I took issue when Saturday Night Live announced it was having Betty White come on to host after a massive Facebook campaign made the idea popular. It wasn't because White didn't deserve to be on the show; she's very funny, and lord knows she's paid her dues in Hollywood. It was more because I felt like this season more than most, SNL seems to be pandering to anyone it can in order to score more viewers; it's why we've ended up with hosts like Megan Fox, Taylor Lautner and Blake Lively. The show wants so desperately to be liked, and this seemed like a calculated effort to engender some more goodwill with a group of people whose campaign felt a little disingenuous in its hip irony.
Thankfully, all of those concerns went away after seeing the show, which was one of the best of the season, partly because of White and partly because a bunch of former female cast members (Molly Shannon, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer and Rachel Dratch) came back for what was the unofficial "Women of Comedy" show. It was great to see so many familiar faces, and the spirit of the episode was so joyous (even when the sketches weren't working) that SNL really should have made this their season finale (that's next week, with host Alec Baldwin).
The return of so many cast members must have kept the writers busy this week -- what with all the old sketches and characters to be recycled -- because NBC has made four sketches that were cut after the dress rehearsal performance available online. I've included a few here, mostly because I'm bummed they didn't make the episode proper.
Missing from the NBC clips, however, is this week's Digital Short, in which the entire cast sings the theme to The Golden Girls before Betty White dons a ski mask and the whole thing turns into a violent mosh pit. I loved seeing the cast in their regular clothes (as it confirms that Jenny Slate is, in fact, a fox), and Nasim Pedrad getting sprayed with blood might have been my favorite joke of the night. Such is life.
Saturday Night Live should make this an annual tradition. Once a season, don't bother having a host and just bring on a bunch of former cast members to do a show. It's great to see different casts mixing it up and doing some of their best-known characters, and it gives SNL a terrific sense of history while still making it feel like a party. I know what I'm talking about, Lorne Michaels.
- "Cold Open: Lawrence Welk" - Nothing new here, but Kristen Wiig's small-handed shtick is usually good for a few laughs. Plus, this week's host was actually working back when the actual Lawrence Welk Show was son the air. That's worth something, right? (Watch the "Cold Open: Lawrence Welk" video)
- "Betty White Monologue" - Betty White proved that all of those Facebook supporters were right and she absolutely deserved to host SNL. While not the strongest material, White elevated every joke with her expert timing and trademark "I-only-sort-of-get-what-I'm-saying" delivery. She was great. (Watch the "Betty White Monologue" video)
- "NPR" - It's proof that I'm either a bigger Saturday Night Live fan than I realize or that the show really has been limping the last few years, because I was unreasonably excited for the return of a sketch I was never all that crazy about to begin with. It's probably just the nostalgia talking, but as soon as I saw Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon behind that desk, I lit up. And while it was no "Schweddy Balls," I have to give the show credit for going as dumb and dirty as they did with "Dusty Muffins." Once again, Betty White sells the hell out of it. (Watch the "NPR" video)
- "The Manuel Ortiz Show" - The night hits a road bump early on with this waste of a sketch, which amounts to little more than silly dancing. Too bad one of the cut dress rehearsal skits (see below) couldn't have filled in this slot. (Watch the "Manuel Ortiz Show" video)
- "Gingey" - I officially took Amy Poehler for granted when she was a cast member on SNL. She was horribly overused and had a tendency to go really bit in sketches, but every time I see her on the show now I miss her horribly. She's the only thing that makes this sketch funny at all -- unless you think Betty White saying "lesbian" over and over again is the bees knees. (Watch the "Gingey" video)
- "Really?!? with Seth, Amy and Tina" - I just like these pieces. They're good joke carriers, and seeing Tina Fey and Amy Poehler reunite behind the "Update" desk even for a few minutes did my weak heart good. I wanted Fey's section to build more; it seemed to end just as it was getting started. Still, even though it makes me a giant hypocrite, the recurring "Really?!?" bits are always welcome. (Watch the "Really?!?" video)
- "Census" - A classic 11:55 writer's sketch. There's no real story or set here; just a good script and a lot of funny non-sequiters. This feels like it could have come right off the stage at Second City, and I mean that in the best possible way. (Watch the "Census" video)
- "Bronx Beat" - I don't normally post the Web Exclusive videos that NBC provides, but since this was a special show I figured I'd make an exception this week. I could have put "Scared Straight" up, but I kind of hate "Scared Straight." And while this isn't the best sketch -- I get why it was cut after dress -- it's good to see Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler working off one another again. They really are funny together. Enjoy. (Watch the "Bronx Beat" video)
- "Debbie Downer" - Another sketch that must have been cut at dress. How could they ditch stuff like "Bronx Beat" and this -- when they have cast members returning to do these sketches -- and keep something lame like "Scared Straight" on the air? Especially when "Debbie Downer" features Rachel Dratch doing her best character AND gathers all of the returning female cast into one sketch? Plus, origin story! It's not all that funny -- even by "Debbie Downer" standards -- but it still blows my mind that SNL let this one get away. (Watch the "Debbie Downer" video)
- Original Air Date: 5/8/10
- Host: Betty White
- Musical Guest: Jay-Z