comedy, tv

Farewell to a great SNL group

Once upon a time, Saturday Night Live went through waves of wholesale changes, allowing us to divide the show into several eras.

Original

1975-80: The original Not Ready for Prime Time Players dwindled from their 1975 debut to the end of their fifth season in 1980. Chevy Chase left after one season and change, later replaced by Bill Murray. Next out were John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, leaving the core of Murray, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman and Gilda Radner to be supplemented by the quirky duo of Al Franken and Tom Davis, later joined by Harry Shearer and some cast appearances by band member Paul Shaffer and an array of bit players.

(Coincidentally, as chronicled last week in a marvelous WaPo oral history, Radner, Shaffer, future SNL cast member Martin Short and Short’s SCTV castmates Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin had all appeared together in a 1972 production of Godspell.)

Lorne-less

1980-84: Lorne Michaels, the man now synonymous with his show, departed after that 1979-80 season along with the entire cast. Enter a new group that couldn’t carry the torch aside from a young featured player named Eddie Murphy, though Gilbert Gottfried went on to an entertaining career. Only Murphy and Joe Piscopo survived the 1981 clearout. The cast overhauls were a little less drastic the next couple of years, and four 1982 and 1983 arrivals — including Jim Belushi and a very young Julia Louis-Dreyfuss — carried over to the next season …

1984-85: Producer Dick Ebersol, best known for his distinguished career in sports, swung for the fences in this unique season packed with established talents such as Short, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, Rich Hall, Pamela Stephenson and the prodigal Harry Shearer.

Carvey/Hartman to Sandler/Farley (via Myers)

1985-86: Michaels returned in 1985 and started from scratch, building around the hot-at-the-time Anthony Michael Hall and some people who would eventually be huge — Robert Downey Jr., Randy Quaid, Damon Wayans and Dennis Miller. It sucked.

1986-95: So on top of the complete overhauls in 1980, 1981 and 1985, SNL had a near-total clean slate, keeping only Miller, Jon Lovitz and Nora Dunn. Then, just as Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski saw the benefits of his job-saving class in 1986, Michaels brought in a show-saving class — Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, Kevin Nealon and Victoria Jackson. Add Mike Myers (and briefly Ben Stiller) in 1989, and you have a strong case for the show’s all-time best cast.

That group evolved slowly over the next few years. Departing (in order, more or less, though some cast members returned for occasional appearances): Dunn, Lovitz, Miller, Hooks, Jackson, Carvey, Hartman. But the cast kept swelling with the additions of (among others) Chris Rock, Chris Farley, Julia Sweeney, Tim Meadows, David Spade and Adam Sandler. (Most of the others were women, and unfortunately, this was not a time in which women were developed into stars on the show.)

The loss of Hartman in 1994 nearly destroyed the show. Myers stuck around for increasingly infrequent appearances, and Michaels once again reached out to get some veterans who were, to some extent or another, already recognizable — Michael McKean, Mark McKinney, Chris Elliott, Norm Macdonald and Janeane Garofalo. Unfortunately, no one told Sandler, Spade and Farley that they weren’t in charge of the show, and they ran it into the ground. Garofalo fled after a few months of being underused, citing a sexist atmosphere.

Time for another clearout. McKinney and Macdonald stuck around along with lower-profile castmates Tim Meadows and the recently added Molly Shannon.

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journalism, tv

The state of paid media, 2019

Here are the things that can be supported by advertising …

Traditional TV networks, which continue to produce high-budget shows even as ratings are a small fraction of what they were.

Cable/other TV channels, which produce high-budget shows even as ratings were never that great in the first place.

PlutoTV, which must be watched by at least 10s of people. (Seriously — it’s utterly impossible to get schedules, so who watches unless they’ve simply exhausted every other possibility?)

Some YouTube channels

Terrestrial radio

Here are the things that can be supported by a mix of advertising and subscriptions …

Satellite radio

ESPN

The Wall Street Journal

The Washington Post

The New York Times

Here are the things that can be supported by subscriptions only …

Consumer Reports (phew!)

Netflix and its gazillions of original shows

Hulu’s original shows

HBO

Here are the things that no one has figured out how to support …

Newspapers

Magazines

tv

Rebuilding Springfield

I’ve been playing The Simpsons: Tapped Out for a while. It throws a lot of buildings and characters at its players, and I’ve grown tired of trying to cram them in.

