For whatever reasons, the word “live” has become one regarded with awe in television. Sometimes to the point of absurdity. Such as when the end crawl on a sitcom bears the legend: “This show was filmed before a live audience.” Nice to know they weren’t dead. The intent obviously is to let one know all those laughs didn’t come from a laugh machine, but from real people. But how many outside of Hol- lywood even know about yock machines?
This season there are two network “live” shows, “Saturday Night.” which debuta on NBC-TV Oct. 11, and the Howard Cornell variety skein on ABC-TV. Both are originating in N.Y. “Saturday” will be on from 11:30 p.m.-l a.m. Producer of that venture is Lome Michaels; Dave Wilson is the director, and Michael O’Donoghue the writer.
Michaels, during a recent visit here, explained the big edge on his live comedy variety entry is that they can do topical stuff, they can leave the show open and use last-minute news as subjects for some of the apoofery.
His is a format with a flexibility to do different things each week, and they will have a different host each time out also, plus two musical guests. A feature is young comedian Albert Brooks, who is writing, directing and producing short comedy films which will be interspersed In the series. Jim Henson and his Muppets have created
a new group of Muppets especially for this show, the young (30-year-old) producer explains.
“We will have a repertory company of six players, and will do
topical sketch comedy. We will also have film documentaries about different subjects, funky things. In addition, we will have five or six commercial parodies each week. It’s likely we will be spoofing products that are sponsoring the show.
“We have no taboos. The most important thing is to be funny and interesting. So far I have not been inhibited. We won’t duck any problem or issue because it may be controversial, but we’re not go- ing into it because it is controversial — we will be going into it because it’s funny. We don’t want to be vindictive; we want to be fun- ny.”
Michaels sees his new series as being much closer to the Sid Caesar and Ernie Kovacs variety series of yesteryear rather than to “Laugh-In. ” “It’s Saturday night, a time when the family has a good time,” he observes.
“We are trying to do a special every week. There are basic ele- ments, such as music and comedy, but we want to avoid predic- tability. Each show is built around a guest host and we will showcase his talents. Our first host is George Carlin; the second is Paul Simon, with guests that show being Art Garfunkel and Phoebe Snow.”
‘Hollywood Palace* Precedent
A series such as this has built into it “enormously complicated
problems, ” Michaels avers, adding, “We started the operation last July 6. There is not enough time for conception. The problem is in spending the right amount of time in seeing to it the original concep- tion of the show won’t change.” He considers “Hollywood Palace” a precedent to what they seek to do here.
Comments Michaels: “American kids know tv the way French kids know the Alps. This is the first generation which grew up watching tv. This is the tv generation that first saw the FBI in a tv series and then involved in Watergate. They saw the whole Nixon Watergate thing, and watched until he went to San Clemente. I grew up watching Your Show Of Showa.’ The Dick Van Dyke Show,” Jackie Gleason.
“We don’t want to be locked into a rigid format. The format revolves around the talent. We have a show that takes chances. If we stop taking chances, we have no show,” he emphasizes. And, he adds candidly, “We are not going to be a hit every week.”
The producer plans a melange of “something old, something new,” as he puts it. Thus, there will be a reprise of that hit of another era, “Your Hit Parade.” Included in the new “Saturday Night.”
Perhaps most refreshing of all is Michaels not saying his show is designed for the youngsters of America because “this is what they want.” That’s a cardinal error committed by most producers of this genre, who after subsequently turning out a loser, realize those kids they sought aren’t sitting home watching tv.