Kenneth Bowser's series of documentaries looking at Saturday Night Live through the years comes to a close (at least for another 10 years) with this fourth installment. Broadcast before the 35th season - which started in the previous decade - was even over, the interviewees didn't exactly get much time to digest the last decade. As a lot of the material is very recent (and the show has been in a bit of a slump for the last 5 years) there are a lot more groan-worthy clips rather than those that bring a smile of recognition to your lips. Maybe this will be different on watching this again in 5 years time, or by when the next installment comes out (which by my guesstimating should be early January 2020).
SNL came into the 2000s with one cast member standing head and shoulders above all others. This was of course the immensely popular, well respected, star of the show/go-to guy Will Ferrell. Not since the days of Eddie Murphy did the show revolve so much around one person. And after Ferrell left, Lorne Michaels seems to have found it necessary that Will's 'star' status (or go-to-person mantle) be handed over to another cast member. First up in line was Jimmy Fallon, whom it must be said was being geared to being the show heartthrob from the moment he joined the cast. Every opportunity they could find to bring him on as himself was taken. After that, Amy Poehler became the most featured female performer in the history of the show, and now Kirsten Wiig has inherited the unofficial title. The first three get a segment devoted to their greatness in this documentary, while Wiig gets some praise but will probably have to wait until the next one (or her own Best of special).
Naturally there is also a segment on Lorne's other pet project, Tina Fey, who was never much of a sketch performer (though this documentary makes it seem otherwise by prominently featuring a 'children's stripper' sketch that I personally had never seen or heard of before). Fey hit all the right buttons by being coupled with Fallon on Weekend Update, which was a good thing because unlike him she actually reads the papers (Jimmy acknowledges as much). And Lorne has known ever since Chevy Chase's first Update that saying your name on the show is a sure way to greater recognizability (a fact repeated by Poehler). Of course Tina's fame grew even more after she left the show thanks to her resemblance to a certain Governor from Alaska. Everybody who hates Sarah Palin automatically adores Tina's impression of her, first forcing (by her own account) Fey to make a couple of cameos and then hosting SNL with great success (also thanks to Justin Bieber's fans). Of course it wasn't like she had gone far away, writing and shooting 30 Rock in NY and occasionally borrowing costumes, props & old routines from studio 8H. Thanks to these last few appearances, Broadway Video may finally be able to compile enough sketches for a Best of Tina Fey special/DVD release. On the other hand, it would also be funny if they released one that is the complete opposite of the usual fare, consisting of one long Weekend Update compilation occasionally interrupted by short snippets of sketches.
There are probably two thing these last ten years of SNL will be remembered for the most. One will be SNL's take on U.S. politics politics, from the Bush/Gore election to 9/11 and the terrorist scare all the way up to Obama, Hillary Clinton and the aforementioned Sarah P. All their cameos are included in this compilation and John McCain even contributes to the interviews. The other memorable part is how SNL went viral online thanks to the Lonely Islands Digital Shorts. At the moment, these are the most popular sketches with (not surprisingly) the internet generation. Andy Samberg and his palls give some background into their working methods, but don't go into the irony of being a big hit on Saturday Night Live with clips that are anything but. Alec Baldwin & Christopher Walken pop up to talk about being a recurring host - which they also did on the SNL in the 90s show. They are joined this time around by Justin Timberlake, who as of this writing is just one appearance away from joining the 5-timers club. His greatest hits on the show have been turning nearly all sketches from his first hosting effort into recurring characters, as well as some of the aforementioned digital shorts.
As usual, not mentioned at all are the cast members who were unceremoniously dumped (or, like Jeff Richard disappeared without explanation mid-season). The most recent controversy (which still fell in the alloted time period) saw Casie Wilson and Michaela Watskin fired in favor of younger, cuter featured players, while Chris Elliots daughter Abby was allowed to stay. Abby also gets to do a few talking head comments in this doc, but these are not accompanied by any of her clips, since apart from a couple of nice little impressions, her sketch appearances have not amounted to much more than 'cute girl in background'. Even the two newest players, Nasim Pedrad & Jenny Slate (who's F-bomb during her first appearance goes unmentioned) have managed to carve out more recurring characters in a shorter time period than miss Elliott (but are not interviewed). Still, a lot can (and no doubt will) happen over the course of the next ten years, so it will be interesting to see how the state of affairs will be by the time 'SNL in the Tens' rolls round. For despite all the criticism the show receives for 'not being as funny as it used to', SNL will go on. I mean really, what else could NBC possibly air in it's time slot?
7 out of 10
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