Don't even tell me you didn't catch SNL's immaculately detailed Wes Anderson tribute/homage, The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders. (It happened on Ed Norton's episode a couple Saturdays ago, and it's embedded again here for the uninitiated.) Despite an insane amount of work going into the short film, the final product barely made it to air. Director of photography Alex Buono shared a long, technical blog post explaining the entire production, and it's pretty remarkable. Choice quote: "The spot was literally still loading into the switcher as it was being broadcast out. Holy crap." [h/t A.V. Club]
There aren't words for the emotions kids go through when you tell them you ate all their Halloween candy; only YouTube compilations can come close to portraying the next-level sensations of agony and betrayal. Jimmy Kimmel knows this, and he has an annual monopoly on the prank. Watch, laugh, feel horrible, feel tickled, feel hungry for candy.
Man, was I nervous for Edward Norton. The last episode of SNL, which was followed by a two-week break, was rough. Bruce Willis mumbled, the sketches were overall pretty weak, and someone in the comments of my recap wished that Willis had busted out his cover of "Under the Boardwalk" to save the sinking ship (someone also suggested that SNL was just going to feature the whole cast from Moonrise Kingdom). That's not a good sign. This past weekend's host, Edward Norton, has a reputation for being, uhhh, controlling, and without Norton having a current project to promote, it was hard not to worry that this week would suffer from the same problems that plagued it last time (and though Norton has proven his comedic chops with Everyone Says I Love You and Death to Smoochy, he's still much better known for his more dramatic contributions). Instead, Norton was smooth, game, and ready to get weird. I might go so far as to call him a Mrs. Dalloway — the perfect host. And though the show wasn't perfect, it almost seemed as though some of the criticisms launched in its direction recently — Pharoah's Obama, the one-note jokes of "Weekend Update" guests like Anthony Crispino (secondhand news reporter) — had been heard and processed.
Last week, I broke my hands writing about Miley Cyrus's SNL double-duty hosting gig. Electric currents ran through my fingers from my very soul, and I typed 580,000 words without blinking. I thought, I should scale back. I told myself, Shut up, you're on Page 95. I couldn't stop, and I wouldn't stop, and some gigantic cosmic force had to step in my path and holler CEASE, BLOGGER. That force was Bruce Willis. Brevity is now my friend.
It's not that I have anything against Bruce Willis. I like Willis so much that I own a copy of his 1987 R&B album, The Return of Bruno, and have listened to it more than twice. Was I skeptical of this hosting choice? Maybe. Willis has nothing to promote at the moment, with Sin City: A Dame to Kill For lingering in post-production and Red 2 disappearing in the rearview mirror. A host without a vehicle doesn't necessarily spell disaster, but it seemed like weird timing. After SNL wakes up from its hiatus nap on October 26, Edward Norton — another actor with no current merchandise — is set to headline, which is strange enough that I have no choice but to assume that the government shutdown's ripple effect has extended to Hollywood like a butterfly flapping its wings in the Congo. The unfortunate casualty of employing an emcee with nothing to shill is that everything seems strangely post-dated (I see you, Armageddon reference), and the episode seemed like it dropped out of a wormhole, a mediocre object with no spatial or temporal relevance.
In the span of less than a week, Miley Cyrus got into a cyber fight with Sinead O'Connor, was the subject of a New York Times piece defending her against critics, and pulled double duty hosting and musical-guesting on SNL. Everyone seems to be joining forces to put Miley through Olympian-level trials while staring so hard at her that anyone else would spontaneously combust under such scrutiny.
At times it feels deliberate, as though we're trying to edge Miley closer to what haters are predicting will be an inevitable train wreck. She lobbed some insensitive tweets at O'Connor, referencing via screengrab and the text "Before there was Amanda Bynes" a public meltdown the Irish musician had in 2012, with which she drew criticism from pretty much everyone, not least of whom was O'Connor herself; still, Cyrus offered (OK, somewhat cheekily) to meet up with O'Connor to talk in person. Amanda Palmer got involved, as did Simon Cowell, if only by proxy. It was a train wreck, for sure, but Miley seemed to duck out before she could incur too much damage. She doesn't spend a lot of time on introspection. She's too busy. And anyway, too much introspection is dangerous for a performer who's running his or her own game: Miley's dancing on the edge, so she knows better than to look down.
