by Julian Spivey
The 43rd season of “Saturday Night Live” was pretty rough. It was the worst season in a few years and really it can be chalked up to a poor writing staff. The cast of the show is mostly terrific and the hosts this year mostly stellar choices, so the fact that laughs were few and far between must fall on the writing. I enjoy the duo of Colin Jost and Michael Che on Weekend Update, but maybe their addition as head writers wasn’t such a good choice. ‘SNL’ relied far too much on Alec Baldwin’s President Donald Trump impression this season, appearing in more than half of the episodes of season 43, which led to the performance, which was terrific in season 42 and worthy of Baldwin’s Emmy win, becoming stagnant. It would likely do ‘SNL’ some good to forget the President in sketches and just poke fun at him via Weekend Update.
Despite the season being disappointing overall there are always going to be highlights of the show. This season’s highlights include some legendary cast members returning as hosts, some great stand-up comedians providing hilarious monologues, a moment of coming together and strong after tragedy and a new cast member stealing the show.
10. Jason Aldean Won’t Back Down
One of the most memorable non-comedy moments in the history of ‘SNL’ came in 2001 in the show’s first episode after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when Paul Simon performed “The Boxer.” Another horrific American tragedy involving mass violence took place just after the start of the ‘SNL’ season when a gunman in Las Vegas perpetrated the worst mass shooting in American history at a country music festival during headliner Jason Aldean’s set. It wasn’t surprising that ‘SNL’ would take time out of the show to pay respect to those lost, but it did come as somewhat of a surprise to see Aldean himself for the first time after the tragedy less than a week before to give a stirring statement of perseverance: “When America is at its best our bond and our spirit, it’s unbreakable.” Aldean then performed Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” which also served as a tribute to the musician who had died of cardiac arrest earlier in then week and had also served as ‘SNL’ musical guest more than any in the show’s long history.
9. Kumail Nanjiani, Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart, John Mulaney & Amy Schumer Monologues
‘SNL’ monologues can often be tedious and among the least interesting aspects of the show when you have a host who isn’t used to being funny in front of camera, let alone a live audience, but they are an important part of the show’s history and should remain despite this. But, when an actual stand-up comedian is tabbed to host the show the monologue suddenly becomes one of the most anticipated moments on the show and often one of the highlights of that week. This season featured some of the best stand-ups in the game with Kumail Nanjiani, Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart and Amy Schumer all showing off their different, yet fantastic comedy chops.
8. Black Jeopardy
“Black Jeopardy” has been one of the best, if not the best, recurring ‘SNL’ sketches over the last few seasons, but it’s one the show doesn’t feature much anymore with Jay Pharoah and Sasheer Zamata no longer on the show. The show broke the sketch out just once this season and changed the format up a bit – it still worked as one of the funniest sketches of the year. Typically, the sketch features two black contestants and one – out of touch with black culture – white person. The funniest aspect of the sketch this year came when Chadwick Boseman, fresh off his career-changing “Black Panther” performance, played his T’Challa against the other two contestants portrayed by Leslie Jones and Chris Redd.
7. Jurassic Park Auditions
I’ve always been a sucker for great impressions and one of the greatest impressionists in the history of ‘SNL’ was Bill Hader, who returned this season to host the show for his second time. When he was a cast member the show would often feature faux movie auditions for some of the biggest movie hits of the last few decades to show off Hader and the rest of the cast’s best impressions. This time the auditions were for “Jurassic Park” and featured Hader’s terrific Al Pacino, Clint Eastwood and, my personal favorite, Alan Alda (it’s just so ridiculously specific, I mean, who does an Alan Alda impression). The sketch also features funny impressions of Hugh Grant from Alex Moffat, Adam Sandler from Pete Davidson and Ellen DeGeneres and Jodie Foster, both by Kate McKinnon.
6. Lavar Ball
Bombastic and braggadocios basketball father Lavar Ball was right for the poking fun of by ‘SNL’ and served as an obvious opportunity for Kenan Thompson, the longest running cast member in show history, to add to his great Weekend Update recurring character repertoire. The first appearance as Ball came during the show’s special Weekend Update stand alone episodes in the late summer of 2017 before the official start of the 43rd season and the appearances continued into the season. My favorite part of Thompson’s exquisite Ball impression is the mispronunciation of certain words like rhinoceros as “rhinosaucerous”
5. Donald Jr. & Eric Trump
While Alec Baldwin’s performance as President Donald Trump has become stagnant through overuse (he’s appeared over 30 times in just two seasons), the use of Mikey Day as Donald Trump Jr. and Alex Moffat as Eric Trump as recurring characters on Weekend Update over the last two seasons has proven to be hilarious every time. The highlight of these two is clearly Moffat’s take on Eric as a toddler of an adult, which must truly be rage-inducing to the actual Eric Trump if he’s witnessed the performance. It’s Moffat’s tour de force performance on the show and really the only noteworthy thing he’s done in his two seasons, but damn is it perfection.
