Saturday Night Not-So-Live
My favorite show on TV these days is 30 years old. Every Saturday night at midnight, after the fresh run of "Saturday Night Live," NBC is showing episodes from the show's original seasons back in the mid-1970s. I don't know if it's always the funniest show to watch, but it's fascinating as heck. The current version of SNL is a sometimes-funny-mostly-not 90 minutes of one comedic sketch after another, interspersed with a segment from whichever musician is rising quickest up the pop charts these days.The old SNL was something different, more like a variety show, and certainly more experimental. There were still the sketches, sure - and, I'll be honest, it turns out that Chevy Chase wasn't ever funny, just smug. But there were also short films, like the one where the director took a camera out into New York piano bars and created a film collage of singers across the city all playing "Misty" in their distinctive styles. And the old SNL valued comedy in more than just its sketch forms -- it gave standup comics space to be standup comics instead of putting them in a wig and making them imitate the vacuous celebrity du jour.SNL has always been identified with New York, but in the old shows the link somehow seems stronger. Or maybe SNL has gotten like New York itself, just a bigger, more electrified version of homogenized America. Times Square, after all, is now home to Red Lobster and Applebee's. What's New York about that?Some of my favorite stuff about the old episodes, however, is the musical guests. Two weeks ago it was a pompadoured Billy Preston, grooving away on the keyboards. Last week, it was The Lockers, a group of breakdancers before breakdancing was really widely known outside of New York.Those young dancers, of course, are old now.Give me another couple of months with the show, though, and I might be willing to give "Fortress of Solitude" a second chance.So I admit that on Saturday nights, I try to be home by midnight. I don't have to laugh so much to enjoy the old "Saturday Night Live." I just have to remember that it used to exist.