SNL: S35E21... HOST: BETTY WHITE... DATE: MAY 8, 2010

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Bringing Up Memories Of Miskel Spillman,

Only Done Right

 

There are two episodes from this season that I know for sure I watched soon after they originally aired. The first episode was hosted by Charles Barkley which I remember watching soon after seeing The Haney Project parody. The being tonight’s Betty White episode, which I know that I watched on the actual night because I was still highly active on social media, and not just during random drunken outbursts of whenever I attempt to promote this blog. Because of this, I was all on board for the Facebook movement that led to tonight’s host booking.

Granted I was too young to remember the Anyone Can Host contest from season three that introduced up to Miskel Spillman. Though Betty White wasn’t a civilian like Mrs. Spillman was, the energy that stemmed from the audience’s involvement in selecting the show’s host generated the same type of excitement. While I was watching season three as part of this challenge, once I learned of this call to action from the audience, I was more excited about that night than I was for any other show from the year.

Yeah, I was let down by the actual performance since Miskel had absolutely no acting abilities at all, and the cast did all of the heavy lifting, but I have no fears of that being the case tonight. For one, I’m a fan of Betty White because I’m the perfect age to know her from Golden Girls that I first watch with my family by default before I got the more risqué content, and then watched again when the show was syndicated when those jokes were no longer over my head. I also liked Betty White from various other roles like her part in the movie Lake Placid, where she started to be cast more regularly as a foul-mouthed granny.

I also feel confident that this will be a fun night based on my pre-viewing legwork where I saw a night filled with alumni cameos, that feels like the show was trying to avoid the same flaws from the Miskel Spillman publicity stunt. Though a show packed filled with cameos can, at times, be a sign of a weaker episode with all of the special guest acting as a distraction from shitty content, from what I remember, and from my legwork efforts, tonight’s star-studded night seems like it’s more of a legitimate attempt to make the night feel like a celebration.

With that, it’s now time for me to hit play to see if I’ll still feel the same way an hour and a half from now when this viewing is over. As I’m sure you can guess, I loved that the opening sketch was non-political. I’m also happy that they switched up this Dooneese sketch even a little in how they incorporated Betty White, and the alumni, because up until tonight, this installment these sketches featuring the tiny-handed freak have been fun, but they’re also almost an exact reboot each and every time.

Betty White’s monolog was brilliant, even though she had a few old person moments where she slipped up while delivering a few lines, but those slip up felt genuine from just being old and not from an inability to perform. Her enthusiasm also showed and felt real which always boosts my outlook towards the show’s host, even when the upcoming content doesn’t look all that promising, which isn’t the case tonight.

Though simple and intentionally repetitive, I still get excited everything I see the start of another MacGruber series. I was so excited to see Delicious Dish return because not only did it tap into nostalgia from when this series of sketches was originally part of the show, but it also tapped into the nostalgia from rewatching all of the sketches from this series just several months ago. Well, that and the actual segment was good with Betty White going on and on about her muffin.

I may not mind the repetitiveness of MacGruber, or even Delicious Dish to a degree, but I’m not a huge fan of the repetitive nature of The Manuel Ortiz series because it just feels like a Latin rip off of the structure for What’s Up With That only with dance interruptions instead of the singing of the theme. I do remember thinking this was hilarious back in the day because that actual dancing aspect is pretty funny but now, I can’t help but get bored by the accent-based/stereotyping content that fills the space between the dancing because it’s never funny on its own.

As I said, I love when MacGruber is one, but at the same time, the sketch is so repetitive that it can be hard to write about even to merely share my thoughts on the segment. I really liked the Gingey sketch because it was really cool to see all of the female cast members, both old and new, team up for this special segment. Not only that but, all of Betty White’s lesbian talk was cracking me up throughout the entire scene because her old person delivery where she was aware and unapologetic about any potential offensiveness was extra funny to me. Again, the MacGruber sketch that followed was fun as usual, but I still have nothing new to say about the series of this segment in particular.

Jay-Z’s popularity just started to grow around the time my taste in music began to evolve from only listening to rap to mainly focusing on punk music, because of this, I never really saw him as the massive star that he seems to be. I don’t mind his music, but it’s another case where he’s never been an artist that I ever actively sought out. This could also be due to the fact that I was more of a West Coast fan back when I was deeply invested in the rap genre, which may have led to the development of a specific taste.

The news was the news, as usual, fun but outdated thanks to the topical jokes about current events. There was a little fun however from the cavalcade of alumni who got to drop by a special Weekend Update guests. Like with the Delicious Dish sketch from early in the night, I liked how all of these alumni guest appearances hit me with a double dose of nostalgia through both my original time spent with these old members of the cast, as well as the time I more recently spent with them through this challenge.

The installment of Scared Straight had me laughing from the second that Betty White as a thug entered the scene based on her appearance alone. Combine that with the fact that I love this series in general, and you should understand why it was impossible for this segment to fail. I had mixed feelings about the CSI parody that followed since I’ve never seen any version of the real show, but it was still pretty fun to see Betty White team up with Rachel Dratch.

I’ve written about nostalgia a couple of times throughout tonight’s episode and how much nostalgia affects me, which is why I absolutely adored that casts’ rendition of Thank You For Being A Friend to honor tonight’s host through an installment of An SNL Digital Short, and loved Betty’s death metal rendition even more. I didn’t mind the second song from Jay-Z and his guest for the same nostalgic reason since they covered Forever Young as the chorus for the song.