4. Stefon Returns
It was great to see some of my favorite ‘SNL’ legends return to host the show this year and Bill Hader’s return to the program may have been the best episode of season 43 overall. With Hader’s return came the return of Stefon, one of the greatest and most beloved recurring characters in the show’s legendary history. Stefon returned to Weekend Update to give some helpful tips on what tourists can do in New York City for St. Patrick’s Day, including clubs that feature Roman J. Israel, Esq., leprechauns that look like Farrah Fawcett, sexy asbestos and seizure-inducing Malaysian music. This Stefon appearance was particularly fun for featuring comedian and former ‘SNL’ writer John Mulaney as Stefon’s attorney (who’s also a conceptual piss artist) named Shy. Mulaney is the co-creator of Stefon with Hader and the one who inserts last second one-liners into the bit to frequently cause Hader to break character. Despite the great return of Stefon, I must say, it just isn’t the same without Seth Meyers there for Hader to play off.
3. Return of George W. Bush
Watching the overuse of Alec Baldwin’s President Donald Trump this year was a reminder of how terrific Will Ferrell’s impression of President George W. Bush in the early ‘00s era of ‘SNL’ was. Ferrell’s Bush really wasn’t as much of an impression as it was an embellished character that almost made President Bush lovable, which has been harped on a little bit over the years. When Ferrell returned to host ‘SNL’ for the fourth time he portrayed Bush once again in the season’s best cold opening. Bush returns to remind the public, who’s opinion of him has seemingly softened due to Trump’s presidency, that he was a bad president and they shouldn’t be wishing for his days in office. Ferrell’s return as Bush comes with great Bush-isms like “I’m no economer” and “I’m not a Trump synthesizer or anything.”
2. Tina Fey after Charlottesville
Late last summer when ‘SNL’ returned for its special Weekend Update editions before the 43rd season began it got into some controversy for the way it handled the Charlottesville situation when Tina Fey, a University of Virginia graduate, discussed protesting and not wanting any good people to be hurt. She urged people to protest in other ways like finding a Jewish run or African American run bakery and eating the hell out of a cake. It was a funny bit after a horrible situation that was trying to make the best of it and some people took the comedy way too seriously, as is something people do too frequently these days. Recently Fey did admit to regretting parts of the bit, but I think she’s being too hard on herself after the controversy. Watching Tina Fey angrily shovel cake into her mouth is funny. Relax and enjoy it.
1. Heidi Gardner
Rarely has a newcomer come into ‘SNL’ with the out of the gate hilarity of Heidi Gardner this season. The Groundlings alumna didn’t get the chance to appear as the lead in many sketches, as freshman cast members rarely do, but she showed off multiple great recurring Weekend Update characters that had me in stitches every time. There’s no doubt in my mind that Gardner’s Bailey Gismert, a teenage YouTube film critic, and Angel – Every Boxer’s Girlfriend from Every Movie About Boxing Ever – will become classic Update characters over time. Gardner has these characters down pat and you can tell they are ones she’s put great work and detail into to make this memorable. Of the three new cast members to join the show this season she was really the only one that stood out and boy did she ever. I hope to see more great characters from her on the show in the future and believe she will have a great run on ‘SNL.’
What was your favorite moment from the 43rd season of "Saturday Night Live"?
by Julian Spivey
“NCIS” is nearing the end of its 15th season and I’ve been a fan of the show the whole way, in fact I remember the backdoor pilot episode of “JAG” that led to the series which has now been on television for half of my life. The show has seen cast members come and go, as any show that’s been on this long naturally has and does, but I’ve never been irritated by anything. Until now.
I haven’t seen the final episode of Abby Sciuto’s (played by Pauley Perrette) 15-year run on the show, one of only three original characters remaining on the show, yet, as I’m a few episodes behind, but I already know that I’m irritated by it.
I follow Perrette on Twitter and noticed she posted some cryptic and vague tweets about leaving the series a couple of days ago and found it strange, so I had to look more into the story. The only thing I could find was a rumor-type article from a website that isn’t exactly one of the big ones in the entertainment industry stating that Perrette and “NCIS” lead Mark Harmon had gotten into a feud over Harmon bringing his pitbull to set, it biting a crew member and then him continuing to bring the dog to work with him despite some, including Perrette, speaking out that they didn’t feel safe with the dog around. Supposedly this incident led to some bad blood between the two and they haven’t appeared in scenes together since, including in the final Abby episode that aired last week. The rumor-type story featured an unnamed source (I hate when unnamed sources appear in articles) that seemed to place the blame on Perrette. Her tweets, while cryptic (I also hate her vagueness about the whole thing), would seem to suggest the situation was Harmon’s fault and the others in charge of the show.
I don’t really like writing about a topic that nobody seems to know the entire story of and there’s a great chance that nobody ever will with Perrette opting to remain vague and Harmon seeming like a private individual. Because of this I’m not even going to attempt to place blame on one person or the other. So, I’m frankly pissed off at both instead.
The greatest relationship on “NCIS” has been the almost father/daughter-like bond between Harmon’s Leroy Jethro Gibbs and Perrette’s Abby and because of a dumb (at least as far as we know) on set feud it became non-existent in Abby’s final season and that’s a detriment to every fan who’s spent hours with these characters and made the series the most popular on television for much of its run. I felt like there had been fewer Gibbs and Abby moments this season but didn’t really know the extent until reading about the feud. The fact that these two veteran actors couldn’t be professional enough to come together for even one damn scene in Perrette’s final episode is infuriating for someone who’s seen more episode of “NCIS” than any other television show in their life. I imagine there are numerous other fans out there who feel this same way. Instead it seems we get (again I haven’t yet seen this episode) a cobbled together final scene between the two through the magic of television in much the same way that Julianna Margulies and Archie Panjabi, another infamous CBS drama feud, had on Panjabi’s final episode of “The Good Wife.”
