Current production resembles "Saturday Night Live," with series of sketches bookended by "live" beginning and endings. Trying to have it both ways, Short includes a bit that takes a fairly sharp bite at "SNL's" use of consistently unamusing recurrent characters (this one a fellow whose catch phrase is "That's right!").

Current production resembles “Saturday Night Live,” with series of sketches bookended by “live” beginning and endings. Trying to have it both ways, Short includes a bit that takes a fairly sharp bite at “SNL’s” use of consistently unamusing recurrent characters (this one a fellow whose catch phrase is “That’s right!”).

Despite number of billboarded guest stars, bulk of weight here falls on Short and Jan Hooks, co-star of his earlier sitcom. Fortunately, both are versatile performers — it becomes evident that “SNL” barely plumbed Hooks’ repertoire — who switch effortlessly between portrayals of real-life personalities ranging from Kato Kaelin to Tim Burton, and from Rosie Perez to David Letterman’s mother.

Those four names demonstrate that show varies between painfully overdone subjects and stuffyou’ll not see anywhere else –“Richard Lester’s ‘A Hard Day’s Journey Into Night’ ” is a highlight in latter respect. Less effective in that mold is “Tim Burton’s ‘A Nightmare to Remember,’ ” which finds quirky director helming latest remake of “An Affair to Remember.” Pic is likely unfamiliar in any of its incarnations to this show’s target audience, and — except for funny surprise ending — there’s little of Burton in this version, anyway.

Short’s Jackie Rogers Jr. character appears in a remake of “The Bodyguard,” and Ed Grimley, from his “SCTV” days, also puts in an appearance.

Running gags include nighttime soaps “Models, Amalgamated”; a series of characters reminiscing about the early days of TV (Short’s Irving Cohen persona prattling on about how the screen on early sets “was so small, you used to have to watch it one at a time … but you had a chance to learn your craft.”); and a magazine show hosted by Taylor McGillvray (Short) and Sandy Spracklin (Hooks), whose banter barely conceals their mutual hostility.

Supporting cast blend in, with Phil Hartman notable as a character in “Models , Amalgamated”; Short’s former SCTV-mate Joe Flaherty as Lyle Lovett; and Harry Shearer playing Mr. Blackwell in a sketch, seemingly ad-libbed, in which celebrities gather at Spago following the People’s Entertainment Television Excellence award.

To everyone’s credit, there’s no applause or laughter, canned or “sweetened.”

The Show Formerly Known As the Martin Short Show

(Sat. (20), 11:30 p.m.-1 a.m., NBC)

Production

Videotaped in Los Angeles by Dolshor Prods. in association with NBC Prods. Executive producer, Martin Short; co-executive producers, Dick Blaucci, Paul Flaherty, Michael Short; producer, Kimber Rickabaugh; associate producers, Cisco Henson, Javier Winnick; directors, John Blanchard, Eugene Levy; writers, Blasucci, Flaherty, Martin Short, Michael Short, Doug Steckler.

Crew

Camera, David Makin; lighting, Greg Brunton; editors, Ron Barr, Alan Carter; production designer, John Sabato; sound, Dennis Durante, Wendy Rotoli; music, Ed Alton.

Cast

Cast: Martin Short, Jan Hooks, Joe Flaherty, Phil Hartman, Bruno Kirby, Chad Lowe, Paul Shaffer, Harry Shearer, Marty Allen & Steve Rossi, Charlotte Chatton, Michael G. Hagerty, Stuart Pankin, Jim Piddock, Jay Leno. Still trying to find a format that will showcase him to maximum effectiveness, Martin Short moves from half-hour "The Martin Short Show" (which NBC pulled after three episodes) to a 90-minute special in "Saturday Night Live" slot, titled "The Show Formerly Known as the Martin Short Show." While this one has its moments, earlier sitcom format (which switched between Short's home life and show-within-a-show) is looking better and better.
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