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December 22, 2014

Five TV show argument starters

by Bob Sassone, posted Apr 29th 2008 10:02AM

SNL

If you're at this site, that means you love television, and if you love television, you have some pretty strong opinions when it comes to its content, its history, its future. So let's fight about it.

After the jump are five opinions/ideas that I have. You're probably not going to agree with me on some of them (or any of them), but I think they're a great jumping-off point to get some arguments intelligent discussions going. Be warned that the following contains opinions that are probably going to tick you off and maybe even some that will make you think I've lost my mind.

1. The 90s cast of Saturday Night Live was better than the 70s cast.

I know, I know, this is heresy in the land of SNL. Rich is doing a cool history of the show and it was groundbreaking. The 1970s cast had Belushi and Curtin and Aykroyd and Murray! They had Lisa Loopner and the land shark and the Bass-O-Matic! They weren't even ready for prime time, for God's sake! How can you say the 90s version was better?

Because it was. Look, I loved the original cast of SNL, and I'm old enough to have been in front of my television when it premiered in 1975. But look at the talent that the late 80s-to-late-90s cast had. Phil Hartman! Mike Myers! Jan Hooks! Toonces! Robert Smigel! Church Lady! Jack Handey! I think the later cast had more versatility and took more chances and had better riffs on politics and current events. And when it comes to quoting characters that cast members portrayed, I can think of many more quotes from the 90s cast than the older cast (sorry, wild and crazy guys).

I think part of our love for one era of a TV show over another is when it came in our own life, how it affected us, what it meant to us. Maybe that's part of why I love the Phil Hartman years of SNL more than the Dan Ackroyd years. But I also happen to think that overall it holds up better.

2. Ryan Seacrest isn't so bad.

No, I'm not drunk right now (though I have had a lot of caffeine today). But come on, be fair. Beyond the fact that he hosts a show that a lot of people hate, and those "is he gay?" questions that no one should even care about, why hate the guy? I don't see anything wrong with the him. In fact, he seems like a rather ambitious, talented guy. American Idol would fall apart without him (he controls the show perfectly). He has said many times that he wants to be the next Dick Clark, and with his work ethic (hosting Idol, hosting on E!, doing a daily 5 hour radio show, hosting a weekly top 40 show, producing TV shows and specials, etc), he's well on his way.

3. Heroes' second season was great.

Oh, I know, bleeding eyes Maya and her dumb brother were the Nikki and Paolo of NBC, but beyond that, the season turned out pretty great. Fans were (and maybe still are) up in arms because the second season supposedly wasn't as good as the first. You know what? It wasn't, but not because the second season was so bad, it's that the first season was just so crazy good (cliffhangers at the end of every episode!). It was still new to us. The second season almost had to start out the way it did, because the makers had to restart the show in light of the events of the first season finale. While I agree that Hiro stayed in old Japan maybe two episodes too many, the show just kept on getting better and better as the season went along: the people in the pic being murdered one by one by an unknown killer, Syler seducing the twins to get him to the U.S., the mystery of why Nate was disfigured in the mirror and why Peter had amnesia, the cast additions of David Anders and Kristin Bell. We'll never know what exactly would have been the final verdict on the second season because of the writers strike, but I think that at the end viewers would have forgotten the slip-ups and said it was great.

4. Conan O'Brien and Craig Ferguson are lame talk show hosts.

I've gone back and forth with this one. Both O'Brien and Ferguson seem like good chaps, and they can both be very, very funny, depending on what they do and what they're doing. But they're not late night talk show hosts. O'Brien still, after over 10 years, is uncomfortable in his monologue. Tonight, for me, do this: count how many times he says "yeah" in his monologue. And his interviewing technique consists of trying to overpower his guests with his comedy. Part of this is to save the interview, I understand, but a big part of it is not knowing when to let go. I really wonder what's going to happen when O'Brien takes over the Tonight Show next year. Totally different audience and vibe. It's going to be interesting to see what he does.

As for Ferguson, he relies too much on that damn audio box that has things like whip noises and animal noises. Every time he says something like "naughty monkey," it's because he has nothing else to say, and I change the channel. Funny, David Letterman repeats a lot of gags too, but with him you sense they could go off in odd, unpredictable directions. Ferguson just says "naughty monkey," mugs for the camera, and the audience howls. I don't get it. And while I appreciate the sort of extended story monologue he does, that gets grating too.

5. They should release TV show DVDs with commercials.

Again I say that I'm not drunk right now (nor am I doing any of this). And let me make clear that I'm not talking about the ads that often come before the show/movie starts on our DVDs, the ads from studios for other DVD collections or other movies. I'm talking about the commercials that air when the show airs on TV. That's right, I would like to see regular commercials on DVD sets.

Before the torches and crowds start lining up at my front door, let me explain that part of this is nostalgia. I own thousands of videotapes from the 80s and 90s, for such shows as Spenser: For Hire and Stingray and Riptide and Remington Steele and Max Monroe: Loose Cannon, and the tapes contain the original commercials from the 80s and 90s. I love watching this stuff. It's like a tiny time capsule, a look at the products and trends that were happening at the same time the show originally aired. Why not do this with DVD sets? Maybe they can make an ad version of the DVD and an ad-free DVD version, so we can choose. Of course, this might not be cost effective (though I would bet advertisers would love this idea and foot the bill), so maybe there could be an option on the DVDs to watch an episode without the ads, sort of like you can shut the commentary track on and off.