Again, I don’t know the extent of what happened between Harmon and Perrette, but I do know they should be ashamed of themselves for not coming together one last time for their fans.
by Julian Spivey
On Thursday, May 10 Fox canceled three of my favorite comedies on network television: “Brooklyn Nine Nine,” “The Last Man on Earth” and “The Mick” and even though I knew it was a possibility that all the series could be coming to an end due to poor Nielsen ratings it was something of a shock that all three were canceled in one fell swoop.
What really hurts the most is “Brooklyn Nine Nine,” which wraps its fifth season on Sunday, May 20, and ‘Last Man on Earth,’ which ended last Sunday on a cliffhanger, which I’ve watched for five and four seasons respectively and are far and away two of the funniest and, especially in the case of ‘Last Man on Earth,’ most creative comedies on television. I hope that “Brooklyn Nine Nine” saw the writing on the wall and doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, but the series frequently does. I wish ‘Last Man on Earth’ had seen this coming and chosen to edit the last 30 seconds or so from it’s finale, which would’ve given it somewhat more closure.
It’s on a day like today when three of your favorite shows, and best comedies on TV, are all canceled simultaneously that you realize television is the most heartbreaking form of entertainment, because unlike with movies, books and music you don’t always get finality with something that’s important to you, and as dumb as it sounds to say, for a lot of us our favorite shows are kind of like family members.
I understand that television is a business, but how does network TV’s system even make sense anymore? In an era when nearly everybody watches television either through DVR-viewing or streaming, networks shouldn’t rely as much on live watching, especially when Nielsen families (how ratings for shows are tabulated) make up such a small percentage of TV viewers. Have you ever known a single person who was in a Nielsen family?
I know that networks rely on advertisement to thrive and advertisers need to see people watching programs to want to sell ads to a network, but wouldn’t it be great for the shows that are good (and all three of these canceled Fox shows were anywhere from critically-liked to critically-adored) could survive?
Is it a taste issue, as much as an antiquated system issue? Maybe, but I think it’s only part of the problem. For “Brooklyn Nine Nine” especially fans caused an uproar on Twitter with their anger at Fox for cancelling the show, showing that there’s a large audience for the program, after all. But, these fans don’t show up in the show’s ratings – ‘B99’ was the least watched non-animated sitcom on Fox this year. They exist in the streaming world, with Hulu having exclusive rights, and through syndication with re-runs of the series being popular on TBS. This leaves many with the hope that TBS or Hulu will pick the show up, but that’s not typical for TBS and Hulu, which thankfully saved the once canceled Fox comedy “The Mindy Project,” hasn’t “saved” a show in three years.
A couple of interesting things that could be harming comedies like “Brooklyn Nine Nine” and ‘Last Man on Earth’ is the nostalgia boom for TV shows, particularly comedies, and networks seeing the success of “Roseanne” among conservative viewers and wanting to go in that direction. After all, older people are the ones who tend to watch live television still and older people skew conservative.
I’m a fan of “Roseanne” and have been mostly happy with its revival, but it could turn out to be bad for the future of televised comedy. For instance, Fox is in negotiations to bring “Last Man Standing,” the Tim Allen sitcom that was canceled by ABC last spring and caused an uproar among fans who erroneously thought the cancellation had to do with Allen’s pro-Donald Trump politics, instead of lacking ratings, to its network in the fall. I highly doubt the network would be doing such a thing had it not seen the booming ratings for “Roseanne.” “Last Man Standing” certainly won’t have the ratings that “Roseanne” has had because with only one year away from TV it won’t have the nostalgia factor, but it could likely outperform “Brooklyn Nine Nine” and ‘Last Man on Earth’ in ratings, though the quality is not at the same level (I do enjoy “Last Man Standing” though).
The nostalgia thing might be an even bigger killer of original programming. Not only has “Roseanne” big huge for ABC, but the return of “Will & Grace” was successful for NBC and CBS is getting into the action by bringing back ‘90s hit “Murphy Brown.” Again, the networks are winning by bringing back classic comedies that now older people enjoyed watching 20-25 years ago.
There are many reasons why original television series, particularly comedies, aren’t working on network TV anymore and unfortunately, I don’t really have any ways to fix the problem. Maybe these original shows will have to keep seeking out cable or premium channels to survive and let network TV become a wasteland?
by Julian Spivey
We got a lot of great finality in the “Scandal” series finale “Over a Cliff.” We got one last shocking death, one last epic Rowan (Joe Morton) speech that ultimately saved our main cast from a “Seinfeld” ending where everybody ends up in prison, one last Olitz love scene, and one last Stevie Wonder track. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say the “Scandal” finale was perfect – it likely wasn’t the season’s best episode either – but, as far as wrapping things up in a bow it was nice and neat.
At the beginning of the finale it appears that all our “heroes” – which I’ve put in quotations because you could argue this show has no heroes, except for maybe Attorney General David Rosen (Joshua Malina) – are seemingly all off to prison for testifying on the nefarious B613 and all their criminal activity along the way.
