The Day SNL Became SNL

Over the last couple years I have made a careful study of the first few seasons of Saturday Night Live, by which I mean watched them on DVD late at night, sometimes while drunk. For the most part, they haven’t quite lived up to my fond memories; the writing is occasionally brilliant but uneven, and the musical guests in this early period are often questionable. One night recently, out of sheer stubbornness I sat through two long segments of Keith Jarrett playing tedious solo piano and making hideous, orgasmic moustache-faces — but I did not enjoy it, I can tell you that.

Last, night, though, I think I reached the turning point: the broadcast of April 22, 1978, with Steve Martin hosting and the Blues Brothers as musical guest. This episode had pretty much everything you could ask for: a lengthy Steve monologue of material not from one of his albums, “Theodoric of York,” Dan Aykroyd calling Jane Curtin an ignorant slut, a charming dance number by Steve and Gilda, Bill Murray giving Gilda noogies, a high-quality appearance by the Festrunk Brothers, the Brothers Blues1 doing “Hey Bartender” and “I Don’t Know”……..and this:

Yes, that was a good day.


1. I realize that not everyone considers the Blues Brothers a pinnacle of modern music. But I never grow tired of watching John Belushi sing and dance, and I don’t imagine I ever will.

A match made in…?

The original Dingbat

The original Dingbat

Oh happy day. There I am flipping on Fox News for my daily dose of self-inflicted agony, and here’s Glenn Beck looking very serious with the Statue of Liberty over his shoulder, and he says something typically asinine. The camera cuts away, and sitting across from him is his network’s newest hire, HRH Sarah Palin. (Or as I prefer to call her, Dingbat. Is it sexist and wrong of me to call her that? Does it help that I thought our last president was also a dingbat?)

It’s pretty rare when I see something on Fox that I can 100% get behind, but this is an idea that has my full support. Clearly, this is where Dingbat belongs. It’s just like when Terrell Owens played for the Cowboys; a person I detest paired with an organization I loathe, giving me a convenient place to focus my dark energies. Honestly, I think this is going to work out great for everyone. She gets a job that plays well to her strengths, which are looking good and talkin’ funny in that scary/entertaining kind of way, and we get her on the TeeVee where we can keep an eye on her, instead of in an office somewhere fucking up the country even more. Beck gets to look positively statesmanlike next to Dingbat, who enthusiastically agreed with everything he said. (And that alone should disqualify her from ever again holding public office. Even the people who are on Beck’s side ideologically know that he is a dangerous lunatic, and palling around with lunatics is just not a smart political move.)

While we’re on the subject, I just had to post the following photo that I found while looking for Edith Bunker shots:


Doesn’t it kind of look like a publicity shot for a new Fox show with Bill O’Reilly, Sarah, and Beck? They could call it “Lunatic, Dingbat and Asshole.” Catchy, no?

McCartney, Twin Peaks, and the Queen


As I mentioned in the last entry, I’ve been devouring the DVDs of Twin Peaks, and today I reached the bonus features. A lot of cool facts and factoids there, but I was especially struck by one anecdote related by composer Angelo Badalamenti. It has the whiff of being perhaps apocryphal, but it’s at least true enough to be repeated here.

According to Badalamenti, he was hired to do an arrangement for Paul McCartney. As he was rehearsing the orchestra, McCartney pulled him aside and told him the story of a great disappointment in the ex-Beatle’s career.

Paul, it seems, had been invited to perform for the Queen of England at a birthday celebration at Buckingham Palace. He was asked to prepare 35 minutes of his best music, and so he rehearsed his band and was quite excited about the gig. Just before he was scheduled to go on, he was greeted by the queen, and the dialogue between them (as related by Badalamenti) went like this:

Queen: Oh Mr. McCartney, it was just so lovely to see you tonight.

Paul: Well, your highness, I am so delighted that you invited me to help celebrate your birthday. And I’m now going to perform for you 35 minutes of my best works.

Queen: Oh, Mr. McCartney, I’m sorry, but I can’t stay.

Paul: (crushed) But your highness….

Queen: Mr. McCartney, don’t you see? It’s five minutes of eight. I must go upstairs and watch Twin Peaks.

Now It Can Be Told: The Truth About Obama and the Borg

I tried not to post this hot picture of Seven of Nine, but resistance is…well, you know.

An interesting, underreported sidenote to the recently concluded presidential election: The Borg made Barack Obama president.

Don’t believe me? Flash back to 2004, when Obama was running for the Senate against well-funded and well-connected Republican Jack Ryan. This was an uphill battle for Obama, though by June he had closed somewhat in the polls. Then a Deus ex Machina of sorts intervened: Illinois media dug up custody papers related to Ryan’s divorce from Jeri Ryan, best known for playing sexy cyborg Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager. In these papers, Jeri Ryan alleged that Jack Ryan had taken her to kinky sex clubs and tried to persuade her to participate in public sex acts.

That was the end of Ryan’s candidacy, and Obama easily trounced emergency replacement candidate Alan Keyes. The rest is history. Am I saying that Obama is himself a Borg? Not necessarily, though certainly as Hillary Clinton and John McCain are the latest to learn when it comes to Barack Obama, resistance is futile.

Hi, Bob


The first thing I should say is that, as far as I know, Bob Newhart is still alive, thank goodness. Often the only time someone writes about an aging celebrity is when they die, so I hope you didn’t see Bob’s picture at the top of this entry and think the worst. It’s one of life’s cruelest ironies that we tend to celebrate someone’s life and work only when they’re dead and can’t enjoy it. So after watching an episode of Newhart this afternoon I wanted to take a minute to praise Bob.

This was an episode of the Vermont show, not the superior psychiatrist show, but contained a classic scene of vintage Newhartism. In this episode Bob takes over the book-themed talk show on the local TV station. For his first show, he books the author of a slim volume called The Complete History of the Universe, who no-shows and sends a replacement guest in his place. This guest, a retired military man who has written a book about a canoe trip up the Amazon, starts off well enough but soon produces what he claims to be a photograph of a herd of dinosaurs that he found on the banks of a tributary.

Two guys named Bill

The filename of the picture at the left,
for reasons I won’t go into here, is “william-shatner-kidney-stone.”

As fate would have it, one day recently the postman brought CDs by two guys named Bill: The Transformed Man by William (Bill to his friends) Shatner and The Best of Bill Withers (Bill to everybody, as far as I know).

Shatner, who is never far from my consciousness to begin with, has been especially on my mind lately because my lady friend and I have become dangerously obsessed with the TV show Boston Legal. At one time I would have had a hard time publicly admitting this fact, because BL is after all a prime-time lawyer show, and what self-respecting pseudo-intellectual watches those? But honestly, this show couldn’t be more different from the CSIs and Law and Orders of the world: where they are ponderous and self-important, it is playful and self-aware; where they are stuffy and straight-laced, it is sexy and insouciant; where they revel in procedural details, it makes no pretense of realism whatsoever. Boston Legal may not be the best show in the history of television, but it is among the most entertaining.