Thursday, March 6, 2014


Don't look now, but your television is being controlled by this guy.   Well, at least, one of your networks is.   NBC is now the exclusive home of all things Lorne Michaels.   

You remember NBC?  Once the leader in network television journalism.   The home of some wonderful stars and great innovative programs.   In 1994, it was "Must See" TV.

Today?   It's no longer a journalistic enterprise.  Huntley and Brinkley have long since flipped in their caskets.  Any stars on the network were likely once cast members on SNL.  There is no cleverness and innovation.   In 2014, NBC is now "Must Flee" TV.

Indeed, the only way the network gets any viewers these days is by showing its prime time schedule on American Airlines.  In this age of terrorism, everybody is worried about bombs on planes.   Well, TSA should check the in-flight entertainment.

Meanwhile, as bad as they are, NBC is virtually turning over its entire creative operation to Lorne Michaels.   The long time producer of SNL was last relevant when Joe Piscopo had a full time job.  That sad lamentation, however, doesn't prevent the once proud Peacock from handing everything over to this non-entity.  

Oh, sure, maybe he hob nobs with the cafe society of Manhattan and the denizens of Malibu Beach.   Throw a party and Lorne is likely there, stuffing his face with one canape after another.  He can get virtually anybody who's anybody on the phone.   The only trouble is that all those cell phone minutes don't really amount to much when it comes to delivering entertaining television.

I watched all of SNL last weekend.   The major attraction for me was that Jim Parsons of "The Big Bang Theory" was the guest host.  Okay, with a major talent like that in most of the sketches, this was going to be a laugh riot, correct?

There was not a single laugh in the entire 90 minutes.   Talk about a great way to get a good night's sleep.   I lay in bed stone-faced and realized that all these sketches look like sketches from twenty and thirty years ago.  There's not a single organic moment as every cast member recites (badly) the cue cards held about ten feet away.  Meanwhile, the audience whoops and hollers as if it's seeing "The Honeymooners" for the first time.   

SNL is lazy television and Lorne Michaels has ridden this comfy mattress all the way to the bank.

Lorne's had a stranglehold on the 1230AM slot for some time and its last occupant, Jimmy Fallon, has moved onto the Tonight Show.  His replacement is Seth Meyers and, oh yeah, he was on SNL for years as well.   Does Lorne Michaels know any other place to cultivate talent?

Wait.  He's involved in some prime time series, too.  And those cast members come from SNL, too.   This wouldn't be such a bad system if the original home turf was funny.   But it hasn't been since Gilda Radner was cancer-free.  Yet, NBC keeps flipping more and more of their business model to a guy who sits around the Hamptons like he's Jabba the Hutt.

The best thing we can say about Jimmy Fallon as the new host of the Tonight Show is that he's inoffensive.   When it comes to a Lorne Michaels production, that's as good as a win-win.  You can be assured that, in its inoffensiveness, the program will be grossly unfunny as well.

I remember the old days.   There were three prime time networks and lots and lots of creative talents at work.   They all programmed for diversity and I don't mean the kind that majors in African Studies.   There would be westerns.  If you didn't like them, you could opt for a cop drama or two.  Or a variety show.   Or a sitcom that struck your funny bone.

The product came from the likes of Desilu, MTM, Norman Lear, Carl Reiner, Quinn Martin, and Universal Studios.   You didn't watch everything, but that's okay because, at the very least, there was something.

At NBC in 2014, there is nothing.  There is simply Lorne Michaels.

And that's hardly anything.

Dinner last night:  Meat lasagna at Maria's Italian Kitchen.

No comments: