×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Saturday Night Live’s’ 40th Exhibits Middle-Aged Bloat

The youthful “Saturday Night Live” surely would have mocked something as bloated as the 40th anniversary special that NBC aired (about eight months early, but never mind) on Sunday, running a ponderous 3 ½ hours, not including the one-hour “Matt Lauer really will do anything the network asks these days” red-carpet preshow. Star studded and nostalgic, the telecast demonstrated the network’s determination to milk all things “SNL” beyond the breaking point creatively speaking, as well as the media’s willingness to treat another arbitrary milestone like an event. To paraphrase the Church Lady, sorry, but this just wasn’t that special.

After the obligatory Justin Timberlake-Jimmy Fallon opening, the credits ran so long there was a fleeting fear the producers might run out of time.

That gave way to an opening skit that actually turned out to be the night in a microcosm, with so many guests crowding on the stage that by the time Paul McCartney and Paul Simon showed up, their brief duet felt like an afterthought.

Give NBC and “SNL” patriarch Lorne Michaels credit. Faced with the prospect of another anniversary clipshow, they seized upon the passage of a full decade to give the sweeps stunt additional heft. And frankly, it’s not like the phone is ringing off the hook for some of the former cast members who popped up.

That’s not to say the evening was without moments. With so many talented people and that much time, how could there not be – from “Celebrity Jeopardy” and the audition-video clip package (including a few eventual stars who weren’t deemed Not Ready for Primetime) to Bill Murray belting out the “Jaws” theme, from the Adam Sandler-Andy Samberg song about cracking up during skits to Chris Rock’s warm riff about Eddie Murphy, even if Murphy came out and had nothing much to say.

Still, too many sketches (“The Californians?” Really?) dragged on interminably, and a lot of the movie-star appearances actually felt like time that could have been better devoted to former cast members. It takes a lot of work, in fact, to make a segment featuring Jerry Seinfeld that ho-hum.

For those well versed in the show’s history, even the highlights began to yield diminishing returns, and the celebrity homages to characters played by Gilda Radner and Chris Farley didn’t connect.

For NBC, of course, there’s no downside in building an entire weekend around “SNL.” To quote a fictionalized version of a former President, that’s just smart “strategery.”

But what was positioned as a celebration felt a whole lot more like an endurance test long before it was over. On the plus side, at least those in attendance looked like they were having a good time.

Near the outset Steve Martin referred to “SNL” as “an amazing institution,” and in terms of longevity and continued popularity it is certainly that. Yet “SNL 40” conveyed less a sense of being still crazy after all these years, as Paul Simon sang, than a nagging feeling that to muster much enthusiasm for “SNL 50” will require forgetting this mostly laborious evening.

TV Review: 'Saturday Night Live's' 40th Exhibits Middle-Aged Bloat

(Special; NBC, Sun. Feb. 15, 8 p.m.)

Production: Produced by Broadway Video and SNL Studios.

Crew: Executive producer, Lorne Michaels; producers, Steve Higgins, Erik Kenward, Lindsay Shookus, Erin Doyle, Rhys Thomas; director, Don Roy King; writing supervisor, Rob Klein. 3 HOURS, 30 MIN.

More TV

  • Kasi LemmonsNew York Women in Film

    Kasi Lemmons, Jane Rosenthal, Ann Dowd Talk Golden Globes Female Director Snub

    The absence of women among director nominees for the Golden Globes is another example of how much work remains to be done to achieve gender parity in the entertainment industry, honorees said Tuesday night at the 40th annual Muse Awards presented by New York Women in Film and Television. “Harriet” director Kasi Lemmons, “The Irishman” [...]

  • The Flash -- "Crisis on Infinite

    'Crisis on Infinite Earths' Recap: A Rewritten Destiny Brings Another Superhero Death

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Three,” “The Flash” episode of the 2019 “Arrowverse” crossover. Tuesday night was the official midpoint of the ambitious “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossovers, with an episode of “The Flash” that also marked the final episode of the year for the [...]

  • THE MASKED SINGER tree identity ana

    'The Masked Singer' Reveals the Identity of the Tree

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead, if you have not watched the episode of “The Masked Singer,” which aired on Dec. 10 on Fox. “The Masked Singer” has sent home another character — and more importantly, has unmasked that contestant. On Tuesday’s episode, titled “A Pain in the Mask,” the tree was revealed to be [...]

  • THE MASKED SINGER semi finals

    Everything to Know About 'The Masked Singer' Semi-Finals

    Television’s breakout reality show, “The Masked Singer,” wraps up its second season, unmasking a winner, next week — but first, the quirky competition show will celebrate the holidays. Teeing up the grand finale of the inarguable hit series, Fox is giving extra airtime to the show this week with a two-night event. Tuesday night, the [...]

  • daredevil Marvel Netflix

    Marvel to Shutter Television Division

    Marvel’s television division is officially winding down. Variety has learned that Marvel Television will no longer be developing any new series beyond the shows that are currently in production. According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, Marvel will eliminate a number of positions in the near future as a result of the cessation [...]

  • Kaya Scodelario

    TV News Roundup: Netflix's 'Spinning Out' With 'Skins' Star Kaya Scodelario Gets Premiere Date

    In today’s TV news roundup, Netflix reveals the premiere date for “Spinning Out,” and USA reveals a first look at Ethan Hawke’s return to “The Purge” universe.  DATES Netflix‘s “Spinning Out,“ starring “Skins’s” Kaya Scodelario and from showrunners Lara Olsen (“Reign”) and Samantha Stratton, premieres Jan. 1. The series follows Scodelario’s Kat, a high-level figure skater [...]

  • Philip MckeonPhilip Mckeon

    'Alice' Child Star Philip McKeon Dies at 55

    Philip McKeon, known for playing the son of Linda Lavin’s titular character in the classic CBS sitcom “Alice,” has died. He was 55. The actor died Tuesday morning in Texas following a longtime illness, family spokesman Jeff Ballard confirmed to Variety. “We are all beyond heartbroken and devasted over Phil’s passing,” said Ballard. “His wonderful [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content