idea to investors, outlines, story treatments, hand-drawn sketches, scene memos, and a concept art pitch book by Froud for a planned sequel.  Photographs document a chronological preparation of characters looking at first nothing like their final on-screen personas and the difficult process of creating the mechanics for each type of character, for Gelflings Jen and Kira, the exiled Skeksis Chamberlain, Jen’s dying Mystic master, a room full of potato-headed Podlings, the wise goddess/prophet Aughra, the majestic Landstriders, the giant beetle-like Garthim, and the cute and toothy fuzzy Fizzgig.  The new fantasy world had its roots in myths and folklore, yet Henson created something singular with all these magicians that was akin to Tolkien’s fantasy realm.

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Here I come to save the day!

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Mighty Mouse, who first appeared in short animated films from Terrytoons for 20th Century Fox throughout the 1940s, including one that was nominated for an Academy Award.  So what better time to bring back the powerful mouse who can protect Pearl Pureheart from Oil Can Harry, and maybe even save us all?  Dynamite Comics is answering the call with a new monthly series beginning today with an initial story arc that deals with bullying.

Mighty Mouse was created by Ralph Bakshi (known also for Fritz the Cat, the animated The Lord of the Rings, and the Kim Basinger flick Cool World) and Paul Terry, whose cartoons with sound beat Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie to cinemas in 1928 (one of the first animators to use cel animation).  Mighty Mouse would appear as part of the Saturday morning cartoon line-up in various versions in each of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.  A rather odd update, the 1980s version would feature a crossover episode with Bakshi’s Mighty Heroes characters, a group of middle-aged lawyers that included a superhero called Diaper Man, and comedian Andy Kaufman would make famous for another generation the Mighty Mouse theme song in a skit for Saturday Night Live in the 1970s.  Marvel Comics produced a 10-issue comic book series in 1990-1991.

        

Today, writer Sholly Fisch and artist Igor Lima are bringing the classic mouse to the 21st century.  It’s a book for kids of all ages–the kind of comic book to introduce young kids to the medium.  A boy is getting bullied in school, and he’s a young artist and fan of the classic Mighty Mouse cartoons.  As he is watching television, a portal across dimensions interferes with his show, and with the characters within the television.  The third wall is breached as a boy meets his hero.

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First Impressions episode 1

By Elizabeth C. Bunce

We recently previewed USA’s First Impressions, starring Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Dana Carvey.  The show premiered this week, and it looks like a winner.  The series pits aspiring comics in an “impression off” to wow an audience of judges and a celebrity guest for a prize of $10,000.  It’s not a competition show, like Last Comic Standing; it’s a game show with new contestants every week.  In fact, it feels a bit like a mashup of Lip Sync Battle and Whose Line is it, Anyway?, with a bit of Hollywood Game Night thrown in.

Three contestants offer up their best celebrity impressions in a variety of bits and sketches, while Carvey and a visiting comedian (Steve Carell in the pilot) cheer them on, offer commentary, and occasionally join in the fun.  Prinze keeps the fun moving as host and emcee.

dana-carvey-steve-carell-first-impressions

We’ve been a bit weary of the competition show format, so it’s always nice to see a fresh, upbeat take, without all the season-long drama, eliminations, and infighting.  First Impressions moves swiftly, giving each contestant plenty of time to showcase their talents.  Contestants on the pilot spoofed both perennial favorites like Al Pacino and Christopher Walken, as well as surprising choices like the hilarious Jennifer Coolidge (Legally Blonde, A Mighty Wind) and Drew Barrymore.  Everyone loves standup comedy, and the impersonators were fun to watch.  But the real draw for the show is Carvey and friends.  Carvey’s energy and enthusiasm are infectious, and the overall tone of the show is welcoming and collaborative, not combative.  At one point, when two contestants had each done impressions of Sharon Osborne, Carvey leaped from his chair and said, “I want to see the Sharons together,” initiating a joint bit where the comics played off each other.  It was a great moment that took this show to another level–not just game show, but comedy workshop.