The only way for “bad guys” Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry) and Jake Ballard (Scott Foley) to escape surefire arrest is to kill Rosen. Ballard has threatened Rosen’s life many times, but always spared him. It seemed Rosen’s luck would finally run out in the finale. I’ve probably thought once or twice a season over the last few years that Rosen would eventually be killed off. But, Rosen doesn’t kowtow to Ballard like he has all the times before. He stands up to him. And, it works. Ballard lets him live.
Cyrus, never one to do the dirty work himself, is the one to do the dirty deed with a poisoned drink (the way a man of Cyrus’ stature would knock off a foe), which is the most shocking part of the death.
“Scandal” and its creator/finale scribe Shonda Rhimes has always had a bleak streak. There has always been talk of “wearing the white hat” and “being Gladiators” by Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and her gang and frankly I got sick of hearing about it because as previously mentioned the show has rid itself of all heroes one character at a time. But, never Rosen. And that’s precisely why he had to die. In the world of “Scandal” you must have at least some villain in you to thrive and survive. It’s a quality to the show I’ve often grappled with over its hit-or-miss run but has made for certain interesting moments in its characters. It’s almost as if Rhimes thought to herself, “what if I made a show where everyone eventually becomes an anti-hero.”
Our cast seems screwed when Rosen is killed – the official cause of death listed as heart attack – with the assistant AG being in Cyrus’ pocket. But, then Rowan comes and saves the day with another one of his epic speeches (which truly have become the highlights of the show and have given Morton ample time to show off his award-winning acting abilities). This speech saves the day, when his arrogance and far-fetched “I’ve run the world” probably should have come off as an unbelievable act of a father attempting to spare his daughter. Oh well. It’s just fictional television.
In the end its Ballard and Cyrus that fall with Ballard being arrested as leader of B613 and Cyrus being forced to resign as Vice President of the United States.
Quinn (Katie Lowes) exclaims that the “good guys win,” to which Abby, who was in love with Rosen, responded, “the good guy’s dead.” It was the most striking line of the episode for me as it truly captured the entire feel of what the series became. Good doesn’t do much winning in the world of politics.
The series is left with a bit of an open-ending with Olivia eschewing the world of politics and claiming she’s going to do whatever she wants. As she triumphantly walks away from all the monuments of D.C. she’s approached by black, official looking vehicles with Fitz stepping out and the two possibly living happily ever after.
Olivia Pope leaves television as one of its most important characters (it’s easy to forget that when the show began just seven years ago it was the first lead African-American female role on a network TV drama in decades) but ultimately a conflicted one – it didn’t always sit well with me that she turned into an anti-hero as the show went along. But, the same could be said for the series as a whole.
by Julian Spivey
Based on the success of the “Will & Grace” revival NBC announced today that it plans to revive its smash ‘90s sitcom “Friends” just as soon as it can locate Emmy-nominated actor Matthew Perry.
The show has already procured Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer for the high-profile comedy revival – some came into NBC’s New York City headquarters at 30 Rock willingly and some against their will. Reportedly Schwimmer had to be tranquilized. But, the network has been unable to find Perry, who reportedly went into hiding sometime in 2017 after CBS canceled his most recent television series “The Odd Couple.”
An anonymous source at 30 Rock – which is totally newsman Brian Williams (who just hangs out in the hallways) – has said that “Friends” will go into production on an eleventh season early this summer whether or not the network and producers can locate Perry’s whereabouts for a proposed premiere in the fall on Thursday nights directly after the second-season premiere of the “Will & Grace” revival. The source has said that the series has contacted “Beverly Hills, 90210” star Luke Perry (no relation) about portraying the character of Chandler Bing if the actor cannot be found in time. The network believes that fans will hardly notice.
“Friends” is one of the most popular sitcoms in television history, airing on NBC from 1994 until 2004, with its series finale drawing a whopping 52.5 million viewers, the fourth most-watched series finale of all-time. A television series drawing 52.5 million viewers for a single episode isn’t even possible in 2018 as fewer than 52 million Americans own televisions in the age of cord cutting.
Matthew Perry if you happen to be reading this you have been requested to meet NBC executives at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York, as soon as possible. They have given their word that Jimmy Fallon will not tousle your hair.
by Julian Spivey
You know that famous Roseanne laugh that you hear at the end of the opening credits of her show that shares her name?
I’m sure it’s the same laugh she has right now at all of those up in arms about the success of the show’s return. Hell, it’s probably the same laugh had by ABC executives after 25 million (18 million in real time) watched the show’s premiere last Tuesday.
It’s pretty much a fact that the real Roseanne is a loon. She’s batshit crazy. Anybody who’s ever viewed her Twitter profile for 10 seconds could tell you that. She’s offensive. And, unfortunately, she’s likely mentally ill. But, she’s the lead of an all-time great television sitcom in an era when networks are banking on the returns of classic television sitcoms to help bring eyeballs to television.
Roseanne has called out Parkland survivors on social media, dressed up like Adolf Hitler to sell cookies (at least I think that’s what she was doing), believes in crazy pro-Donald Trump conspiracy theories, has equated Islam with Nazism, and you could go on and on. Simply put, Roseanne as a person is not a very good one.