Saturday Night Live is a storied franchise that has found ways to cultivate stars until they're ready to be released into the wild, while continually finding the next generation of comedians to keep the show relevant. But many feel that the show refuses to be truly progressive because of the racial homogeneity of its cast.
Last week, as the 39th season began, some were taken aback by the introduction of the six new featured players, because all of them are white.
When asked about this, Jay Pharoah, a black cast member too often used to impersonate the people Kenan Thompson (and, until recently, Fred Armisen) cannot, told The Grio about his feelings on SNL’s hiring practices and the show's blatant lack of diversity, referencing the star of Tyler Perry's Love Thy Neighbor:
They need to pay attention. Her name is Darmirra Brunson ... Why do I think she should be on the show? Because she’s black first of all, and she’s really talented. She’s amazing. She needs to be on SNL. I said it. And I believe they need to follow up with it like they said they were going to do last year ...
It’s one of those things that’s hard. Some people choke up. Some people burn their bridges by saying things they shouldn’t say either. You just have to be very political about your delivery, what you say, and your performance. You’ve got to be on point. Everybody has to like you and want you to win. If they don’t like you, it’s a wrap.
Stand-up comedian and former Saturday Night Live writer John Mulaney has a sorta-autobiographical sitcom that has gone through some ups and downs — mostly with NBC — before getting a series order from Fox this week. Entertainment Weeklycalls Mulaney "one of the most promising-sounding pilots from earlier this year." Splitsider, in an impassioned piece from May titled "Why NBC Will Regret Not Picking Up Mulaney," wrote that "it was a good pilot and … the series had enormous potential." The latter went on to argue that NBC's biggest loss wasn't so much the series but Mulaney himself — co-creator of Bill Hader's Stefon, 31-year-old candidate for prime-time stardom, and deliverer of great joy. So congrats, Fox! You got yourself a John Mulaney!
Breaking Bad sledgehammered its own viewership records over and over during its final eight-episode run, and Sunday night's disappointingly cat-free finale — very solid in other aspects, though! — was no exception. After last week's all-time high of 6.6 million viewers, "Felina" drew 10.3 million slobbering fans, 6.7 million of them coming from the Get That Cheddar demographic occasionally referred to as the 18-49 set. Only The Walking Dead has beaten those numbers for AMC's original programming. There were also 1.24 million tweets, so that's good, even if the #goodbyebreakingbad hashtag was gross and weird. BrBa's premiere, back on January 20, 2008, pulled a scant 1.41 million viewers, and, per THR, "only cracked the 2 million mark on one occasion during the first four seasons." Heisenwalt’s empire grew quite impressive indeed — even if, as this groundbreaking clip suggests, everything almost turned out a lot differently and more Quantum Leap–y.
Robert Smigel joins Bill to talk about the mystery of Da Bears movie that will never be made, as well as his many Conan/SNL memories and his recent Emmy for his successful "Night of Too Many Stars" show (which raises money for autism education). Oh, he also tells us about the origins of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog:
With our two-part preview of the new comedies and dramas on the networks' fall TV schedules released into the wild, the Grantland staff has gathered to offer its recommendations for returning series. So warm up your DVRs, because that's a thing you need to do for the recordings to stick inside the magic show-saving box.
Parks and Recreation (September 26)
Andy Greenwald: One week from today, Parks and Recreation will begin its sixth season with a one-hour episode, partially set in London. The show will be greeted with quiet huzzahs by its fans and admirers, lovingly GIF-ed and Tumbled by its diehards, and generally ignored by the world at large. The next morning, it will be revealed that somewhere between 2 million and 4 million people watched it, a number that is neither good nor bad. The sun will then set and rise again the following day.
There's something both noble and unfair about the quiet brilliance of Parks and Recreation. As the fortunes of NBC have crashed and burned around it, the show has never wavered from its core principles of consistency and quality. For much of its past three seasons, I'd argue that Parks has been the best show on network TV — comedy or drama. It has the strongest, most cohesive cast and the warmest spirit. Where other series strive to maintain a fragile status quo, Parks approaches change the way Special Agent Bert Macklin approaches a locked door. It's never less than good; it's very often great. To steal a line from Amy Poehler's indefatigable Leslie Knope, it's the rare show that one can both like and love.