Just a few thoughts. Feel free to argue amongst yourselves and with me in the comments.

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Susan

Hi! I just have to pipe up with respect to your comment on Craig Ferguson! I'm completely hooked on his show. There are so many moments of purely spontaneous hilarity - something that almost never happens on the other talk shows. For me, that makes the Late Late Show MUST-SEE TV (take THAT 1980's NBC promo writers!). His monologues are consistently the best, AND he does them without prompts. He pushes himself every night by putting himself on the line that way, and he deserves MAJOR points just for that. Craig's interview skills are far and away better than the other hosts'. The best moments happen when a guest is ready and willing (and capable) of keeping up with his intelligence, quick wit, and flirtatiousness (with both men and women). He's not trying to be cool - he IS cool. He doesn't pander to egos by blowing smoke up anyone's orifices - he's genuinely curious and engages in real conversation. If and when an interview does fall flat, it's because the guest just can't keep up, no matter how hard Craig tries to help them look good. If anything, I think the skits tend to be the uneven element in the mix, but even they have their moments of wonderful lunacy. If I was throwing a dinner party and could invite any of the current crop of late show hosts, Craig Ferguson is the ONLY one I'd even consider inviting.

April 30 2008 at 11:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lucyfan62

How about just a DVD set with classic commercials? That's been done before. I have an old laserdisk with classic toy commercials and a CD ROM with other classic commercials (The Flintstones hawking cigarettes, for example!). I'd rather see something like that than have to sit through them on my TV show DVDs!

April 30 2008 at 11:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brent McKee

I do agree about commercials on DVDs - agree with "pumpkinhead" that is. Have them as a special feature and just as an added comment, don't put them on DVD releases of current shows. I have the Season One set of "The Adventures of Superman" which has period commercials for Kellogg's Sugar Frosted Flakes on it and they're a great window into the time before Tony The Tiger was the spokes-animal for the series. But I know the current commercials , so having that special feature on my "Firefly" set or my "Studio 60" discs would be a waste of space. Now in ten or fifteen years that will be different, so put them on a reissue ten or fifteen years from now.

April 30 2008 at 3:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rich

Commercials on DVDs for the nostalgia? Fine, but put them in a special feature, not during the shows.

April 29 2008 at 9:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gowan

1) I'd agree they're more versatile. I think part of that is being a product of their times, though. Nobody knew what they were doing when the first class of SNL came around

2) I have no opinion on Seacrest as I don't watch anything he participates in.

3) Haven't seen it. Waiting for the DVD.

4) I don't watch Ferguson although I hear a lot about him. I liked Kilborn and just have never switched back. I like Conan, but have to agree that he'd probably be better off running some kind of variety show than interviewing folks. I don't think he's TERRIBLE (Jimmy Kimmel?), but he doesn't seem comfortable doing it even now.

5) I'd be for this if it lowered the price of DVD sets. Better yet, I'd be for it if it normalized the price of DVD sets. Why is a season of Farscape $90 and a season of Heroes $40?

Something completely unrelated I'd like to see? A skip-back/skip-forward X seconds button on a DVD player. I'm so used to my TiVo that when I miss something on a DVD, I immediately try to click back and inevitably go too far.

April 29 2008 at 6:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lindsey

I don't really agree with anything you just said.

April 29 2008 at 5:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
heinlein

On Conan, I'm sorry for offending anyone, but I just can't get past his nasal voice...

Commercials on DVD is OK if it means that it will make the DVDs cheaper or as the only way to make it released, otherwise not.

April 29 2008 at 5:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Julio

If you're not drunk, then what are you smoking? Commercials on DVD sets? One of the reason some people buy the DVD sets is to avoid the commercials.

April 29 2008 at 5:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dj

You can't compare the original SNL cast'75-'79. i'm 40 yrs old abd have seen every single episode of SNL. What the original Not-Ready-for-Primetime Players were doing had never been done before on TV and set the standard and the format for others to follow. Yes, the '90's cast had more versatile performers and catchphrases, but only because there was a template already for what works and what doesn't.

April 29 2008 at 4:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scott

In SNL: Hartman was a genius, but frequently he was wasted in sketches playing characters like Frankenstein. His Reagan and his Clinton are unparalleled. You use "Toonces" the driving cat as an example of how superior the 90s shows were? Ugh. Dennis Miller had the best "Weekend Update" of anyone. But Miller and Hartman aren't enough to say the 90s shows were better than the 70s shows.

On commercials on DVD: I understand where you're coming from. I also enjoy watching the commercials on my old videotapes. But DVDs are now the very last place that we can watch TV shows without commercials, and without annoying network bugs. I'm afraid that even including an alternate option to watch WITH commercials would be opening the door to more mucking around with the shows themselves, or making them mandatory instead of optional, like the ones in front of many movies.

April 29 2008 at 4:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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