I went through and “stored” many of the buildings in town. I left in place a couple of areas that I liked:

  • The park complex: Krustyland, Itchy & Scratchy Land and a nearby zoo
  • The sportsplex
  • The Vegas strip
  • Religion Island: Churches, a Buddhist temple, etc.
  • Prison Island, not including the minimum-security jail by the beach
  • The boardwalk

Everything else is being remade, and I’ve started with transportation. My roads and monorail lines took a lot of awkward turns, and I’m straightening things out a bit.

I’ve staked out a couple of new areas — the rural area and the North Pole/Canada, which has some but nowhere near all of the Christmas properties.

Here’s what I had …

And here’s where the rebuild stands …

Sept. 24 update:

  • Springfield Heights is full of houses and a couple of essential conveniences (Kwik-E-Mart, etc.)
  • Springfield Park faces an exclusive neighborhood, a bit like Central Park or some parks in Chicago. The country club is just southwest of it, and then a few vineyards are nicely placed between that and the shore. The amphitheater is tucked away next to the mountains and the shore.
  • The Governmental Plaza (northeast of Springfield Park) exists but needs some work.
  • The Vegas Strip remains intact with some minor tweaks.
  • The Technology Park and North Pole/Canada (following northeast) are more or less complete.
  • Religion Island and Prison Island remain in place southeast of the Governmental Plaza. Follow the river to the sea, and you get a strip of restaurants and eventually the old mill, with another historic building next to it.
  • The Sportsplex (concrete area southeast of Prison Island) hasn’t changed.
  • The Shopplex is adjacent to the Sportsplex, anchored by Springfield Mall. This area needs work.
  • Between the Sportsplex/Shopplex and the shore, I have a couple of strips of businesses and restaurants. The last strip before the boardwalk is a dumping ground for now — I’m placing things I want to see before I move them to a permanent home.
  • The theme parks — Itchy & Scratchy Land, Krustyland, Efcot’s World Showcase and the zoo — take up most of the southeast-northeast diagonal. Northeast of that is Shelbyville.
  • Next to Shelbyville and the zoo, I have a hodgepodge of entertainment (drive-in, demolition derby) and schools for people who’ve messed up (Rommelwood). This needs work.
  • Capital City is northeast of the DURE block.
  • The dirt area is farmland, which will eventually have many more wheat and corn fields, with Kamp Krusty all the way north. The airport is south of that. The schools are sitting awkwardly next to the airport and Efcot — I’ll move that to the strips between Krustyland and the country club.
  • Finally, Medieval Land is still a happy anachronism between the Technology Park and farmland.

politics, tv

Need insulin? Visit the land of curling … and one heroic medical researcher

Things I did not know: An Ontario scientist named Frederick Banting sold the patent rights to insulin, the life-saving drug for diabetics, for $1.

“Insulin does not belong to me, it belongs to the world,” said the Nobel Prize winner.

A century later, Canada is once again bailing out diabetics — this time because of the willful ignorance and idiocy of those of us who live south of the border, The Washington Post reports.

As is so often the case, The Simpsons predicted all this …

movies, tv

Sex on the big screen — no, not Game of Thrones on your 65-inch HD in the basement

Murder! Guns! Graphic war scenes! A man tenderly running his hand …

Whoa, whoa! We can’t let our kids see that!

Our sensibilities about sex and violence have always been a bit hypocritical. Jamie Lee Curtis taking off her top in Trading Places? That’s an R rating. A film strewn with death? Today, PG-13. In the old days, just PG. Even the original Star Wars had a high death toll, though it was just rebel pilots vaporizing or stormtroopers doing the Wilhelm scream.

Obi-Wan: “Only Imperial stormtroopers are so precise.” Family Guy: “I hit a bird once.”

Meanwhile, on cable, language restrictions are completely out the window, and some people even have s-e-x. As someone who jumped on the Game of Thrones very late in the show’s run, I started to wonder if part of the appeal was that people got naked. Very naked.

From Saturday Night Live:

Emilia Clarke: Remember when we had sex in Season 6?

Kit Harington: Yes, I do.

Clarke: Did you know they filmed that?

Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday is wondering when moviemakers will catch up.