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Dana Carvey and Freddie Prinz Jr

Of all the stars of Saturday Night Live to spend Saturday nights in our living rooms, few were as beloved as Dana Carvey.  Carvey’s Church Lady and Garth from Wayne’s World became icons of TV comedy.  He had mega-hit films with the two Wayne’s World movies, but you should also check out the comedy classic Opportunity Knocks co-starring Robert Loggia if you missed it.  But the last time we saw Carvey as a TV weekly regular was on the short-lived The Dana Carvey Show back in 1996.

Carvey will be the star of a new competition show beginning next month on USA Network.  More accurately he is the “expert comedy mentor in residence” to amateur impersonators competing with their celebrity impresions in front of Carvey and other comedy guests.  The show will be hosted by actor Freddie Prinze, Jr. son of the late comedian Freddie Prinze.  Comedy guests include Steve Carell, Jay Leno, Kevin Nealon, Yvette Nicole Brown, Tom Arnold, and Jon Lovitz.  Eighteen contestants are slated for the initial run of the show.

Lovitz Carvey

Check out these previews from USA Network for First Impressions:

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Kylo Ren SNL

It’s not very often an actor can promote a character he has portrayed in a way that increases fans’ likeability as Adam Driver may have done on Saturday Night Live this weekend.  It’s also rare a studio will allow an actor to take a major character into a skit on SNL whose future is so key to the franchise.  But those characters aren’t Kylo Ren, the whiny, angry, scrappy, spoiled brat, oh, and evil, villain of the new Star Wars trilogy.

In fact a skit on SNL confirmed that the rumors are true, not that Kylo (we go first name basis here at borg.com) is Rey’s cousin or sister, or that Rey is really A-Rey El, the lost ocean planet Disney princess, but that Kylo is apparently the long-lost brother of Napoleon Dynamite.

Okay, that’s not really what the skit was about (but the comparison can’t be ignored).  It’s about Kylo going incognito on an episode of Undercover Boss, sporting a blonde wig and glasses, to see what his Starkiller Base minions think of him.  It’s hard not to like Kylo, and Adam Driver, much more after watching this skit.  If you hated him in the film, you may just like him, sort of, now.

blonde Kylo Ren

So wait no further if you missed it on SNL, Kylo Ren in Undercover Boss:

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Spade and Farley

Nothing is more infuriating than the untimely deaths of people who make you laugh.  John Belushi.  John Candy.  Phil Hartman.  Robin Williams.  A new documentary by Spike takes a look at another one of these comedic gems, the life and death of the explosive personality that was Chris Farley, one of the funniest comedians to ever hail from that elite squad of comics who made their fame via their work on Saturday Night Live. 

Clips of the comedian’s best work from SNL and movies like Tommy Boy and Coneheads are interspersed with interviews of Farley’s friends and family in I Am Chris Farley, giving us some insight into what made this guy tick, including those who knew him the best: David Spade, Dan Aykroyd, Lorne Michaels, Adam Sandler, Jay Mohr, Bob Odenkirk, Molly Shannon, Tom Arnold, and his brother Kevin.

Farley followed in the footsteps of two of his own idols, Belushi and Candy, dying too early at the age of 33 back in 1997 from a drug overdose.  What can we learn from Farley’s death?  What pressure was Farley under, and how did such a quick rise in fame cause Farley to fall just as fast?  Could anyone have helped him along the way?  Here’s the trailer for the new documentary I Am Chris Farley:

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Tonight Show Family Feud Fallon Steve Harvey

Review by C.J. Bunce

One hundred and twenty episodes in of his first year at the helm of The Tonight Show and somehow we managed to fail to mention Jimmy Fallon’s incredible big year here in our ongoing quest for the best in entertainment.  We’ve watched Fallon since his days on Saturday Night Live and figured we’d give him a try as he took over for Jay Leno.  We gave the same college try to Conan O’Brien when he started out on his TBS gig, but that show quickly fizzled out.  Fallon hit the ground running, taking comedic bits from his Late Night hosting stint and expanding them into the weightier format of the classic king spot of nightly live comedy.  And we haven’t laughed out loud this much in a year in a long time.