“Roseanne” as a television show is hilarious. It’s very popular. And, it’s not going anywhere. In fact, ABC took all of three days to renew the revival for an expanded second season. ABC is a business and cares about ratings and money. “Roseanne” is providing those in a BIG way. I’m sure Roseanne’s politics and offensive antics are going to cause executives at the network a major headache and they’re going to have to do everything they can to try to reign her in, something that may not be possible for her. They deserve these headaches too. But, if those viewers are rolling in every week they won’t mind it all that much. If those viewers stop rolling in you can bet they’ll cancel the show in a heartbeat.
The backlash against Roseanne the person is deserved, but what’s bothersome is those online who are essentially trying to bully ABC into canceling it because of it’s stars idiocy. I’m certainly struggling with this. I’ve loved the show “Roseanne” since I was a kid watching re-runs of it on Nick at Nite or wherever else you could find it on cable. I didn’t know at the time it’s star was a loon. Like many people in this country her looney-ness seems to have been building over the last decade or so. And, so I must try to separate “Roseanne” the television show from Roseanne the actress/comedian/personality. I believe you can separate art from the person. It might be hard. Luckily, it’s not something I believe I’ve ever had to experience until now, but it can be done.
Many of those 25 million who tuned into watch “Roseanne” last week just wanted to see a funny TV show that they’ve loved for many years. I’m sure many, if not most of them don’t even know a thing about Roseanne’s politics and offensiveness. They just want to laugh at punchlines between the Conners. That doesn’t make them bad people. It doesn’t make them enablers. TVLine’s Michael Ausiello wrote a great piece this week on continuing to watch “Roseanne” even though it makes him a hypocrite (his word and I believe he’s being a little harsh) in: “Roseanne Revival: I’m a Hypocrite Who Hates Himself for Loving It.” He does a good job pointing out that even though the star of the show is a Trump supporter the show itself is quite inclusive: DJ is in an interracial relationship and Darlene’s son is gender fluid. Also, Darlene actress Sara Gilbert (gay and working with Roseanne just fine despite their differences), and executive producer on the revival, said that after the show’s premiere last week there won’t be a single mention of Trump on the rest of its season.
How about we as Americans stop trying to kill off stuff that offends us? Yes, there are some things we should try to end – bigotry is tops on this list. But, the show “Roseanne” isn’t a medium for Roseanne the person’s beliefs. It’s an ensemble work that includes a cast of vast differences and beliefs. Just because we don’t agree with Roseanne’s beliefs in real life doesn’t mean we should call or tweet ABC and demand them end her show. I despise Ted Nugent, but I’ve never once called, tweeted or emailed my local classic rock radio station demanding they quit playing “Cat Scratch Fever.” I don’t do that because it’s frankly asinine. What do I do when I hear Nugent come on? I turn the dial. You can too. You don’t have to watch “Roseanne” if you don’t want to for any reason. That should be enough for you.
And, don’t give me this stuff about how ABC is suddenly becoming pro-Trump. This is the same network, after all, that features the terrific sitcom “Black-ish” (maybe the best sitcom on network television), which has had some of its best material being anti-Trump. It’s also the same network that less than a year ago canceled the Tim Allen-led “Last Man Standing,” which was way more conservative and political than the revival of “Roseanne” will be. We can have television shows that skew both ways on our screens. For what it’s worth, I bet the political lines for “Roseanne” viewers are split right down the middle.
by Julian Spivey
The Conner family returned to ABC on Tuesday night more than 20 years after “Roseanne” ended with a whimper of a series finale. It was nice to have one of America’s all-time greatest sitcom families back on television, even if we agree with some of them less than ever.
As most fans of “Roseanne” remember the final season in which the Conners won the lottery and deviated from the previous eight seasons ended with the bombshell that the entire season had been part of a novel Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) had written and her husband Dan (John Goodman) had died from a heart attack suffered the previous season. Over the year’s its been deemed one of the worst series finales of all-time.
It took two decades, but the show got the chance to fix this bad ending by essentially ignoring it, starting out with a terrific joke where Roseanne and Dan are in bed and Roseanne thinks he’s passed on before he awakes (pulling his CPAP mask off in a truly great moment).
While the premiere of the revival re-introduces us to all the show’s main characters and tells us what they’ve been up to in the two decades since the series left off it mostly revolves around the same damn thing that all our lives seem to these days – politics and whether you side with our current President or not. Roseanne voted for Donald Trump and this is a road that I wish the show didn’t go down (the real Roseanne is also pro-Trump), but the show does a fantastic job in keeping it real with Roseanne having not seen his sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) for the last year do to a feud over the election. President Trump and the 2016 election is something that has ripped real families apart and the show is able to find the humor in this all, even if it’s a topic that hard to laugh at. Most of the funniest moments in the first episode of the two-episode premiere come from Jackie poking at her Trump-loving sister, but I suspect pro-Trump folks might find Roseanne’s pokes at Jackie to be the highlights.
I hope that if you’re letting Roseanne’s politics – whether in real life or in this fictional show – keep you from watching the return that you re-consider. You’re missing good television if you can’t get past that.
It’s truly fantastic that “Roseanne” was able to be fresh and current with the storylines in the first two episodes – the second revolving around Darlene’s son Mark who likes to dress feminine – while also feeling like the same show we loved from 1988-1997 when it revolutionized television by bringing the daily life of a middle class, white trash family to television.
