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Saturday Night Live on Netflix

Geoff Wood

As mentioned previously on this blog, we're a no-cable, no satellite family. Instead, we consume all tv content either through Netflix (both streaming and on disc), Hulu, or the CBS's website (which is a distant third for a reason).

Netflix streaming is our preferred option since it's on demand and accessible via the Apple TV. The big drawback to all tv on Netflix is that fact it's not current. For instance, I'm always a season behind on AMC's Mad Men since the discs for season three weren't released until right before the premier of season four(1).

However one show is giving me hope for a better tv-over-web delivery future: Saturday Night Live. The old reliable sketch show, now in it's 36th season, is putting it's episodes up on Netflix streaming in real time (well sort of real time, usually within a week after they air live).

This is definitely cool and I'm excited to see if anyone else follows suit. It's interesting that NBC, part owner of Hulu.com, is allowing Netflix streaming to potentially become a competitor to Hulu as a provider of in-season programming online. Netflix, who already has a leg up since it has no advertising in the show and has a much more stable interface could dominate Hulu if they only had access to the programming.

Anyway, one thing I've noticed with the SNL episodes available in Netflix is that they're often edited. The easiest way to tell is when one of the core components of the show is inexplicably missing. I first noticed it in an early episode when the musical guest (Kanye?) performances never happened. The guest was introduced at the beginning of the episode and was visible in the cast send off at the end of the episode but the performance was missing. Odd.

What was more noticeable was this week's episode, hosted by Scarlett Johansson, which was missing a monologue. Now that's noticeable. They do the cold intro, then the opening credits, then jump right into sketches. I ventured over to Hulu to see if their version of the episode appears the same way. It does but also comes with this disclaimer:

Full episodes of SNL consist of material that is cleared for online streaming. Some sketches and musical performances may be omitted due to various restrictions. Episodes are posted Sunday afternoons and are available for 17 days. All of the clips cleared for online streaming are posted on Hulu. Select musical performances are available for a limited time.

They're omitting sketches for "restrictions"? What restrictions? Typically "online" is a place to put material that's not clear to be shown on TV not the place to omit things that were already shown on TV. I guess I understand it, the show is live and things probably squeak through that NBC doesn't want shown to the rest of the world.

But, what the heck happened in Scarlett's monologue to cause it to be restricted? Typically, those are pretty vanilla stuff. Was it just plain bad? Is there a quality restriction? Is there a "whoops you shouldn't have seen that" restriction which would have blocked Ashlee Simpson's lip sync fiasco a few years ago, had Netflix and Hulu been around?

NBC and SNL obviously don't owe me any explanation. As a fan, however, I'd like to know.

Regardless, thanks for taking the lead and getting your current season content on to Netflix.

(1)As a listener of Bill Simmon's podcast, this is quite frustrating since the tv critics are some of his best guests.

 

NBC's Saturday Night Live in the 2000s Primetime Special

Geoff Wood

I've been watching Saturday Night Live (SNL) since I was a little kid. I can't put an exact date on it but I know that it goes far enough back that I remember watching it simply because I knew it was funny (even though I was too young to understand most of the humor).

My interest waned in high school, college, and post-grad since I wasn't usually at home on Saturday night's to see the show. However, sometime around 2002 I bought a TiVo and SNL has been a staple ever since.(1) That means that I've watched almost every skit in the decade being covered in this retrospective; crazy.

Overall, the special was great. It's not often that a TV show can make you both laugh out loud and tear up all at the same time (e.g., the Digital Shorts footage and first show post-9/11 discussion, respectively).

It's crazy to look back at the force that Will Ferrell was on that show at the begginning of the decade. The oft-quoted Alex Trebek/Jeopardy! sketches, the Cheerleaders sketches - the guy is just plain funny. 

I was glad to see SNL show some of the sketches that I remembered fondly, such as the Jimmy Fallon going away sketch (a "Summer Lovin'" parody from Grease with his Weekend Update co-host Tina Fey), the Lazy Sunday and Dick in a Box Digital Shorts, Mark Wahlberg calling out Andy Samberg for his impression, the Sarah Palin sketches, one shot of the infamous Weekend Update tree frog, and any skit that Justin Timberlake has ever been in.

A few that they left out that I wash they had included are Outkast's "Hey Ya" performance, which was amazing, the performance was then repeated the following week in the monologue (only subbing out the backup dancers for the women comics on the show), the characters from Broadway musical's union meeting, Amy Poehler doing the Sarah Palin rap (which did make it online), MacGruber, the rest of Justin Timberlake's sketches (most notably the "Bring it on down..." performances and the Weekend Update where he summarized an entire episode in 90 seconds), and several others.

A few other thoughts: Jimmy Fallon's hair style changed alot, Jimmy and Horatio Sanz cracking each other up annoyed me at the time but was endearing in the retrospective, Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers' first show was the one following 9/11 (wow, tough), and Andy Samberg needs to get more air time this season.

Bill Hader mentioned that people uploading the "Lazy Sunday" rap to YouTube was how he first heard about the website. That's true for me, too. They talked about YouTube and viral video quite a bit which I find ironic since NBC pulls down their copyrighted content from YouTube with veracity. I wonder what would happen if they let people share it (their replacement, Hulu and NBC.com are too hard to navigate).

Finally, I'm disappointed that they failed to bring up the Ashley Simpson incident, where the then-pop star was caught lip syncing during a performance on the show as a musical guest (I believe she stopped singing but her voice went on). It was an embarrassment to the performer and the show and really brought into question the "live" nature of Saturday Night Live. I'm surprised they didn't at least somewhat embrace it make into a joke, after all, isn't that what they do?

1. Of course these days I watch it on TiVo because we're in bed before it airs, not because we're out and about.

You could call them Aaron Burr by the way they're droppin' Hamiltons.

Geoff Wood

I mentioned my late night TV host preferences in the last post and failed to mention Jimmy Fallon. I've never watched one of his shows all the way through but some of the skits he pushes out to the internet are hilarious. Apparently he has a knack for reunion shows, as he's done a Saved by the Bell reunion, a California Dreams reunion, and now a reunion of Saturday Night Live (SNL) alumnus Chris Parnell and current SNL player Andy Samberg for their classic "Chronic-what?-cles of Narnia" rap - the first of many great SNL Digital Shorts (which are accompanied by many more not-so-great ones).

 

By the way, it's funny that Jimmy references this video and YouTube at the beginning of the skit. NBC goes out of their way to keep their material off of YouTube and back when the original SNL skit aired (December 2005) they weren't even putting clips up at their own site.