10 Things To Look Forward To In This Weekend's Documentary, SNL: Backstage
As you may know from my writings around these parts, yes, I have a (perhaps unhealthy) fondness for Saturday Night Live. It's the three-week, midseason stretches with no SNL -- like the one that we're currently in -- that sadden me. I am a delicate flower! Oh, heavens, what will I write about? And behold: Along comes this Sunday's SNL: Backstage -- a two-hour documentary that purports to chronicle the show's 36-year history from behind the scenes. I have seen SNL Backstage and I'm here to report that it is good... but it could have been a lot better.
The biggest problem with SNL: Backstage is that there is relatively little "backstage" to be had. The rare glimpses that we do get -- like a montage of cast-member auditions -- are absolutely fascinating. For example, Fred Armisen leans into the microphone and introduces himself while dressed as Fericito (¡Ay dios mio!), but we never actually get to see any of his audition: it's a montage of people announcing their names. Backstage also has a tendency to splice old interviews (mostly from full-decade retrospectives that already aired a few years ago) along with newer interviews. The result is things like current Jimmy Fallon talking about Digital Shorts and a younger Jimmy Fallon talking about what it's like working with Tina Fey.
Not all is lost, however! The special, which is divided into straightforward segments like "The Monologue," "Cast Changes," and "Weekend Update," will appease the die-hards with some juicy nuggets. Here are 10 moments in particular to look forward to:
· Bill Hader really breaking character in dress rehearsal as Stefon.
· Seth Meyers admitting that the monologues are the hardest part of the night, offering few options beyond interruptions or taking questions.
· Albert Brooks looking back on the short films that he used to produce for SNL during the first few episodes of the first year -- and which were eventually dumped. (Michaels had requested the films be no longer than five minutes; Brooks' submitted one that was 13 minutes.)
· The aforementioned auditions (which are painfully abbreviated).
· David Spade recounting the time Lorne Michaels told him, "Everyone's going to tell you that you're the funniest. You're not."
· A pretty fascinating segment on the people who failed on SNL and made it big after leaving the show. Special attention to Robert Downey Jr., Larry David (with proof that he did actually get one sketch on the air during his one full season as a writer), Chris Rock and Sarah Silverman.
· Chevy Chase, smug as ever, saying the only other person he ever liked on "Weekend Update" was Norm MacDonald.
· Tina Fey describing MacDonald as the last dangerous cast member.
· A montage of "silly songs."
· Possibly the most interesting bit: a side-by-side comparisons of Sinéad O'Connor in dress rehearsal holding up a picture of a young child to the camera, as opposed to what she did on the live broadcast -- tear up a picture of the Pope.