Go back and watch David Letterman, Leno or Johnny Carson late show episodes on YouTube and you’ll quickly ask yourself why we thought those guys were so funny.  We’re saying this after years of enjoying the best of The Tonight Show for decades.  Fallon’s sincere, boy-next-door-makes-good, and unapologetic fanboy image was a perfect choice for this show, and his use of social media incorporated into his weekly line-up makes the show potentially appealing to every demographic.

Credit goes to Fallon, of course, but also his great writing staff that comes up with all this fun, as well as The Roots, the complicit house band (probably the coolest band ever to appear on a regular TV gig), and Fallon’s own Ed McMahon, the quick-witted banter partner, Des Moines native Steve Higgins.

Rivers last Tonight Show

Recurring bits include Fallon’s obsession with Canadian politician Rob Ford, New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Vice President Joe Biden, the Eww girl, and a would-be one-time stint dancing bear that became the out-of-breath show mascot Hashtag the Panda.  Fallon’s “Pros and Cons,” “Thank You Notes,” and “Hashtags” are now locked into the national weekly calendar.  Fallon also gets the best A-list celebrities around on his show on a regular basis, and even entices many to play crazy party games and lip sync battles or act in skits like you’d see on the best days of Saturday Night Live.

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Sesame Street at NerdHQ

Nerd HQ offered up a great variety of panels from the best of TV Saturday.  Here are some great panels to check out.  After four years of 45 minute panels offered just yards from San Diego Comic-Con, many of these have become a source for stand-up comedy from the actors.  See for yourself.

First up what may be the best panel idea ever, the voices and muppets themselves, from Sesame Street, Grover, Cookie Monster, Bert, and Murray.  And Grover reveals the true identity of Super Grover.  This one can’t be missed.

A Conversation with Sesame Street

Intruders TV Series Panel with John Simm, Mira Sorvino & Glen Morgan

Orphan Black Panel with Tatiana Maslany and Other Cast Members

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Tonight, Jimmy Fallon will host the 36th season holiday episode of Saturday Night Live.  It is Fallon’s first time hosting the show, although viewers will know him from his years on the show as host of Weekend Update and as the current host of the NBC Late Show.  Hopefully he will use the opportunity to revisit his skit from over a decade ago, foreshadowing that he would be hosting the show in December 2011.

Over the years annual comedic casts have changed, with Not Ready for Prime Time Players sometimes brilliantly funny and sometimes not so much.  Traditional fans look back to the first two seasons to the best cast ever, where superstars Jim Belushi, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and even frequent guest Steve Martin, were all propelled to become household names.  Later casts included Second City greats such as Christopher Guest and Martin Short.  Some of the biggest names in Hollywood were once members of the SNL cast: Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, and Will Ferrell included.  And in all this time we lost a few guys whose careers themselves pretty much peaked on SNL:  John Belushi, Phil Hartman, and Chris Farley.

It’s difficult not to make a favorites list of SNL not top heavy in favor of the classic skits from the first seasons of SNL, but we made an effort to spread out some great skits across the decades, and we left out skits with Alec Baldwin that we inclued in our review earlier this week.

