Top TV Stories of 2008: Fey does Palin - VIDEOS
by Kona Gallagher, posted Dec 22nd 2008 5:02PM
...Ew, not like that, you guys. Although, I'm sure if you did just a few minutes of Googling, you could find that too, in one form or another. What I'm talking about is Tina Fey's brilliant impression of vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. How good was the impression? It was so good that the episodes featuring Fey, and the one that featured Palin herself, were some of SNL's highest-rated episodes in years. Tina Fey's brilliant but ratings-challenged sitcom, 30 Rock received a ratings bump, she scored a multi-million dollar book deal, and newspapers sometimes forgot that they were actually two different people.Not bad for a funny lady who had never been known for her impressions and a governor from a small town no one had ever heard of.
Obama may have been our first celebrity candidate, but Palin was our first beauty queen. Whether you loved her or hated her, it's hard to argue that she was a captivating figure.
What made the story so remarkable is how completely accidental the entire thing was. Out of all of the names bandied about as potential running mates in this hotly-contested presidential race, who would have thought that John McCain would have gone with an unknown female governor from Alaska? Hell, I would hazard a guess that there weren't to many people named Palin who would have thought that was a possibility.
Even after that improbable event, what is the likelihood that said unknown Alaskan governor would have a freakish resemblance to a rising star who happened to be the former head writer for Saturday Night Live, a show that was working its way back into the national consciousness through clever election satire? If I would have told you this six months ago, you probably would have guessed that I was working on a really weird sitcom that no one would ever buy.
The second Tina Fey put her hair up in that twist and started dropping the "g's" from the end of her words, the line between politics and entertainment, which had already been blurred by Obama's rock star status, was completely obliterated. Unlike McCain, Obama and Biden, who were all familiar to a nation who had been watching the election for the past year and a half, Palin was a blank slate, which made it easy for her persona and that of Tina Fey's impression to become so intertwined, that it was tough to figure out where one ended and the other began.
In Fey's first appearance as Sarah Palin, she uttered the now-iconic line, "I can see Russia from my house." This zinger, which was actually a bastardization of a real Palin quote about maritime borders, was repeated so many times that it was often incorrectly attributed to Palin herself.
In the best of the Palin skits, in which Fey-as-Palin is being interviewed by Katie Couric (Amy Poehler), the writers borrowed heavily from the actual transcript of the interview. This borrowing caused many people who had up to that point liked her, or at worst, seen her as a novelty, seriously question her ability to become vice-president. The part in which Palin is completely unable to name a single newspaper she reads? That's ripped straight from the actual transcript.
While Tina Fey's impression of Sarah Palin made her the most famous vice-presidential candidate this country has probably ever seen, there's a question of whether it helped or hurt John McCain. While the biting satire that Fey and the writers put out there solidified the beliefs of those who were already opposed to the McCain/Palin ticket, it probably had the opposite effect on her supporters and those who were leaning that way, causing them to rally around this woman who was being attacked by the mainstream liberal media.
When Palin herself finally appeared on SNL, it was done as an acknowledgment of Tina Fey and an attempt to prove that she was above the teasing. However, Palin's problem wasn't that she wasn't likable, it was that a lot of people didn't believe they could take her seriously. Dancing in her chair while Amy Poehler rapped about shooting Moose probably didn't help her cause in the end.
While the whole Fey/Palin thing may have ultimately hurt John McCain's campaign, it did wonders for Sarah Palin's career. As soon as the election was over, the talk about what was next for Palin began. Would it be TV, or a book deal? Or would her ambitions be a bit more lofty? If the "Palin 2012" bumper sticker I saw in Virginia a few weeks ago is any indication, there's a good chance that the governor of Alaska is going to try to take her pop culture stardom and ride it all the way to the White House.
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