To be sure, there’s precious little to mourn in the death of the kind of ogling soft-core wish-fulfillment fantasies that male directors foisted on viewers for nearly a century. But is abstinence really our only option? With young filmmakers being co-opted by the Disney-Marvel complex, and with millennials and Generation Z reportedly having less sex than their predecessors, the new chastity on screen feels like a prudent but not entirely welcome new normal.

And it’s better than having kids learn about sex from porn.

(Yes, this clip is very explicit.)

tv

My Springfield …

I’ve been playing The Simpsons: Tapped Out phone game for a few years now. The game is running out of a steam a bit because they’re running out of characters, but it’s still fun to build and re-shape Springfield.

Today, they unveiled a new feature letting you see your entire Springfield at once. Here’s mine …

spring-compressed

A quick guide —

WEST: That’s “Springfield Heights,” an area they opened up past the mountains, and it’s supposed to be rather ritzy. I thought about moving junky stuff there, but it would involve too much moving. So I have the various mansions there, along with a polo club and the Stonecutters HQ.

WATERFRONT: The yachts are at Springfield Heights. The rest of it (the Squidpost) includes a couple of rides that used to be in Krustyland.

NORTH: That peninsula is where I stuck everything from Halloween events, including this year’s. Closer to town, I have a few high-rises leading into the Vegas-style strip.

Tucked in between that, just north of the airport, is Canada. That’s where I have Christmas stuff now, but I can move it to the open area with the four ponds farther south. I can adjust the size of those ponds so that I have just a couple of things there for Valentine’s Day but can blow it out for Christmas or Halloween.

EAST: Basically junk. Cletus’ farm. Some dirty touristy stuff.

SOUTH: Krustyland used to be something separate, and you had to take a shuttle to it. They integrated it with the rest of Springfield around the same time they started Itchy and Scratchy Land. I’ve basically turned it into a three-part amusement park. Krustyland has kiddie rides and some Krusty-themed stuff. The larger rides are in I&S Land. Then I have an Epcot/World Showcase thing going on around that lake, including some performance spaces as shown here …

img_4586

Sideshow Bob and family are on the opera stage. Mayor Quimby is speaking at the amphitheater, which has a few options — Marge does something, Comic Book Guy can cosplay, etc.

img_4587

The rock stage is basically the only interesting place for drummer Nick Delacourt, who was in some episode, somewhere. Some of the people I have on other stages can be here, and Bleeding Gums can be on any of them. The angry mob was part of the Halloween event, but I moved it here to be a rowdy crowd.

img_4588

I skipped the pop stage, which can include Bleeding Gums, Lisa, Weird Al or Maggie, but it’s also the main stage for the Party Posse (YVAN EHT NIOJ!). This is the hip-hop stage, where Bart can perform in a different guise and Krusty can pop up. So in this case, I have three rappers and an accordion player. Cool.

A few other snapshots …

vegas

The “Vegas” strip with a lot of fountains and casinos, then a high-rise strip right against the mountains (not visible on the screenshot for some reason). The airport and a NASA launch site are at bottom right. I have an office and research park behind Vegas. Then, for some reason, a medieval fort.

islands

Two islands in the upper-left here — two prisons on one, and then Religion Island, featuring the traditional Springfield church along with the glass cathedral, Maude’s statue and a Buddhist temple. Above that are the dog track and go-kart track, slightly separated from the sports district.

In the sports district itself, start at the lower part, just off center, for the sumo arena. That leads to a weird soccer-ish stadium, then the baseball and football stadiums at left. You can also see the ramp where Poochie skateboards and dunks, along with the pit where motorcycle daredevil Lance Murdoch falls into the shark tank. There’s also a Bowlarama.

The strip across from the sports district (also across the water from Religion Island) has two convention centers and two museums, the last just across the water from an open stage and the Clampitheatre, which form a corner of “Epcot,” which is next.

epcot

It’s tough to squeeze in the whole entertainment area. Maybe if you right click and open in a new tab? Anyway — you can see the performance stages and international things around the water, just like World Showcase at Epcot. At the lower corner is the thing that looks like the big Epcot ball. I stuck the Eiffel Tower on an island in the middle of the lake, and there’s a group of people stuck at the base. The other thing jutting out into the water is a water show.

At right is a zoo. Then behind Epcot and the zoo is the rural district.

And at bottom left, you’ll see Krustyland, then my name spelled out in flowers. I occasionally convert DURE to DUKE, which only take a couple of moves.