Thanks to 2013’s epic cast exodus — Fred Armisen, Bill Hader and Jason Sudeikis are out; Seth Meyers leaves in February to take over Late Night — this was already one of SNL’s most carefully scrutinized, action-packed offseasons ever. And it just got another interesting wrinkle: as the New York Times reports, Lorne Michaels has selected Meyers's heir on the "Weekend Update" desk. Well, sort of.
Michaels has picked Cecily Strong to, for now, cohost "Weekend Update." It's a startlingly fast rise for the second-year cast member, but not that surprising of a move: the Girl You Wished You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party bits were instant classics, and her ease on the desk was evident. Says Lorne: "Cecily, from the first show, was right there. She exploded."
The plan is for Cecily and Seth to share the desk until February, at which point — well, at which point they might just keep sharing the desk. Because Late Night doesn't do a Friday show, Meyers could conceivably roll through Studio 8H that night and prep for "Weekend Update." That seems like a tall order, especially for a man attempting to launch a new talk show, that most fraught of entertainment endeavors. But you can understand the motivation: Meyers is too good at "Update" to just let him go. Then again: It sounds like, if things work out, Strong might get the desk all to herself by the end of this season. Crazy.
Football season starts this week, and we here at Hollywood Prospectus are very excited about it! To help spread the word about this cool sport, we decided to highlight some of its biggest stars' most shining moments off the field and under the bright lights of showbiz. Because whether it's a charmingly self-aware sitcom cameo or a sincere dramatic performance, nothing steals a scene like a giant human trained to run into other humans for a living.
It is currently 83 degrees in New York, 450 degrees in Los Angeles, and 800 in many parts of the Midwest. It's either too hot to breathe or about to thunderstorm until Tuesday. I can't think of a better place to be this weekend than in a cold movie theater with a bunch of strangers, alongside of whom you can revel in hate-watching one of the worst-reviewed movies in recent memory, Getaway. Yesterday The Wrap reported that the Ethan Hawke–Selena Gomez flick might be a rare dud, one that hangs onto its perfect 0 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, but then some kindhearted soul praised Ethan Hawke's performance (in contrast to Gomez's alternating "petulance and indifference") and Getaway can now boast a 2 percent rating with 87 reviews. Here's Peter Travers dropping the mic: "Selena Gomez, looking like a Munchkin in a hoodie [Editor's note: like a GIRL in a Hoodie? I thought so. Join us, Selena], tries to steal the car at gunpoint. Why? Because the dumbass script told her to. Why does she keep calling Brent and everyone else in the movie an asshole? Because she's right. For 89 minutes that feel like 89 hours, cars speed out of control and crash doing only PG-13 damage. The damage to your brain while watching it is incalculable."
When Bill Hader left Saturday Night Live in May, he took Stefon — the much-beloved "city correspondent" and brainchild of Hader and former SNL writer John Mulaney (whose multi-camera comedy was passed on by NBC, but may still be floating around at Fox for a potential six-episode order) — with him. Stefon was given an emotional farewell during which Seth Meyers interrupted Stefon's wedding to Anderson Cooper in a nod to The Graduate, rushing into a chapel filled with all of the mythological characters that populated Stefon's night clubs: Alf in a trench coat (from "Slice," a hot spot that also featured club promoter Gay Liotta), Furkels (Fat Urkels) Gizblo, the Gremlin on coke from "Booooooooof," and little people in various costumes (dressed as fire hydrants, parking cones, and leprechauns infected with Hepatitis C).
Stefon is arguably the most likable character dreamed up by SNL in years, so it was inevitable that rumors of a full-length vehicle would be raised eventually. Despite the mixed reception to movies based on SNL characters, which range from the really good (oh, how I love Wayne's World) to awfully bad (among them, the notorious It's Pat), it's easy to fall into the trust trap: During the course of four seasons, Stefon never let us down. Isn't there some way to capture his essence, his Ed Hardy–clad joie de vivre, and build something respectable around him?