As Paul Simon closed out Saturday Night Live’s star-studded 40th anniversary celebration last night with a tender rendition of “Still Crazy After All These Years,” a strange, warm, unfamiliar feeling washed over me: utter satisfaction. A fan of the show for decades (since I was old enough to understand comedy and allowed to stay up until 1 pm ET on a Saturday night), I’d been looking forward to the SNL40 since NBC announced the event in early January. Every famous person on the planet — WHAT UP, FINESSE MITCHELL? — would either be on stage or in the audience. Young viewers raised on Gilly would have the opportunity to see legendary alumni revisit the treasured characters and beloved sketches that caused veteran SNL watchers to fall in love with the show back in the 70s, 80s or 90s. Or, in Eddie Murphy’s case, walk onstage for 30 seconds, flub a line, and leave.
My lone fear — due in no small part to a string of recent SNL-related disappointments — was that Lorne and his Colin Jost-led writer’s room would fail to properly honor what I consider to be the most important comedy series in history. Turns out my concerns were completely unfounded. The special contained just the right mix of humor, reverence and nostalgia. With very few exceptions — “The Californians” should take the 105, to the 110, to the Rocket Road, where SpaceX can put it in a capsule headed directly for the sun — SNL nailed its ruby anniversary. It met and at times even exceeded its massive expectations.
Which, sadly, feels like a rarity anymore. Our pop-culture dating history is riddled with seemingly perfect suitors who we later discover live on a houseboat with their parents or believe lizard people were behind Benghazi. “You guys, this movie has James Bond and Han Solo fighting ALIENS IN THE OLD WEST! THIS IS THE ONE!!!!!!” Some manage to stick the landing (Joss Whedon still doesn’t get enough credit for delivering an excellent Avengers film), but the list of movie, TV series, book or event letdowns is far longer than its opposite. This is partially due to well-constructed trailers, intriguing loglines or phenomenal creative talent elevating hype to unreachable heights, creating no-win situations where fans sharpen their pitchforks even if the resulting product is “good” and not “epic.”
So rather than dwell on disappointment, tell us which movies, TV series, books, video games, music or events delivered the goods.