John Belushi – Little Chocolate Donuts

Dan Aykroyd – Fred Garvin, Male Prostitute

Full Cast – Jaws II Land Shark

Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd – Czech Brothers

Full Cast – Coneheads on Family Feud

Bill Murray – Lounge Singer

Eddie Murphy – Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood

Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo – Buckwheat

Martin Short and Harry Shearer – Men’s Synchronized Swimming

Mike Myers, Michael McKean and Cast – Nut-rific Ad

Mike Myers, Dana Carvey – Wayne’s World

Chris Farley interviews Paul McCartney

Chris Farley – Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker

Full Cast with Patrick Stewart – “Love Boat, the Next Generation”

Adam Sandler – Hanukkah Song

Tracy Morgan and Jimmy Fallon – Brian Fellow’s Safari Planet

Will Farrell with Christopher Walken – Blue Oyster Cult Recording Studio

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Last month, Saturday Night Live celebrated 36 consecutive years of live television.  It’s a show like no other, and since the beginning back in 1975 producer Lorne Michaels hand selected stand-up comics and comedic actors to be featured in skits that spoofed everything from presidents to commercials, and in doing so, he launched the careers of some of the biggest names in Hollywood over the course of those 36 years.  A lot of SNL recurring characters even made it to the movie theaters, like The Blues Brothers, Coneheads, and Wayne’s World.  And this summer Ben and Jerry’s even named an ice cream flavor after both the subject of a memorable skit, Shweddy Balls, and a former Weekend Update actor, Jimmy Fallon, and his late night TV show.  And Michaels’s hosts also used SNL as a career springboard, with major actors duelling for “most host” status.

This week’s SNL featured the star behind the Shweddy Balls skit, none other than the brilliant and hilarious dramatic and comedic actor, Alec Baldwin.  Unlike Mel Gibson or Charlie Sheen, Baldwin is like Teflon–the guy bounces back from whatever missteps he causes or situations he stumbles into.  But going back to his performance as a jerk on 40 episodes of Knots Landing (where he fell off a roof trying to kill his wife), attitude is just part of the guy’s schtick.  In fact, if I was working on the re-launch of Dallas that is coming back next year, with Larry Hagman again as J.R. Ewing, I would resurrect Baldwin’s Joshua Rush to take over South Fork from J.R. (recall Knots Landing was a Dallas spinoff).

After his big death scene on Knots Landing the next big thing audiences saw was his role as a kindly husband who met an untimely end with Geena Davis in Beetlejuice.  Baldwin is also the only actor able to fill the shoes of Jack Ryan in the Tom Clancy novels.  There’s just no better Jack Ryan portrayal than Baldwin in Hunt for Red October opposite Sean Connery.  From there Baldwin went on to receive critical acclaim in dramatic roles, usually as over the top, larger than life characters, in Glengarry Glen Ross, Mercury Rising, Pearl Harbor, The Aviator, The Departed, The Good Shepherd, and finally his current run back on network TV on 30 Rock.  In The Cooler, he was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor, and his other roles have earned him Golden Globes and Emmys, with dozens of nominations.

As for Baldwin’s relationship with SNL, he is one of the few to belong to the Five Timer’s Club, a group of celebrities who has hosted the show more than five times.  As host of 16 episodes, Baldwin has hosted more than any other person, followed by Steve Martin at 15 episodes (if you’re curious about recurring musical guests, two of my faves, Paul Simon and Tom Petty, lead that list).  So what better time than now for 10 skits from Saturday Night Live to remind you why we like Alec Baldwin?  For a bit of a change we’ve pulled most of the list from skits that didn’t make his “Best of SNL” DVD.

First up, if you don’t watch any other skit, just in time for the holidays, check out this first one from an alternate universe December 12, 2011, featuring Jimmy Fallon and Alec Baldwin, filmed over a decade ago:

Alec Baldwin’s Christmas Carol

The rest pretty much speak for themselves:

Alec Baldwin stops by a Diner

Baldwin Hijacks Ben Affleck’s Monologue

An Elf as only Baldwin Could Play

Celebrity Memorabilia Auction

Awesome Infomercial for the Timecrowave

An Uncomfortable Confession with Priest Alec

The Platinum Lounge

As Charles Nelson Reilly, Inside the Actor’s Studio

And of course, Baldwin’s best “keep a straight face” skit (and one of the all-time most listed “best of” skits for all of SNL’s 36 years):

NPR’s Delicious Dish features Pete Schweddy

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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