Here are six takeaways from last night’s season 41 premiere of Saturday Night Live.
This Saturday Night Live premiere was never going to be a classic.
Season premieres of Saturday Night Live often struggle, mostly because the show doesn’t operate on the schedule that people might assume. The show’s staff had the same number of weeks to write and prepare this week’s sketches as they do any other week: one. Much of what appeared to be sloppiness and laziness can be attributed to the gears on the SNL machine slowly shaking off the rust that accumulated over the summer.
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It’s impossible to have a unified “take” (hot or otherwise) on the Emmy nominations. Anyone who says differently is lying or deluded. This year’s nominations are not only good or only bad, only surprising or only disappointing. Some of the biggest “disappointments” can be read as disappointments only if you expected the Academy would radically alter its modus operandi this year. Some of the biggest pleasant surprises are probably more accidental than intentional. As with every year, the Emmy nominations are a list to be plundered, commented upon, regarded from a safe distance and with a reasonable proportion of salt grains.
With that perspective in mind, here’s a list of my thoughts on the Emmy nominations, in no particular order and with varying degrees of sophistication and seriousness. (And here’s my list from yesterday of wish-list nominees. A few made it to the actual list!)
This week on The M&M Report, Devin Mitchell and I discussed Pixar’s Inside Out. Devin’s two-word description of the movie at 6:55 pretty much stands on its own, but we also discussed the ins and the outs of Inside Out and reflected on the last two decades of Pixar as they unfolded parallel to our childhood.
I also reviewed the movie for my blog,. Check out The Dissolve’s interview with director Pete Docter for more context about the film’s development. And A.O. Scott’s New York Times review is well worth your time.
Peruse the M&M Report category page for previous episodes of the podcast.
Some movies go to great lengths to show you profound they are. Others just assume you’ll pay attention. Inside Out is the latter.
The latest Pixar movie follows an 11 year-old girl named Riley, who moves with her family from her childhood home in Minnesota to a dingy apartment in San Francisco. The move makes Riley sad. She misses her best friend, her hockey team and her childhood innocence. But her parents, despite good intentions, are too busy settling in to notice that Riley is struggling.
This is a story you’ve seen many times before, more likely in your life than at the movies. That’s because the story doesn’t appear to have much in the way of exterior stakes. And it doesn’t. But Inside Out finds a way to make the interior stakes exterior by zooming in right between Riley’s temples, where emotions Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black) take turns influencing Riley’s actions from a sleek control center in her cerebal cortex.
Influencing is the key word. Inside Out wisely avoids drawing a direct link between emotions and actions. It’s correlation, not causation. Dramatizing such abstract relationships would seem near impossible, but director Pete Docter and the team at Pixar have pulled it off with stunning complexity.
Last night’s Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary special began with a musical tribute to the show’s iconic characters performed by two of its most currently camera-ready stars. Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake “History of Rap”-ified forty years of surreal catchphrases and gross-out gags before intoning the show’s now-infamous opening salvo.
“Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!”
After an entire TV season of speculation, the 2014 Primetime Emmy nominations were finally announced at the ungodly hour of 5:30am Pacific Thursday morning. (Perks of being on the East coast: waking up was no big deal!) As usual, the nominations provoked a mixture of reactions: surprise, resignation, disapproval, even bitterness. As Alan Sepinwall put it in his pessimistic but reasoned analysis, the television business is evolving too quickly for the Emmys to keep up, especially given that the TV Academy has a history of being slow to adjust to major changes in the industry. With a higher volume and wider array of TV shows than ever before, some quality shows are always going to get left behind. But when the Emmys continue to make apologies for shows that they previously loved, it’s worth wondering how long these awards can stay relevant.
Below, here are five of my thoughts about the nominations list. For more on the list’s weirder surprises, here’s my USA Today article from Thursday. For my dream ballots, click here and here.
Another season of Saturday Night Live concluded on May 17 with a returning sketch in which Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong play retired porn stars advertising a luxury item for a quick buck. The sketch played, in some ways, as a microcosm of season 39. It was intermittently hilarious with an arguably unnecessary cameo appearance and a sense that these characters came back out of obligation rather than inspiration. It was SNL in a nutshell.
It’s not criticism to point out that Saturday Night Live is an inconsistent show. Some episodes are better than others, but few are uniformly perfect. Some sketches work, others don’t. Some cast members jell immediately, others take time, and still others never find their corner. Some recurring bits remain funny with repetition, others fall flat as they grow older. The appeal of Saturday Night Live is in the pursuit, not the attainment, of perfection. I watch each episode looking for the moments that I’ll remember in five to ten years, even while I’m fully aware that I’ll forget most of the show within a few weeks.