Thursday, October 4, 2018

Viewpoint | Lefsetz Letter

I’m sick of reading how funny and great SNL is.

Chevy Chase must have a new publicist, because suddenly he’s everywhere, most notably the “Washington Post,” where he laments no one will hire him, that Lorne won’t let him host SNL because he’s too old. And then Chevy goes on to say SNL sucks.

It does.

Welcome to the modern media era, stuck in the past. Never forget, this is the same media that missed Trump, all the papers, so why should you trust them on anything else now? They’re disengaged, and in the case of Fox, manipulative, but they’re far from right, they’re cheerleaders at best, they do not have their finger on the pulse.

And that’s what stimulates us, the zeitgeist, it’s why we go to see the new act, tune in to the new TV show. “Roseanne,” “Murphy Brown,” good in their heyday, but hit radio is not playing Debbie Gibson, never mind Nirvana.

SNL worked because the players truly were not ready for prime time. They seemed uncontrollable, like they were gonna jump out of the screen and trash your house. Lorne Michaels was not the ringleader, that was Belushi, the producer barely controlled the cast, he was being dragged along, a Canadian in New York, a fish out of water. Now he’s in the Hamptons, lionized, now Lorne is the establishment. That’s one thing Kurt Cobain had right, it had to be punk, it was about image and belief and today’s SNL has no soul. It’s just a place to see famous faces riff on the news with no viewpoint. I watched the Matt Damon cold open. At first I was smiling, then I realized it was not going anywhere, more like a college troupe having fun off the grid, like Corky St. Clair with the hometown players of Blaine, Missouri.

I mean I’ve got to call crap on this. Does anybody even watch the show live anymore? I haven’t in eons, I just wait till Sunday morning for the clips. Which usually aren’t laugh out loud funny, but are dangerous.

Unlike John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight.”

Last night Oliver tied Kavanaugh in a knot. What was the result of the endless SNL skit, burning twelve plus minutes of screen time…NOTHING! Did it give you insight, did it change your position? OF COURSE NOT!

Welcome to the twenty first century, where if you don’t stand for something, you don’t stand for anything. If people aren’t protesting, if there’s no backlash, you’re doing it wrong. Give Trump credit, he’s pissing people off, getting them to pay attention. And we do live in an attention economy. I said that first, but without the push I get no credit, then again, Oliver is on HBO killing it and since it’s not available to everybody, he doesn’t get credit either. Oliver is like Howard Stern on Sirius back in the day, unfettered by the FCC Howard was better than ever, albeit only playing for hard core fans. Then Howard goes on “America’s Got Talent” and now the Stern Show is the number one place for celebrity interviews, only he gets traction, because the interviews are long and deep and reveal what you did not know, mostly personal stuff. Meanwhile, over on broadcast television, you’ve got to tell a joke, a story, and we don’t know who you are and no one ever sees it, there’s certainly no virality, why should there be? Meanwhile, Howard now reaches more people than any of the late night shows, but we read about the late night shenanigans in the newspaper but no one ever covers Stern, they still haven’t figured out how to cover satellite radio fifteen years later.

The original SNL was irreverent, it tested limits, today it seems all the players are screen-testing for a movie or sitcom. There’s no edge, no danger. That’s why the show was so significant and successful back in ’75, the rock and roll generation finally had its own TV show, and of course it wasn’t in prime time, it couldn’t be, just like today’s cutting edge stuff is on YouTube, on the new outlets, because the mainstream ones just can’t accept it.

But it’s hard to get noticed. That’s why acts still play SNL, not because anybody sees them, but because it’s an imprimatur of importance, shows the label and the media are behind something. Other outlets don’t have the same impact.

Kinda like Netflix. The media refuses to believe how big Netflix is. We’re told to wait for Disney’s streaming outlet, now that they’ve got Fox. Good luck getting to 100 million subscribers. Bing could never compete with Google. Furthermore, Disney will go right up to the edge and…not cross it. Kinda like Apple, worried about R-rated shows they’re ending up with the bland.

Today you want to make a difference, isn’t that what all the millennial research tells us? Companies are focusing on their philanthropy, but in media too many people think people are brain dead. They’re not, they read more news than ever, even if a good portion of it might be biased or plain wrong. Contrary to public belief, the public can handle the truth. Sure, you’re gonna hear from people who aren’t watching if you cross the line, a conundrum if there ever was one, but anybody who wades into the fray these days knows…there are people living to work the refs. I write anything anti-Trump and I hear from the same damn people! Their full time job seems to be defending Trump, trying to get you to shut up. But now is the time to speak, not be quiet.

The SNL formula is dead. But if you want to continue to beat a dead horse Lorne, please stand for something, take a viewpoint, endure the catcalls, try to move the needle. The country is in crisis and you’re just making lame jokes. You’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.

And for those of you doing great unheralded work, I sympathize with you, it’s tough. But if you can put food in your mouth, stay the course, your time is coming. The millennials know the score. Isn’t it funny, the boomer press keeps excoriating the millennials, saying they need recognition and coddling and… That’s all crap, these people are just as intelligent and better educated than their forebears. Furthermore, they know how tough life is. They want CHANGE!

So Lorne and the SNL team… Take Kavanaugh down. Not by grade school antics, but “Harvard Lampoon” ones, isn’t that where all the original writers came from? Point out Kavanaugh’s flaws, reference abortion, sway the audience, you’ve got the eyeballs, take advantage of them! Everybody knows the Dixie Chicks, who else was number one back when Bush was President? But Natalie Maines blinked, the Chicks could have another hit today but they abdicated their power.

I’m sick of the uninformed and duplicitous telling us America must be first, that you’ve got to work harder and it’s your fault.

It’s not our fault. A lot of us have gotten screwed. And if you think living on welfare is royal, you don’t know what living on bupkes is really like.

I could go on and excoriate the right wing position, I’m already gonna get hate mail from the usual suspects, but I’m just trying to be a beacon. Why is it that Fox News has attitude and will take a stand but “Saturday Night Live” is wishy-washy?

Yup Lorne, I’m asking YOU!

“Last Week Tonight” on YouTube
Watch this, forget SNL. (And yes, you can see it for free on YouTube, but most people don’t know this, it’s not like YouTube is promoting it on billboards.


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