The Conner children all look old these days, well because they are. Lecy Goranson, who plays the eldest Becky, is 43-yeard old, which comes as a shock when the character admits it. But, we must keep in mind it’s been 30 years since the show debuted. Becky has the biggest storyline thus far of the three Conner children as she’s going to be surrogate for Sarah Chalke’s Andrea for $50,000 in hopes of getting her life together. If you’re thinking, “wait, didn’t Chalke also play Becky on the original run of ‘Roseanne’?” you’d be correct. The show wanted to use both actresses, and this is a creative way of using them. Darlene (Sara Gilbert) is back living with her parents with her two children in tow after losing her job and moving back to Lanford from Chicago. D.J. (Michael Fishman) is recently home from serving in the military in Syria and raising his daughter while his wife continues to serve overseas. Fishman almost has nothing to do in the first two episodes, in fact he doesn’t even appear in the second.
The relationships between Roseanne and Dan and Roseanne and Jackie were always the most interesting aspect of “Roseanne” for me and these relationships are still perfect. I do hope the return of the show gives Goodman more to do in upcoming episodes.
The one critique of the show, and it’s a small one, is that some of the acting seems a little unnatural and I’m not really surprised. Goodman and Metcalf, who recently received an Oscar nomination for her fine supporting turn in “Lady Bird,” are the only cast members who’ve really acted in the last two decades. Roseanne, Goranson, Gilbert and Fishman haven’t remained too active, if active at all, in the acting business and it kind of shows at points. But, because we love these characters it’s not something to dwell on much.
I look forward to the rest of the run of this series, which like NBC’s revival of “Will & Grace” will probably be a hit for audiences looking for nostalgia, while also being fresh. If it does work well maybe we’ll see even more “Roseanne” on down the line.
by Julian Spivey
I’m an odd fan of “The X-Files.” I was too young to see its original run, but one summer caught a few re-runs on BBC America and instantly liked it. It had a great mixture of science fiction and horror with two fascinating leads in David Duchovny as Fox Mulder, a believe in all things supernatural, and Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully, the skeptic who always believed there was a scientific answer to the strangeness of it all. Shortly after I began watching, BBC America stopped carrying the series in syndication. I planned to watch the series via some streaming service, but never got around to it. When Fox revived “The X-Files” two years ago I tuned in, but like many I was mostly disappointed in the six-episode season – despite the fantastic episode that was “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monsters.” In the two years since I still haven’t found the time to stream the entire series. But, once again when an eleventh season was brought back this winter I tuned in. This season was much better and included one of the best episodes I’ve seen in “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” (I realize many fans despised it) and a few other fun hours in “This,” “Kitten” and “Familiar.” So, I’m an odd ‘X-Files’ fan because I’ve probably seen less than a quarter of the series overall. I promise I will stream the remainder; hopefully as soon as this summer.
Coming into this season we knew it could likely be the show’s last because Anderson has steadfastly said she’s done with the series. They’ve done the show before without one of its leads as the final two seasons of the original run didn’t feature much from Duchovny, but it just isn’t the same or a good idea without both Mulder and Scully. The season had wrapped up before Anderson announced she wouldn’t return so this lead me to worrying about the ending of the season, as it could be and should be the end of the series too if Anderson can’t be convinced to do more.
After “My Struggle IV” aired on Wednesday (March 21) I was left mostly satisfied with it as a series finale for “The X-Files.” Based on reviews I’ve read since I understand many critics and fans aren’t too thrilled with it, but the last half of the episode especially gave me a bow on top that I could live with. Now, again I’m an odd fan of the show and my opinion might be differently had I seen the entirety of the series beforehand.
I agree with critics that there were some truly strange things about this finale and really all four ‘My Struggle’ episodes from the last two seasons that saw Scully and Mulder searching for and finding their long-lost son. For instance, much of the finale and the season 11 premiere simply feature Mulder driving around fast in a Ford Mustang as if he were in a Hollywood action film. It all comes off more like a car commercial than anything. I also found it odd and frankly a waste of time that Mulder shot up the mysterious man, who apparently runs some sort of space flight company, office and bodyguards – again a sequence that felt more in place with a dumb Hollywood action flick than with ‘X-Files.’
Once all that was out of the way the finale began to get better and more interesting. Mulder finally catches up to his son, William, in a hotel outside of Norfolk, but they have been tracked there by a unit of soldiers led by Barbara Hershey’s Erika Price. Having no other option William, who has supernatural powers by the way, kills all the soldiers by essentially exploding them with his mind in the most gruesome scene I’ve ever seen from the series.
