Tag Archives: nbc

SNL’s “Cut” Ferguson Sketch Shows NBC Knows TV’s Dwindling Importance

Kip (Kenan Thompson) and Jenny (Cecily Strong) try getting through a horrible news morning on their sunny TV show. Courtesy: NBC/YouTube

Kip (Kenan Thompson) and Jenny (Cecily Strong) try getting through a horrible news morning on their sunny TV show. Courtesy: NBC/YouTube

by Legendary Lew

This past weekend, NBC cut a sketch from Saturday Night Live that it claimed the long-running series did not have time to perform.  The comedy bit in question was the airing of a local St. Louis happy morning “news” show called “Rise and Smile St. Louis.” Co-hosts Kip and Jenny (Kenan Thompson and Cecily Strong) struggle to make it through the show the morning after riots rocked Ferguson.

Although, there certainly will be buzz over whether the network was too nervous to show the sketch, its airing on television, I think, is a moot point, especially when the bit made it online to YouTube and will be eventually be watched by more people than it would have on just TV alone.

A bigger point to raise is that it did get released publicly online while Ferguson, Eric Garner’s death and further issues of police brutality are fresh in the public’s mind.  Think Progress astutely points out this is a rare instance when SNL goes for a controversial and deeply evocative emotional issue head on.  If Jon Stewart didn’t know what to say, SNL sure did and did so terrifically:

The skit reminded me of some political comedy classics recorded on vinyl back in Charlie Manna - Rise & Fall Of The Great Societythe late 1960s and early 70s, when LP’s were practically the only serious outlet for very biting social commentary like this.  One of the few examples I could find of a comedy sketch on rioting done while the memories were still fresh was “Park Avenue Riots” by comic Charlie Manna and co-written by future “All in the Family” writer Michael Ross.

In fact, the other major TV parallel example of riot satire I could think of is the famed Harry Belafonte appearance on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” in 1968. Singing a medley of some of his famous tunes beginning with “Don’t Stop the Carnival,” the lyrics were reworked to match scenes of the the Chicago 1968 Democratic National Convention and riots, which had taken place only a few weeks prior.

CBS snipped this performance from the show and eventually the Brothers’ legendary fight with the network’s censorship issues led the network to break their contract and cancel the series.

Contrast the network’s decision with today: Belafonte’s performance could not be seen for many years. The SNL skit, however, can be seen online and shared freely. NBC may be nervous about airing it on a medium with older audiences, but understands how younger viewers consume their media. This understanding is, in fact, blurted out by Jenny in the morning show when she castigates Chef Darrell (SNL guest host James Franco) for inappropriate comments he makes while cooking up a frittata:

“Too late. You said it, and now we’re all on YouTube forever.”

NBC didn’t “cut the skit” for time. They knew it would live with a longer life of its own online, and indeed it does with currently over 2 million hits on YouTube. That popularity is another indication that TV, in its traditional form, is a dying medium. It needs the reach and relevance of the world wide web to be vital to young audiences and to provide voices and views that counter the mainstream.

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What You Won’t Learn from Most David Brenner Obituaries

David Brenner and Lesley Ann Warren starred in the doomed NBC sitcom, Snip

David Brenner and Lesley Ann Warren starred in the doomed NBC sitcom, Snip. Courtesy: remembermarilyn

by Legendary Lew

Master of comic observation, David Brenner, died March 15, 2014 from cancer. The greatest emphasis in remembering him by most media has been his numerous appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Gracing the stage there 158 times since his 1971 debut was quite the feat. It’s currently unmatched by any other guest.

A few obits will mention that Brenner was the star of a extremely short-lived NBC sitcom from 1976 called Snip. How quick was the demise of the show? NBC cancelled the show before a single episode was aired.  Normally, this would simply be an insignificant footnote in TV history. However, the story behind what happened is fascinating, leading me to believe that the network had some of the biggest assholes in charge during the 1970’s.

Davidbrennersnip2

Courtesy: remembermarilyn

Brenner was a very hot property by the mid-1970’s as one of the best stand-up comics around. Naturally, producers were keen to take notice and one of them, James Komack, was spinning gold as executive producer of the hit shows Welcome Back, Kotter and Chico and the Man. Komack developed a new sitcom called Snip, based somewhat on the box-office winner, Shampoo starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie. Snip starred David Brenner and Lesley Ann Warren as divorcees who are reunited in a hair salon when he takes a job there. The show also starred Bebe Drake and Walter Wanderman as the salon owner.

