With the September showcase, we look behind the scenes and salute the Powers That Be who helped to expand the many facets of the TV Universe.
This year, being the dreaded 2020, by this point we really need to salute somebody who helps to make us laugh. And so we turned to a man who has created a major “Borderland” combining the Cineverse with Skitlandia….
Lorne Michaels CC (born Lorne David Lipowitz; November 17, 1944) is a Canadian-American television producer and screenwriter best known for creating and producing ‘Saturday Night Live’ and producing the ‘Late Night’ series (since 1993), ‘The Kids in the Hall’ (from 1989 to 1995) and ‘The Tonight Show’ (since 2014).
In 1975, Michaels created (with fellow NBC employee Dick Ebersol and president of the network Herb Schlosser) the TV show ‘NBC's Saturday Night’, which in 1977 changed its name to ‘Saturday Night Live’ (initially there was a name conflict with an ABC show titled ‘Saturday Night Live’ with Howard Cosell, which debuted September 20, 1975, and was cancelled on January 17, 1976). The show, which is performed live in front of a studio audience, immediately established a reputation for being cutting-edge and unpredictable. It became a vehicle for launching the careers of some of the most successful comedians in the United States.
Originally the producer of the show, Michaels was also a writer and later became executive producer. He occasionally appears on-screen as well, where he is known for his deadpan humor. Throughout the show's history, SNL has been nominated for more than 156 Emmy Awards and has won 36. It has consistently been one of the highest-rated late-night television programs. Michaels has been with SNL for all seasons except for his hiatus in the early 1980s (seasons 6–10).
Perhaps Michaels's best-known appearance occurred in the first season when he offered the Beatles $3,000 (a deliberately paltry sum) to reunite on the show. He later increased his offer to $3,200, but the money was never claimed. According to an interview in Playboy magazine, John Lennon and Paul McCartney happened to be in New York City that night and wanted to see the show. They very nearly went, but changed their minds as it was getting too late to get to the show on time, and they were both tired. This near-reunion was the basis for the TV movie “Two of Us”.
On the November 20, 1976, show, musical guest George Harrison appeared, but Michaels told him the offer was conditional on all four members of the group showing up, not just any Beatle. Harrison told Michaels his refusal to pay him his share is "chintzy," and Michaels countered by saying, "The Beatles don't have to split the money equally. They can give, say, Ringo less if they want."
‘Saturday Night Live’ has made several efforts to develop some of the more popular sketches into feature-length films, with varying degrees of commercial and critical success. The first foray into film came with the successful Aykroyd and Belushi vehicle, “The Blues Brothers” (1980), which earned over $115 million on a $27 million budget.
The success of “Wayne's World” (1992) encouraged Michaels to produce more film spin-offs, based on several popular sketch characters. Michaels revived 1970s characters for “Coneheads” (1993), followed by “It's Pat” (1994); “Stuart Saves His Family” (1995); “A Night at the Roxbury” (1998); “Superstar” (1999) and “The Ladies Man” (2000).
Some did moderately well, though others did not—notably, “It's Pat”, which did so badly at the box office that the studio that made the film, Touchstone Pictures (owned by The Walt Disney Company, which also owns NBC's rival ABC), pulled it only one week after releasing it, and “Stuart Saves His Family”, which lost $14 million. Many of these films were produced by Paramount Pictures. The films based on “The Blues Brothers” were produced by Universal Studios, which merged with NBC in 2004 to form NBC Universal. (Universal also has a joint venture with Paramount for international distribution of the two studios' films.)
Those movies were responsible for a unique Borderland in which those movies are merged with the sketches on which they were based.
And Michaels also brought in characters from many alternate Cineverses and Toobworlds to make them part of Skitlandia, like Thor from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (played by Chris Hemsworth) and Jesse Pinkman of LLSLS‘Breaking Bad’ (played by Aaron Paul.)
Welcome to the Hall, Mr. Michaels!