by Julian Spivey
The recent downfalls of television legends Bill Cosby and Roseanne Barr has led me to wonder what should we do with their legacies – their television shows?
I’ve been thinking about writing about this topic since the Television Hall of Fame (yes, it exists) removed Bill Cosby from its honorees earlier this month.
Now I hate that I must come out and say this, but I don’t want to be confused as someone who’s sticking up for rapists and bigots (you can’t be too careful these days), but Cosby and Roseanne are obviously bad people.
Bad people shouldn’t be supported in the now. ABC made the right decision to cancel “Roseanne,” though it’s a major disappointment for anyone else involved with the show whether on the cast or crew. Many good people lost jobs yesterday because the lead of the show is an offensive asshat.
But, should the past – “The Cosby Show” and “Roseanne” – be completely stripped away because of controversial figures in the title roles?
The most disturbing part of the Roseanne controversy to me was the fact that Hulu, Paramount Network and others decided to immediately pull re-runs of the original run of “Roseanne” from 1988-1997. This move echoes the decision that networks made a few years ago when Cosby’s victims were coming out against him. Some have since returned “The Cosby Show” re-runs to programming, but most have not.
And, sure you can make the argument that horrible people don’t need to make money off re-runs airings, but you must remember it’s not just Cosby and Roseanne making profits off these airings. Can you imagine how much this might hurt someone like Michael Fishman, who’s not a professional actor anymore?
Removing these shows, especially from a streaming service like Hulu, also hurts fans of the series – many of whom don’t give a damn about the real-life Cosby or Roseanne and merely love the shows and fictional characters, even if they have some basis in the real lives of those portraying them. Many people can separate the shows from the controversial figures behind them.
The most important aspect of this all is just what Cosby and Roseanne mean to the history of television – both iconic figures in the history of the medium. When Cosby was a lead on “I Spy” in the ‘60s he was the first African-American to star in a television series. “The Cosby Show” was also highly important in the ‘80s, as it showed affluent African-Americans after many hits of the ‘70s like “Sanford & Son” showed another side of African-American life. The criteria for being inducted into the Television Hall of Fame (founded by the Academy of Television Arts & Science) is: “persons who have made outstanding contributions in the arts, sciences or management of television, based upon either cumulative contributions and achievements or a singular contribution or achievement.” Cosby fits that criteria and removing him from the hall of fame is a disservice to the history of television. Again, he’s a bad person, but essentially the TV Hall of Fame is editing history by trying to act like he didn’t exist.
“Roseanne” was one of the most important shows in television because it was the first to really show a middle class, if not lower class, family struggling to survive. Trying to act like it didn’t exist would be a bad thing for television history, not to mention keeping viewers from terrific performances by actors like John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf, who have nothing to do with Roseanne’s bigotry.
It’s truly a disappointment that this conversation must be had, but I believe we can separate the shows from the actors who’s name they share. Let’s exile the bad guys, but let each person make up their own mind what to do about the art that they made.
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?