Things get a bit hazy between this point and the end, but William gets away from Mulder and Mulder tracks him to an abandoned warehouse, where he is joined by Scully and Agent Skinner (Mitch Pileggi). Unfortunately, the show’s biggest villain the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) has also arrived needing William to complete his plan of world domination. As Mulder and Scully try to find William in the warehouse it’s complicated by the fact that William can alter his appearance (again supernatural powers) and does so to look like Mulder. This results in a scene where Scully believing she’s talking to Mulder, but it’s William is told to give up on the boy and that he knows she loves him. When the real Mulder shows up she realizes this is William and he bolts to the end of a dock (where he’s turned his appearance back to that of Mulder) and is met by the Cigarette Smoking Man (believing him to be Mulder) and shoots him through the head. The real Mulder seeing this gets immediate revenge by putting multiple bullets into the Cigarette Smoking Man. Scully arrives and the two comfort each other. Scully reveals to Mulder what Skinner had shown her that William wasn’t his son, but the son of the Cigarette Smoking Man through experimentation. Struggling with the realization of this Scully then hits Mulder with the fact that she’s pregnant with his child for real this time. This gives the show a somewhat satisfying end that would be better than continuing without Scully. Though, I understand most fans would’ve liked to have seen something else. The ball is in creator Chris Carter’s court now, but if he does want to continue the show I hope somehow, someway he can convince Anderson to return.
by Julian Spivey
In his great song “Desperadoes Waiting for a Train,” Guy Clark’s narrator says to an older mentor nearing the end: “Come on, Jack, that son of a bitch is coming.” I always thought it a great way to say goodbye and meet death head on. Entering the special post-Super Bowl episode of NBC’s “This Is Us” we all knew Jack Pearson’s (Milo Ventimiglia) fate would be revealed. As The Atlantic’s Megan Garber pointed out recently it is strange for death to be used as a tease. We’ve known since the beginning of season two that his death would be the result of a house fire, but the “how” would be revealed in “Super Bowl Sunday.” And, in true “This Is Us” fashion it wasn’t exactly how we thought it would be.
The episode begins where the previous one “That’ll Be the Day” left off with the Pearson’s home on fire in 1998 on the night of the Super Bowl. Jack is woken suddenly in the night, smells smoke and opens his bedroom door to a burning blaze. Being the hero we’ve come to expect and knowing that his family lives on and he perishes we expect him to save everyone under his roof – his wife Rebecca (Mandy Moore), his teenage son Randall (Niles Fitch) and his teenage daughter Kate (Hannah Zeile). His other teen son Kevin was staying with his girlfriend and wasn’t home. In the first few minutes of the episode Jack has already saved the family, but Kate reminds him that the family dog was sleeping downstairs. Always a hero, Jack runs back inside where we all believe he’s going to meet his end. After all, Kate has always blamed herself for his death. But, the next thing we know the front door of the burning house bursts open and Jack comes walking out with the dog in hand.
What has happened here? Could it be that Jack somehow survived the day, just to die late on?
Well, we find out in the next scene he didn’t survive the day as modern-day Kate (Chrissy Metz), watching a 20-year old tape her father filmed of her singing in her bedroom, reminds Toby it’s the 20th anniversary of his death.
Back in 1998, Rebecca takes Jack to the ER to get his second-degree burned hands looked at. All seems to be well as the two joke around about missing the end of the Super Bowl and how Rebecca is blocking the TV showing the highlights of the game. She goes off to the fending machines to get Jack a snack and check in on Kate and Randall staying with family friend Miguel (Jon Huertas). While she’s on the phone we see in the background that something bad is happening in Jack’s room. Soon a doctor approaches Rebecca with the devastating news that Jack went into severe cardiac arrest due to his lungs being too filled with smoke and he didn’t survive.
In the episode’s best acting performance by Moore, Rebecca instantly goes into shock and doesn’t believe the doctor’s words until she goes to the room and sees her husband’s lifeless body on the bed. We cut to her back at Miguel’s where he meets her outside and she tells him the bad news. He’s about to break down, until Rebecca (with Moore continuing what might be her best performance on the show yet) shuts him down immediately, because she had to go inside and tell her teenage kids what happened to their father.
It’s an all-around devastating episode that gives fans the biggest answer they’ve been looking for since the show premiered in the fall of 2016. It’s not just devastating to see the result of Jack’s life, but also how his family copes with it 20 years late. Kate wallows in the thought that it’s her fault, Kevin (Justin Hartley) remains angry that he wasn’t there that night and the last thing he said to his father was negative, and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) wants to celebrate the day because Super Bowl Sunday was his father’s favorite day of the year. Rebecca spends the day by buying all the ingredients for her husband’s favorite lasagna and eats it while watching the big game alone.
In one of the more unique moments of the episode “This Is Us” sends something new at us by revealing the show’s first flash-forward. Early in the episode we see a young boy waiting to be placed in a foster home and we believe he’s going to be placed with Randall’s family. It isn’t until the very end where we realize Tess, Randall’s eldest daughter, has grown up to be a social worker and she’s in fact the one helping the child find a home. I would venture to guess that flash-forwards are something we might be seeing a bit more of from now on.
Some fans of the show were worried that once Jack’s fate was revealed that might be the end of Ventimiglia’s fantastic performance on the show – and it wouldn’t surprise me if we do see less from Jack in the future – but Ventimiglia puts the fears of fans at ease on Twitter following the episode by saying: “Just so everyone knows it … Jack Pearson lives in all of our hearts. He’s you. He’s me. He’s us. Thank you all for supporting our show. We love you all. And this isn’t the end of Jack. Stay tuned.”
That’s quite good, because I’m not sure “This Is Us” would be the same without Jack Pearson.
by Julian Spivey
Will Ferrell is arguably the greatest cast member in the legendary 43-year history of “Saturday Night Live” with numerous sketches one can think of off the top of their head that stand out as classics. Ferrell is returning to his comedy alma mater this weekend to host ‘SNL’ for his fourth time since leaving the show as a cast member in 2002 (it’s hard to believe it’s been 16 years).
