A review of the new IFC documentary satire "Documentary Now!" from Seth Meyers, Fred Armisen, and Bill Hader.
It's with pleasure and excitement that I welcome Tom Shales, a good friend, as a blogger on this site. Tom, the nation's best-known television critic, won the Pulitzer Prize while writing for The Washington Post from 1972 to 2010. His blog will focus on TV and whatever else he feels moved to write about. -- RE
Apparently a new bylaw at "Saturday Night Live," which began its 38th season this weekend, is "The worse the host, the more sketches in which he'll appear." So it was with big let-down Seth MacFarlane, multimillionaire comedy tycoon who hosted the season premiere. Once he arrived on the show's tiny (and, yes, "iconic") stage, he was punishingly omnipresent for the whole 90 minutes.
We can be grateful he didn't grab a cow bell and crash the musical act.
With the exception of MacFarlane - a man who has gone farther with less than perhaps even Tyler Perry -- the series seemed to be in tip-top ship-shape shape, especially considering that it begins a new year minus two of its greatest cast assets: Andy Samberg, off to make more movies, and the incomparably versatile Kristen Wiig, the funniest woman in television since Tina Fey. Or maybe since Gilda Radner. Or maybe since Carol Burnett. Or maybe since, dare we say it, Lucille Ball?
When Andy Samberg (as Mark Zuckerberg) asked Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg how he played Zuckerberg in "The Social Network" (shortly before the real Zuckerberg joined them onstage during the opening monologue on "Saturday Night Live"), he said: "I speak in short, clipped sentences and I keep my head very still."
David Bordwell has an ingenious look at The Social Network: The faces behind Facebook at Observations on film art that examines the film's direction and performances in terms of its emphasis on facial expressions and body language.
Anybody who's seen Eisenberg before (say, in "The Squid and the Whale" or "Adventureland") will recognize that his Zuckerberg is indeed a stylized performance. And anybody familiar the real Mark Zuckerberg will recognize that Eisenberg's work is not based on the actual Facebook founder, but on the character created in Aaron Sorkin's script. (In fact, Eisenberg and Zuckerberg had never met until Saturday. Watch how eager for approval Zuckerberg is, smiling and repeatedly turning to the audience in expectation of laughs during his backstage bit with Lorne Michaels. That is not something the movie character would ever do.)
First: Was the cold open lackluster on purpose? Did Alec Baldwin deliberately read the cue cards badly just so he wouldn't have to look at Sarah Palin? (I worked on an "SNL" when Baldwin co-hosted with his painfully untalented-as-a-live-actor ex-wife, and he's a million times better than that. Lorne Michaels, too.)
See Baldwin's comments on Palin's appearance here.
Second: Because this blog is all about me (see above): How weird to see Sarah Palin in that very hallway where (he suddenly remembered) I was introduced to Paul and Linda McCartney. (That's the only Beatle, or Beatle spouse, I've ever shaken hands with.) My narcissistic perspective: Does Palin deserve to be standing anywhere near that spot? I think not. (Apropos of nothing: You know who I love? Mike Shoemaker and Marci Klein, that's who.)
Third: Regarding MacGruber: I know, but are there really any rich people who were rich a month ago who aren't still rich?
Fourth: Simon and Garfunkel Jack-in-the-Box Burger King commercials.
Fifth: Congrats to Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers (and Palin). This is funny:
PARK CITY, Utah -- Mick Jagger is taller than you'd think, thin as a rail, dressed in clothes that were never new and only briefly fashionable. There is a studious unconcern about appearance, as if, having been Mick Jagger all these many years, he can wear whatever he bloody well pleases.