11 December 2008 | Chip_douglas
A three part prelude to the 2008 Bash
On several occasions during the third decade of Saturday Night Live, it's oldest mainstay, Weekend Update, branched out and found itself being broadcast on other nights beside Saturday. In 2001 there were two Prime Time Extra's that were teamed with special episodes of Friends and in 2003 a Weekend Update Halftime Special during the Superbowl. 2008, brought us three W.U. Thursday's in the weeks leading up to what many believed to be the most important American election of century.
Another notable factor in the development of these spin off broadcasts was the fact that the previous season of SNL, it's 33d, had been abruptly put on hold from November to February because of the writer's strike. During the previous years SNL cast and crew-members had become accustomed to producing 20 episodes between September and May and taking one or two weeks off in between every couple of episodes. This process changed when SNL finally came back at the end of the shortest month of the year. For the first time since the Seventies, four new shows were broadcast in a row. Although they only managed to bring the 33d up to a total of 12 episodes, the experience spurred on Lorne Michaels and co to cut their summer Holiday's short and make the next season totally jam packed: starting early, taking as little time of in between as possible and producing specials such as the Weekend Update Thursdays along the way. Even if a lot of sketches fall flat, the sheer amount of material produced in such a hectic schedule is sure to please fans. This might well turn out to be the longest season since 1975-76.
As with the previous Prime Time specials, Weekend Update is the main draw of these three specials. Each show comprises basically one long political sketch leading into a truncated opening credits, with the remainder of the half hour filled in with Weekend Update zingers from head writer Seth Myers and Lorne's favorite go-to girl Amy Poehler. Show one featured a spoof of the Second Presidential Debate, featuring the entire cast and surprise appearances by returning alum's Chris Parnell and Bill Murray. Number two focused on the third and final debate, starred a stripped down cast and another cameo by Parnell. The third installment opened with the return of Will Ferrell as President Bush with Tina Fey doing her impression of the Senator best known for looking like Tina Fey, Sarah Palin. Darrell Hammond was featured as Senator John McCain in each and all three of these sketches naturally appear in the Presidential Bash '08.
Another element worth mentioning was that Amy Poehler at this point was extremely pregnant and had already announced she would not be returning to SNL after giving birth, but move on to work on a new series tentatively referred to as a spin off of The Office. In fact, the third and last of the Thursday editions turned out to be her final show before going into labor. However, Lorne Michaels managed to persuade the Mrs. Will Arnett to return to do some links as Hillary Clinton for the Presidential Bash '08 and as a regular SNL cast member in December after all, depriving WUT from being her last hurrah. SNL is justly proud of it's political parodies and always gets to shine a bit more brightly during election years. It's a shame that apart from the political stuff, much of the season has been relying on celebrity cameo's up till now, but as we still have more than half a season to go as of this writing, there is still a chance that season 34 - and that includes these three Thursday specials - will fit into the SNL time-line as one of the greatest ever. Or at least the most exhausting for all involved.
8 out of 10