NBC pulled out all the stops for promoting the show, saturating the airwaves with announcements of the new “hit” comedy. Although I’ve not seen them in almost 40 years, I recall seeing ads for it.  Snip was also buoyed by advance good reviews, presenting a strong case for the network having high hopes.

So why did NBC cancel the show almost literally at the last minute–so drastically that TV Guide didn’t have time to pull this spread from their Fall Preview issue?:

TV Guide's Fall Preview page announcing Snip, which had just been snipped from NBC's lineup

TV Guide’s Fall Preview page announcing Snip, which had just been snipped from NBC’s lineup. Courtesy: remembermarilyn

The answer: homophobia.

Snip would have presented the first regularly recurring gay character (played by Wanderman) in television history and NBC was not ready to take the chance. Throwing it into a strange limbo, NBC announced it would be cancelled, then it would be postponed, then it just simply died. NBC wouldn’t try having a gay character again until 1981, when they ran Love Sidney for a two-season run, but not before giving the lead a character castration so that his gayness would be quelled, lest viewers catch something.

The network’s dick move (certainly not the only one they pulled in the 1970’s–The Richard Pryor Show‘s tumultuous journey becoming legendary TV history) didn’t really hurt Brenner’s career. He continued to appear on The Tonight Show, even becoming rumored as a possible replacement for Carson when the latter showed signs of fatigue in the late 1970’s.

The cancellation certainly did, however, make NBC look heartless and it must have damaged Wanderman’s career, as he only made one final TV guest spot before disappearing. The subsequent successful airing of the existing five episodes on Australian television had to have inspired an interesting phone call between Komack and NBC. How I would have been a fly on the wall for that conversation.

Bogus Copyright Infringement Claims are Becoming a New Form of Online Harrassment

A few years ago a YouTube video was posted in which vloggers went on the air with claims of false copyright infringement. Back in those days (and true today as well) false claims of infringement were made many times by scammers trying to steal the ad revenue from popular videos uploaded on YouTube.

Now with big media corporations collectively pooping major bricks over piracy, some of them are making claims that are not only false, but in some cases downright weird. The following three I’ve read about in just this past week:

The Rick Astley “Never Gonna Give You Up” video was removed temporarily due to what was reported as a “glitch” in the Copyright ID system on YouTube. AVG Technologies, an anti-virus software company, was the “claimant” of the copyright infringement notice, although they had no legal rights to the video. It was later reposted, but apparently this has happened before with the “Hitler Reacts” videos clipped from the great film Downfall. The problem is that with the current Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a shotgun-type approach is all too common–remove the video now, worry about free speech or the legitimacy of the claim after people contact YouTube and complain.

I wonder if that’s now going to happen with Jay Leno. According to Brian Kamerer, Leno enjoyed a music video he and his friends made to boost the actual mayoral campaign of Travis Irvine in Bexley, Ohio.  The Tonight Show stealer  host played it on TV, Brian was happy. All was right with their world, until Brian tried to access the video–his own video that he produced–on YouTube and was blocked with a copyright infringement notice from NBC. If there’s one rule in comedy, it’s never make a funny man angry. This response letter to Jay Leno proves that.

And finally, the doozy, courtesy of TechDirt, where three networks and quite possibly a fourth are ready to do legal battle with DISH Network over a new “Auto Hop” feature, allowing consumers to automatically skip over commercials to view the main program. This hardly-new technology (I remember owning VCRs that had 30-second auto skips) had ABC clutching its heart like Fred Sanford getting ready to “join Elizabeth.” Unbelievably, the networks are arguing that removing the ads with Auto Hop infringes on their copyrights. Say what?!

But leave it to Investor Place to tell us how important companies like Disney are to our well-being over this matter:

 …making programmers like Disney cranky — or a host of other networks like NBC, which also weighed in against Auto Hop recently — may not be beneficial in the long run. Quality programming doesn’t come cheap and everyone is struggling to figure out how to generate money in this new media world to support quality programming.

Yes! God forbid, we should hamper the next great program offering like, oh let’s say, a show about a dog that runs its own blog.

I urge you to read Mike Masnick’s coverage of the crazy lawsuit against DISH. It should convince you, once and for all, the big media corps will stop at nothing to grab every penny it can. Once you read it, you should never comment about anyone else tying up the courts with frivolous lawsuits.

I’m convinced that false copyright infringement claims are going to be the new big media corporate scam when it’s clear that many people like their internet too much for privacy-infringing legislation. What’ll make it harder for those to counter is that getting your YouTube vids reinstated is a pain in the ass and can get you further in the mud if you don’t know what you’re doing when you are fighting back.