Hour for programming hour, Mike Darnell may be the most intelligent, imaginative, and beguiling purveyor of television shit who’s ever lived. Darnell’s exit as head of “alternative entertainment” for the Fox network, announced last Friday, isn’t so much the end of an era as an occasion to take stock of a man who altered television every bit as much as any producer of adventurous TV. Over the past two decades, Darnell, 51, has proven to be the grotty Grant Tinker; the David E. Kelley of kitsch; the Matthew Weiner of wince.
It's been two days since Bill Hader announced his departure from Saturday Night Live, and already he's got company. The New York Post is reporting that Fred Armisen, who was said to be pondering his exit for a while now, has locked it in internally: "A source at NBC has confirmed to The Post that, after months of rumors, veteran performer Fred Armisen will ... be leaving the show." Oh, also: "Headliner Jason Sudeikis will 'probably' jump as well, the source said." If you're counting at home: That's Hader, Armisen, Sudeikis, and Seth Meyers all dunzo. Time to panic?!
But first, a moment of appreciation. In the 11 years he's been on the show, Fred Armisen has done everything. Partially, that's thanks to his indeterminate ethnic background (for the record, 1/2 Venezuelan, 1/4 German, 1/4 Japanese). Mostly, though, it's skills: Goofy, evil, sappy, clueless, female — Armisen can do 'em all. He was the go-to for dead-panning Middle Eastern dictators or Jewish New York billionaire mayors or brilliantly hacky Latin American drummer/percussionists. He turned New York Governor David Paterson into a gleefully self-aware, New Jersey–loathing maniac, and did it so well he somehow got away with blind jokes. I mean, the guy did Obama! And it was passable! In his later years, as he swallowed up more and more screen time, Armisen became, by default, a marquee name. But it wasn't like with Hader or Sudeikis; nobody was claiming Fred as their favorite cast member. Fred Armisen was one of the greatest utility men in the history of the show.
First there was the underrated Paul Brittain, dipping mid-season and, tragically, taking "Sex" Ed Vincent with him. Next came Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg, two SNL giants saying good-bye in proper fashion before heading off to post-Oscar-nom-glory and "who really knows? Hopefully Hot Rod 2?," respectively. Following in their footsteps out the door at Saturday Night Live, most had assumed, would be Jason Sudeikis, who'd already clocked nine seasons at Studio 8H (that's counting two in the writer's room) and had been busy turning his particular brand of charming smugness into Hollywood paychecks for the past few years now. Most recently, he'd told the L.A. Times that he'd return if he got "the opportunity to use creative muscles that ... haven't been asked of me for the first nine years. It could be some sort of title change ... [It's a] desire to give more to a place I really believe in. To stay just for the juice of being in the public eye — of [impersonating] Mitt Romney — is not enough." But guess who's beaten Sudeikis to the punch? Why, it's Abby Elliott!
As has been reported in a couple of places, Lane Brown will be leaving Grantland in a couple of weeks to take a job as culture editor for New York Magazine. We couldn’t be happier for him. Lane was instrumental in building this site into what it is today, and as hard as it is to imagine this office without him, we appreciate everything he did and wish him luck in the brave new frontier of “print." Call us crazy, but we think it has a future.