Friday, June 2, 2017


When I was a kid, the basic set-up for the TV schedule was the same as today - when the regular season ended, the shows would go into reruns.  But there was a sub-set of television which didn't really go into that repetition phase - the variety show.  Instead, a new variety show format was created for the span of the summer.  Sometimes the name of the star usually seen in that time-slot would be tacked on as the presenter, to keep the audience in the mood for their eventual return, I'm guessing.  'Dean Martin Presents The Golddiggers' - that sort of thing.

For me, the best of these was 'The Dean Martin Comedy World' in the summer of 1974.  It was presented as sort of a comedy news magazine show, with Jackie Cooper as the anchorman, featuring reports filed by Barbara Feldon and Nipsey Russell.  A lot of comedians were showcased doing their stand-up routines presented as news reports, with big names like Rodney Dangerfield and Rich Little, plus stalwarts on the circuit like Jackie Gayle, Elayne Boosler, Mark Russell, and David Brenner.  The show grabbed the chance to spotlight the hottest names just breaking like Freddie Prinze,  Jimmie Walker and Andy Kaufman, as well as gave the audience the chance to see some lesser-known talents like Irwin C. Watson and TV writer Mary Batten.  The show even fulfilled that variety show mandate for music with the country music/comedy of Jud Strunk.

But for me, the biggest contribution made by 'Comedy World' was my introduction to Marty Feldman and Monty Python's Flying Circus.  I just have these great memories of watching their filmed bits with my Dad and marveling at the novel ideas they had.

Basically the variety show format is dead now, killed by some puerile attempts to make it appeal to a new generation - like that 'Brady Bunch' program or the one with Donny and Marie... or that monstrosity known as 'Pink Lady And Jeff'.  It sort of still lives on though, disguised as the late night talk show.  Plus I think the fake news programs like 'The Daily Show' and 'Full Frontal' fit that category as well.  And of course, speaking of late night, there is the enduring war-horse 'Saturday Night Live'.

And that's why I'm foregoing my usual format for Inner Toob to do this opinion piece.

I can't help but think that NBC must be bleeping themselves that Lorne Michael's juggernaut has gone on summer hiatus, this year especially.  In their 42 years, SNL has missed a lot of stories that broke over the summers - especially every four years during the campaign seasons capping off with the conventions.  

But now we've got the Orange One in the Oval Office.  Every day we wake up with some new twist on breaking news - this Russian investigation has proven to be a comedy goldmine so far, with Beck Bennett a solid as the bare-chested Putin.  And of course, Alec Baldwin has been scoring as Drumpf (even though I thought Darrell Hammond was already fantastic in the part, but I guess ratings must be sought.)  And then there's been Melissa McCarthy skewering Sean Spicer - why that man isn't just a quivering lump of jelly in the corner by now just from those daily press briefings, I couldn't fathom.  Must be the spinach-flavored gum.

And here's the thing which prompted this opinion piece - those bizarre, unforeseen moments usually spewing forth from either the Donald's own mouth or from his Twitterfeed.  So you can probably figure out where I'm going with this - "Covfefe".  By the time SNL comes back from the summer break, that will not just be old news, it'll be a relic.  And nobody's going to want to see what SNL could do with it by that point; they're sick of it already after just one day of incessant Twitter responses and Facebook memes.  (But I'm sure 'The President Show' will run with it and mine it for all its worth in their next episode!)

With Twitler's Cheeto finger on the nuclear button, we should at least get some late-night weekend laughs out of our impending doom.  That's why I think NBC should look into doing a summer  replacement series for 'Saturday Night Live' so that their berth in the schedule is kept warm.  It doesn't have to be produced by Lorne Michaels (although he would probably insist on it) nor star the regular cast who could probably use the summer vacation to either decompress or capitalize with movie projects.  It doesn't even have to have the same format.  You'd probably want something fresh anyway to make it worthwhile for the audience to call an early Saturday summer night so they could watch.

But the Peacock is letting a lot of comedy gold escape by not having something to fill the SNL void during the summer.  The late night hosts from Stephen Colbert to Trevor Noah aren't going to let that opportunity slip by, but they're only on the weeknights and at best can only offer about half an hour to such coverage.  The only ones who have any semblance of a beachhead on the weekends are 'Real Time with Bill Maher' and 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver'....  And those are a panel format and a news report/editorial show respectively.  

What the summer should have is that variety show format so that Trump's piggy toes are kept to the flame.  (Arrrrgh!  I was trying to avoid typing that name!)

Okay, I'm going to get off my soap box now......

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