An Interesting Experiment
That's Well Worth The Watch
I know that I might get a lot of crap for this but I do have to admit, I'm not a huge Francis Ford fan. In fact, if I hadn't watched all of the movies on the AFI's Top 100 List as part of my 365 Days Of Resolution Challenge, I'd only know Peggy Sue... That's not to say that I've not a fan of his ability to shoot a shoot a scene, I've just never been a fan of neither the war or mobster genres when I want to be entertained.
Aside from my genre issues, I can fully see why this man gets paid well for his work, which is why tonight's special episode of SNL was a very fun episode to see. Not only did I like what was happening on stage, I loved how there was a running story as to what was going on behind the scenes as they transitioned from sketch to sketch.
This backstage storyline gave the entire episode a beginning, a middle and an end and the same could be said about each and every sketch, even the ones that were convoluted. Even though this was far from the funniest of episodes, the entire night was consistently strong to where it kept my full attention, which hasn't happened all that much over the last three seasons of shows.
The only flaw that I did find was that they went to the same joke too often where Francis Ford Coppola would break the scene and throw around his weight as an Auteur. Though it was funny once, they used the technique in what seemed to be every other scene. That said, the scene changes that he did throw out during these scene breaks did get implemented to where every sketch still ended up with the proper amount of closure which is something that I don't think that the normal director would have/could have pulled off.
Now that I'm done blowing smoke up this cinematic episode's ass, it's time to move on and share what I saw as I give you...
The Wicker Breakdown:
This week's show started with a cast meeting where Lorne Michaels informs the cast that the network has forced him into letting Francis Ford Coppola direct the show in an attempt to boost the ratings. Rather than getting excited about this opportunity, the cast acts concerned about this switch in leadership. There weren't just leadership fears, toward the end of the sketch, Joan Cusack asks if the show would still open with, "Live from New York..."
Following Joan question in the opening sketch, we then got a more cinematic opening credit scene than the typical intro that we've seen every other week.
George Wendt then officially opened the show and his entrance is also more cinematically stylized. He starts by thanking the crowd then interacts with our famous guest director who's also directing the monolog more like a film when he has George redo his lines with a different motivation. George is concerned about the show's start but Francis reassures him that everything will be fixed in editing despite this being live TV.
The Honeymooners, The Lost Episodes was a parody of the original show with George as Ralph, Nora Dunn as Alice and Anthony Michael Hall as Norton during the night that Ralph does more than just threat and actually knocks Alice out, in a bit of a Street Car Named Desire type of outburst.
We then got the start to a fake commercial that got stopped right away because Francis was promised a Commercial-Free episode and he took it to mean commercial-free even when it comes to sketches.
Francis then headed to the production booth because he wanted control over them as well, then goes on to call for the angles and shots as the sketch Mystery Playhouse eventually plays out with a Clue-like murder mystery that is filled with suspense because all of the interesting action takes place off screen making the audience do the work by interpreting the onscreen actors' responses.
Philip Glass then took to the stage to perform Lightning.
Once again, Dennis Miller gave us the news but unlike the rest of the night, there is nothing more cinematic about it. This week, we got another pointless visit from The Weekend Update Dancers, Joan Cusack got a segment to give a horrible review of the movie Out Of Africa because she went into the viewing thinking that it was a romantic comedy, and Francis Ford Coppola breaks the scene because he doesn't agree with a bit.
That Black Girl then returned for another installment where Danitra Vance auditions to be a toothpaste pitchgirl and wins the role and everyone has a hard time believing the news due to the simple fact that she's black. About half way through the sketch Francis breaks the scene once again demanding a gritty sketch, making out peppy "That Black Girl" more stereotypically black even though it goes against the point of the sketch, which just kind of highlights how movie people see race.
We then went to a local fish market where George Wendt plays the shop owner who is desperate to get rid of a multi ton whale that his son accidentally ordered by mistake.
Nora Dunn and Robert Downey Jr. then act as network executives who review his sketches from the night.
We then met The Ghost Of The Master Thespian who comes to Francis with some other worldly advice to go big or go home. At first, Coppola couldn't care less but then after a moment of thinking, he decides the ghostly thespian might actually be right.
This was followed by a Vietnam Sketch ala Apocalypse Now where we learn the Coppola's plan to go big includes using live ammunition in the sketch and Anthony Michael Hall gets shot, ending with what I thought might have been a parody of Heart Of Darkness but that documentary wasn't released until about five years after this episode.
Philip Glass then took to the stage to perform Rubric.
Suitcase Confrontational was a sketch where Robert Downey Jr. is stuck in a suitcase with just his head sticking out while giving a confrontational monolog until Joan Cusack got dragged out in a suitcase of her own with plans of going next which leads to a suitcase fight.
We then got The Grand Finale where the ghost of the Master Thespian summarizes the entire history of the SNL set, going all the way back to the radio play days of NBC.
Finally, George Wendt and Francis Ford Coppola closed the show by thanking the audience and saying their goodnights.
All in all, even with the minor flaw and lack of big laugh moments, this was by far the best episode of the season with these three of my favorite moments. I loved the Whale In A Fish Shop scene because it's one of those sketches that I love that treat the bizarre as if it were absolutely normal. Next, I really liked The Honeymooner's scene where Ralph finally pulls off his threat and punches Alice in the mouth while treating him like A Street Car Named Desire-style of hero. Finally, I was a fan of the Vietnam Sketch because of how it reminded me of the documentary called Heart Of Darkness about the making of Apocalypse Now.