The census sketch that concluded the night was another hilarious routine, even if it was pretty much a duplicate of a census routine a decade ago back when Christopher Walken hosted his fourth episode. The goodnights were sweet because it did feel like everyone involved really felt excited to celebrate Betty White’s long comedic career and weren’t just happy to have saved a publicity stunt. As good as this episode was, there were times that it did feel like they were attempting to cheat by adding extra excitement through guest alone. Considering the so-so nature of this season, I appreciate that effort even if others do see all of the special visits as a cheap way to get a laugh.

With all of that said, let’s now dig deeper into the details of each sketch, as I give you…

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. This week's show started with another parody of The Lawrence Welk Show that brought back Fred Armisen as Lawrence Welk to introduce a tribute to mothers through another song and dance with Kristen Wiig’s baby-handed/high-foreheaded Dooneese character. Throughout the song, Betty White represented all the mothers who the song went out to and chimed in with her confusion over what she was witnessing from time to time. Of course, with this being the opening sketch, this all eventually led to the announcement of, “Live from New York…”

  2. Betty White then officially opened the show with a monolog where she poked fun of the Facebook campaign that actually landed her this hosting role as if her thirty-five years of acting experience wasn’t enough to earn it. She then went on to joke about the things that she did for fun back in the old days, before there was even a thing called social media, and they had to act live out of necessity and not by choice.

  3. MacGruber then returned for another series of sketches where this time the central running theme was Betty White played MacGruber’s Nana who kept embarrassing our fake TV hero with embarrassing stories from his childhood which distracted him from defusing the bomb.

  4. Delicious Dish bought back Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon to reprise their NPR talk show host characters from when they were on the show about a decade ago, in order to chat muffins using double entendre with Betty White a guest named Florence Dusty.

  5. The Manuel Ortiz Show then returned for another installment from this series of sketches that’s pretty much a rip off of What Up With That, only it makes fun of a Mexican talk show and has the host constantly interrupt with Latin-style dancing instead of a theme song.

  6. MacGruber then returned for round two where this time Betty White, as Nana, played dead which led to the reason why our fake TV hero was distracted for this segment of the series.

  7. Gingey took us back to 1904 and brought in Amy Poehler as a special guest to portray the titular tomboy character who everyone in the family thinks is a lesbian.  

  8. We then got the third and final installment of MacGruber for the night where our fake TV hero attempted to apologize to his Nana, Betty White by proposing marriage which then led to two to make out.

  9. Jay-Z then took to the stage to perform the songs Real As It Gets and 99 Problems before being joined by Bridget Kelly to then perform Empire State Of Mind.

  10. Once again, Seth Meyers gave us the news. This week, Maya Rudolph also reprised her impersonation of Whitney Houston to reassure us that she’s still on crack for a special guest appearance where she attempted to promote some sort of comeback special. Molly Shannon’s stuck around from Delicious Dish to portray her “I’m 50,” Sally O’Malley character to team up with Betty White who played her, “I’m 90,” proclaiming counterpart. Seth Meyers, Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey then had a three-way reunion to play a quick game of Really!?! about the current state of the world. (Clip 2) (Clip 3)

  11. Scared Straight was another sketch to return for another installment of one of my parodies. This time Betty White played Kenan Thompson’s badass sidekick who attempted to scare the kids straight by telling tales of horror they stole from movies while acting as if these stories were how they landed in jail, but the kids didn’t buy it at all.

  12. CSI: Sarasota was a parody spin-off of the CSI series where Betty White and alumni special guest Rachel Dratch played detectives in a retirement community if Sarasota, Florida.

  13. We then got another SNL Digital Short called Thank You For Being A Friend where the entire cast sang the theme song to Golden Girls in a hard-rock style to honor tonight’s host.

  14. Jay-Z then took to the stage with Mr. Hudson to perform Young Forever.

  15. 2010 Census Taker had Tina Fey as the census taker in question who gets nothing but runaround answers from Betty White, who may or may not be living alone in her apartment.

  16. Finally, Betty White closed the show by thanking the audience and saying her goodnights.

As I said from the start of this viewing experience, I wasn’t all that concerned about this episode because I remember really liking it from when it first aired but I still really enjoyed watching the show thanks to sketches like these that contained my three favorite moments of the night. First, I loved The Return Of Delicious Dish because it was great to see this classic return, plus, all of Betty White’s talk of her muffin kept cracking me up. Next, I really liked the Gingey sketch not only because it was cool to see so many female members of SNL all in one scene but Betty White’s delivery of her lesbian content had me laughing out loud because it really reminded me of things that would be said from an old person who no longer cares. Finally, I was a fan of this week’s SNL Digital Short where the cast covered Thank You For Being A Friend because the cover was cute and sentimental and then Betty White’s death metal cover was brilliant.

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Matt Bunker

I started out with a goal of becoming a paid screenwriter. I had no interest in any other aspect of filmmaking. I received and scholarship to The Vancouver Film School's Writing for Film and Television program where I graduated in 2005. I fell in love with being on set during my first non-school produced short, . I loved being around all the creative people, seeing people having fun while working. The whole liking your job was a new world to me, so I decided to give it a shot. I volunteered for any project I could, doing what ever was needed. The set was my Film School this time. While working as a PA on a feature I was informed that the DP wanted the three tallest PAs to help out in the grip and electric department. That is when I found the department that felt like the best fit for me while I continued to write.