I might not watch a whole lot of tonight’s 40th anniversary special for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” and not just because, as someone else pointed out, the actual anniversary is sometime this fall.
And not just because I’ll be watching “The Walking Dead” and “Talking Dead” during the middle couple of hours of this marathon-length SNL fete. (And don’t even get me started on “The Walking Dead” right now, because I’m not gonna be another of those people who goes on about how the show has become an endless march through an unending storyline with the only mile markers being the death of characters great and not-so-great and I don’t know how much longer i’m gonna watch it … because I’ll keep watching it, almost without question.)
And not because I haven’t been a fan of “SNL” since virtually the beginning. One of my friends had a record album – an LP, a vinyl disc you played at 33 and a third RPM, for the young folks – of bits from the show’s first season. He would bring it to school and one of our teachers was cool enough to let us listen to some of it on a turntable. We all watched the show every week, but these were the pre-VCR, pre-online days when you couldn’t see it again unless NBC decided to replay it. So we were riveted to the audio soundtrack of the show.
No, I might not watch a lot of tonight’s special because, as I was watching last night’s replay of the very first episode, hosted by George Carlin, from 1975, I was struck by how much of it I remembered so well.
And it struck me: “Saturday Night Live” has been on eternal replay pretty much for the past two decades-plus.
NBC and show creator Lorne Michaels have relentlessly rerun episodes and bits and pieces of episodes over the decades. The show has been cut down to fit hour-long timeslots (and I think half-hour slots as well) and repackaged into so many anniversary shows on NBC and retrospectives on VH1 and elsewhere and so many “Best of Chevy Chase” and “Best of Will Ferrell” specials … sheesh, this material has been run into the ground.
Still, there are bits that I want to still want to see. Anything with that genius Phil Hartman (the unfrozen caveman lawyer skits especially, or his Bill Clinton in McDonald’s), for example. Or Ferrell’s “Get on the bag!” sketches.
But I don’t need to see more Chase, who I can’t believe we ever thought was funny, or even more Aykroyd or Belushi, who indisputably were.
And if I do, I’ll look ’em up online. Or maybe check various shelves and boxes in my house to see: Did I ever buy that old album?