You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Saturday Night Live: Backstage

This pleasant if rather scattered trip down memory lane feels like a quilt pieced together from leftover patches from the earlier "SNL" docs -- reminding us, inadvertently, that the old gal ain't what she used to be.

Having explored “Saturday Night Live’s” history by decade, producer-writer-director Kenneth Bowser no longer has a logical template for his “Please, give us two watchable primetime hours during sweeps” assignments for NBC. Enter this “SNL: Backstage” special, a pleasant if rather scattered trip down memory lane, loosely divided into chapters about the program’s shorts, what makes a good host, past controversies, and so on. Mostly, it feels like a quilt pieced together from leftover patches from the earlier “SNL” docs — reminding us, inadvertently, that the old gal ain’t what she used to be.

Backstage” opens with a bit of history regarding how the show was born and wound up in New York, but after that, it’s on to rather arbitrary chapters about elements within the program. And do we really need another rehash of how then-NBC chief Don Ohlmeyer decided to yank Norm Macdonald off “Weekend Update?”

The best portion, it turns out, involves some of the famous cast members and writers who didn’t survive what Alec Baldwin — generally considered one of the show’s Hall of Fame hosts — characterized as producer Lorne Michaels’ “very Darwinian” process in the way the program gets assembled and which sketches make the cut. Many “SNL” washouts went on to tremendous success, a roster that includes Larry David, Chris Rock, Damon Wayans and Robert Downey Jr.

Otherwise, it’s simply another “greatest hits” compilation — a chance to chuckle at “Dick in a Box” all over again. What’s lacking is any clear reason for revisiting this material, other than, you know, just because.

Those interviewed in “SNL: Backstage” do repeatedly make the point that new casts are invariably judged harshly in comparison with old ones, but that alibi hardly accounts for the program’s weak creative drift in recent years. In that context, Michaels and company owe a debt to the 2008 election and Sarah Palin that they can never repay.

One of the “SNL” also-rans, Gilbert Gottfried, concisely sums up the franchise’s relationship with the audience in its fifth decade, suggesting that by now “SNL” is “just a restaurant in a good location.”

True enough, and “SNL: Backstage” is little more than another latenight snack.

Saturday Night Live: Backstage

Special; NBC, Sun. Feb. 20, 9 p.m.

Production: Producers, Kenneth Bowser, Declan Baldwin; supervising producer, Ken Aymong; writer-director, Bowser.

Crew: Camera, Teodoro Maniaci; editor, James Taylor. 120 MIN.

More TV

  • Dove Cameron Sofia Carson

    Disney Announces 'Descendants 3' for 2019

    Having explored “Saturday Night Live’s” history by decade, producer-writer-director Kenneth Bowser no longer has a logical template for his “Please, give us two watchable primetime hours during sweeps” assignments for NBC. Enter this “SNL: Backstage” special, a pleasant if rather scattered trip down memory lane, loosely divided into chapters about the program’s shorts, what makes […]

  • Jeanine Mason

    'Roswell' Reboot Pilot Casts 'Grey's Anatomy's' Jeanine Mason in Lead Role

    Having explored “Saturday Night Live’s” history by decade, producer-writer-director Kenneth Bowser no longer has a logical template for his “Please, give us two watchable primetime hours during sweeps” assignments for NBC. Enter this “SNL: Backstage” special, a pleasant if rather scattered trip down memory lane, loosely divided into chapters about the program’s shorts, what makes […]

  • Purveyors of Pop eOne deal

    Reality Show Producers Sued for Trashing Hawaiian Beach House

    Having explored “Saturday Night Live’s” history by decade, producer-writer-director Kenneth Bowser no longer has a logical template for his “Please, give us two watchable primetime hours during sweeps” assignments for NBC. Enter this “SNL: Backstage” special, a pleasant if rather scattered trip down memory lane, loosely divided into chapters about the program’s shorts, what makes […]

  • The Last O.G. Ep. 101 27038_001

    TV News Roundup: TBS Releases 'The Last O.G.' Trailer With Tracy Morgan, Tiffany Haddish (Watch)

    Having explored “Saturday Night Live’s” history by decade, producer-writer-director Kenneth Bowser no longer has a logical template for his “Please, give us two watchable primetime hours during sweeps” assignments for NBC. Enter this “SNL: Backstage” special, a pleasant if rather scattered trip down memory lane, loosely divided into chapters about the program’s shorts, what makes […]

  • Harry Connick Jr

    Harry Connick Jr. Talk Show to End After 2 Seasons (EXCLUSIVE)

    Having explored “Saturday Night Live’s” history by decade, producer-writer-director Kenneth Bowser no longer has a logical template for his “Please, give us two watchable primetime hours during sweeps” assignments for NBC. Enter this “SNL: Backstage” special, a pleasant if rather scattered trip down memory lane, loosely divided into chapters about the program’s shorts, what makes […]

  • George Stephanopoulos

    ABC's George Stephanopoulos Lands Exclusive Interview With Ex-FBI Chief Comey

    Having explored “Saturday Night Live’s” history by decade, producer-writer-director Kenneth Bowser no longer has a logical template for his “Please, give us two watchable primetime hours during sweeps” assignments for NBC. Enter this “SNL: Backstage” special, a pleasant if rather scattered trip down memory lane, loosely divided into chapters about the program’s shorts, what makes […]

  • SHAILENE WOODLEY LAURA DERN AND ZOE

    'Big Little Lies' Season 2: Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Zoë Kravitz Set to Return

    Having explored “Saturday Night Live’s” history by decade, producer-writer-director Kenneth Bowser no longer has a logical template for his “Please, give us two watchable primetime hours during sweeps” assignments for NBC. Enter this “SNL: Backstage” special, a pleasant if rather scattered trip down memory lane, loosely divided into chapters about the program’s shorts, what makes […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content