Here are Ferrell’s 10 greatest ‘SNL’ sketches:
10. Celebrity Jeopardy
Celebrity Jeopardy is probably my favorite recurring sketch in the history of “Saturday Night Live” and Will Ferrell did a mighty job off playing the game show host Alex Trebek as a man at wit’s end dealing with the dumbest celebrities Hollywood had to offer, but I’ve ranked it at No. 10 on Ferrell’s greatest sketches list because I always got the greatest laughs from the buffoonery of Darrell Hammond’s Sean Connery and Norm Macdonald’s Burt Reynolds mercilessly picking on Trebek.
9. Old Prospector
This is the greatest sketch to never appear on ‘SNL.’ It was cut for time initially and my guess was it never appeared on the show because Will Ferrell’s performance as an Old Prospector willing to help the U.S. military in the Middle East was so wild and hilarious that his own co-cast members couldn’t keep a straight face to save their lives. It made an appearance on Ferrell’s “Best Of” DVD release and has become a hit among fans ever since.
8. Sculpture Class
Will Ferrell proved he would do just about anything for a laugh during his tenure on ‘SNL.’ This included stripping down to nothing as a Terrence Maddox, a seemingly homeless man, needing to earn a little cash as a model for a sculpting class. Maddox gets awful crass with the class, including giving a new position called “The Stinker” for the students to take in. You can tell Ferrell loves every bit of it.
7. Bill Brasky’s Buddies
Bill Brasky’s Buddies was a true ensemble piece with David Koechner, Alec Baldwin, John Goodman and others, but it’s hard to imagine it without Will Ferrell. The sketch revolves around Ferrell and his buddies sitting at a bar, or elsewhere, chatting about a man they all know named Bill Brasky, who’s a Paul Bunyan type fellow. The one-liners about Brasky that each of the members of the sketch pass out are among the funniest lines in the history of the show.
6. The Devil Can’t Write No Love Song
Garth Brooks plays a struggling singer-songwriter trying to write a hit song but struggling mightily. Claiming he’d sell his soul to write a hit song he conjures up the devil, Will Ferrell in some of the best makeup work we’ve ever seen from ‘SNL.’ The devil offers to give the struggling musician hits he refers to as “fiendish masterpieces from the bowels of hell” like “Fred’s Slacks” and “Love Bat.” They aren’t exactly hits.
5. President George W. Bush
There have been some truly stellar impressions of Presidents over the long run of “Saturday Night Live,” and honestly Will Ferrell’s George W. Bush wasn’t really among them. That’s because Ferrell isn’t an impressionist. He’s a character actor. And that has a lot to do with why his Bush impression turned into maybe the best Presidential impression in ‘SNL’ history. Ferrell took some of Bush’s mannerisms and issues with the English language and played them up a bit into something that was almost a lovable figure.
4. Patriotic Shorts
After 9/11 this country was really reeling. Nobody seemed to want to laugh, even though laughter is the best way to overcome heartbreak and sadness. Shortly after the tragedy ‘SNL’ returned to television and Will Ferrell gave us a reason to cry tears of laughter instead of ones of sadness with his over-patriotic Dale McGrew, who takes advantage of his work’s patriotic dress day with a USA half shirt and a pair of flag short shorts that ride up his butt crack. We saw with Terrance Maddox that Ferrell would strip down for a laugh, but this proved just how far he’d really take it.
3. Robert Goulet’s Coconut Banger’s Ball: It’s a Rap
One of my favorite Will Ferrell impressions was of lounge singer Robert Goulet and there was never a better use of Goulet than his album of rap covers like Notorious BIG’s “Big Poppa” and Sisqo’s “Thong Song.” Hearing Ferrell sing lyrics to these songs as Goulet is worthy of happy tears but believe it or not it’s not even the funniest thing of the sketch. That comes when Goulet gets into a staring contest with an undefeated Mountain Goat.
2. Get Off the Shed!
This is one of the most simplistic ideas for a sketch ever, because you can probably see it at any backyard BBQ in real life every summer. It revolves around a father growing more and more angry at his children for messing around in the backyard at a cook out. It wouldn’t seem that funny, but Will Ferrell’s climbing intensity as a father going from “be a buddy and get off the shed” to “GET OFF THE DAMN SHED!” makes it one of the funniest things to ever appear on ‘SNL.’ It’s something Ferrell had in his repertoire for a long time as he auditioned with it and it appeared in his very first episode as a ‘SNL’ cast member. With this a star was born.
1. More Cowbell!
This isn’t only the greatest Will Ferrell sketch of all-time, but the greatest sketch in the 43-year history of “Saturday Night Live.” The idea of going behind the music on the classic Blue Oyster Cult song “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and getting the cowbell sound down just right in the studio was terrific. But, this could’ve been a drab sketch without Ferrell’s crazy man antics that upped the intensity and hilarity of the entire bit and made every single cast member in the sketch lose it with laughter. And yes, a shirt probably two sizes too small for Ferrell, added to the humor. It doesn’t get any better than this. Gotta have more cowbell, baby!
Watch sketch HERE
What's your favorite Will Ferrell 'SNL' sketch?