Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Saturday vs. Monday Nights Live

It occurred to me this week that Monday Night Football is to sports broadcasting what Saturday Night Live is to comedy. Every year those pundits "in the know" proclaim that this, finally, is the year that the program will die the final death, putting an end to years of grasping, struggling, lingering illness. Every year the new cast sucks way more than the casts of years past. And each year, some good bits are sandwiched between huge blocks of inane crap.

And yet, both franchises continue on, drawing decent audiences and entertaining a lot of people. In three to five years, those same pundits will look back and say, "You know, the show was a lot better back then than it is now." At some point the "Law of Conservation of Suckiness" should kick in and show that it's a physical impossibility for either of these programs to keep spiraling down in quality every single year for so long -- eventually you'd reach some black-hole-like level of suckitude that would cause the collapse of the universe and everything in it.

Perhaps at some level that's true, and both SNL and MNF have merged in some kind of strange Television Singularity, where they are indistinguishable from each other. I've assembled a little chart showing the comparisons between the two so you can see for yourself if that's the case.

No, I have nothing better to do with my time. Sue me.

ConceptTalented individuals plying their craft in front of a live audience, complete with bone-crushing witticisms and moments of high emotionTalented individuals plying their craft in front of a live audience, complete with bone-crushing hits and moments of high emotion
Opening SequenceAn interminable melange of music and action showing the featured cast for the week that makes no sense and serves to set the audience's teeth on edge.An interminable melange of music and action showing the featured teams for the week that makes no sense and serves to set the audience's teeth on edge.
Best PartsMidway through the show when "SNL News" comes on and you get highlights of the week's newsMidway through the show -- halftime -- when you get highlights of the week's games
Worst Parts"Musical" Guests and the last half hour -- both almost guaranteed to suck"Drop-In" Guests from actors in other shows on the parent network and the last quarter of the game -- both almost guaranteed to suck
Best CastThe first one - Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Gilda RadnerThe first one - Jackson, Cosell and Meredith
Worst CastThe current one (regardless of which the current one actually is).The current one (regardless of which the current one actually is).
Biggest ControverySinead O'Connor ripping up the Pope's picture, saying "Fight the real enemy!"Howard Cosell ripping up Alvin Garrett's ethnicity, saying the African American wide receiver for the Redskins was a "little monkey."


Anonymous said...

As always, SNL has its moments of absolute genius, and it's hit and miss. With cable, however, we can bypass the live, crappy version of SNL and go straight to the best of Chevy Chase and John Belushi. Granted, the cast has one week to come up with skits, rehearse and fine tune, but Lucy Arnez, the writers of the Andy Griffith Show and Sid Caesar did it week in and week out for years without getting stale. I'm not a football fan, but I loved the comparisons. And no... I didn't think you don't have anything else better to do... nope. You gotta add to your list anything by Phil Hartman, especially his impression of Bill Clinton in the McDonald's, explaining what warlords do using french fries and a Big Mac for props. And Eddie Murphy in Mr. Robinson's neighborhood, Chris Farley living in a van down by the river, Lupner's Disease, Jane, you ignorant slut and many others. They had their day -- perhaps it will return again. -- Denise

Jeff Hebert said...

My theory is that SNL, like MNF, is always about the same, it's mostly our memories of it and where we were in our lives when we saw it live that determine how good or bad they are. When I go back and watch "classic" SNL from my generation, I realize that a lot of it was actually pretty bad. There are always a few good skits that make you laugh, and the rest is forgettable, just like it is today. And yet in our memories, it was So Much Better Than It Is Now.

I would argue that SNL and MNF are not much better or worse now than they were at any time in the past, but rather that it's US who remember it differently.

Having said that, there were definitely high and low points for each show, I just don't think the variance is as high as people complain about. The original cast of SNL was good, but when you go back and watch it again, there are a lot of misses in between the hits.

I think sports is the same way. The players from your generation are always "better" than the players of today, the game is more corrupt now than back then, the commentators are worse, blah blah blah. I think it's more likely that we just have a tendency to idolize the "good old days" and kind of run down what's contemporary; we block out the stuff that sucked back then when we think back on it, which makes it hard for what you're looking at right now to measure up.

You see it all the time with music, classic tv shows, ex-girl/boyfriends, the town you grew up in, your relatives, whatever. SNL and MNF are cultural milestones that those of us who grew up with them as part of our world use to measure where we were in our lives.

I need to go to bed, I am getting WAY to philosophical about shows involving the "Bass-O-Matic" and OJ Simpson running down the field ...

John said...

Saturday Night Live is still on the air? I had no idea...