17 October 2015 | Sergeant_Tibbs
Nothing you didn't already know but works as a good highlight reel.
As someone who doesn't live in the USA, I've never actually watched a full episode of Saturday Night Live, with exception to my curiosity for the 40th Anniversary Special. I'm very aware of it of course, and I support the concept, it's a blank canvas where comedians, both actors and scribes, can throw anything on the wall - no holds barred - and see what sticks. Many of SNL's prized cast are among my favourite comics and I've certainly watched a couple sketches along with their influences. At 80 minutes, it's a shame that Live From New York couldn't decide what it wanted to be. Is it a making of document? A chronicle of its rises and falls? An essay on the controversies? A reflection on 40 years of pop culture and politics? A big pat on the back? Well, it's a little bit of all five, just the flavour and not much of the meat.
Nevertheless, it's still an entertaining package and it breezes by pleasantly. It doesn't quite have the gull to pry apart the issues as it comes from the mouth's of its relative A-list subjects. Pretty much everybody, including me who never watched it, had a hunch on all the points it has to make anyway. After a fifteen minute nostalgic dip into its creation it heads straight into the problems in diversity, both sexism and racism. It acknowledges how this is an issue with the entertainment industry in general, then we're right into how SNL shaped America's opinions on politicians. It's a superficial take on important problems and quite jumbled, but it's best for a highlight reel of their most iconic moments. Unlike other venues, it feels like watching them for the first time.
But in the face of all the issues and concerns, the main question is always 'is it funny?' and Live From New York shows the endurance of their sharpest timing. You'd think they might have a bit more to show, but it does skip a lot of eras. Not a frame of Adam Sandler for instance, among others I can't recall off the top of my head. It's brevity, which almost feels like it's trying to fit for time in a TV slot, does make you question why it's showing what it's showing as opposed to anything else from the wealth of material. A daunting task I'm sure, so Bao Nguyen at least did a decent job of pulling something together. At its most striking suggestion, it considers how SNL reflects past, present and the future in pop culture, with its cast full of potential. Despite the ego-stroking, you can't say it's wrong, nor was putting SNL together easy.