Sunday, May 9, 2010

Brilliant Betty White Made the Best of SNL

Betty White is infallible. Case closed.

Her appearance on Saturday Night Live last night was truly revelatory--of better and worse. Let's start with the better.

That, of course, is Betty! The 88-and-a-half year-old--as she was scripted to announce a few too many times last night--is a marvel. Despite the return of many of SNL's best comic actresses (Tina Fey, Molly Shannon, Ana Gasteyer, Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, and Maya Rudolph), Betty outshone everyone in the cast...and it's clear the other actors weren't just letting the feeble old lady win. They were trying.

But to no avail. Betty White kicked (!), rattled off obscenities, and poked fun at her age tirelessly...until it became tired. But that's not her fault.

Here we come to the "worse" part: SNL itself. Everyone knows that the writers work at a break-neck pace, and this show must have been even more difficult than usual, given that the production was working with a much older star who probably has some reduced stamina (although it was not evident last night--let's hope Betty wasn't shot up with amphetamines or anything for the sake of the show!) and the necessity of bringing back the favorite creations of the great SNL ladies above--such as Shannon and Gasteyer's NPR ladies (Betty's dusty old muffin stole it!).

But even with those constraints, why did the show have to be so one-note? Betty White isn't just older, she's pretty damn old at 88. OK, we get it. Ha-ha. Let's move on. Although Betty was creepy-funny in those God-awful MacGruber episodes (Does ANYBODY really like that dreck? Every time one of those things come on, I usually change the channel.), that time could have been used for something better. Even the skits that weren't really about her old age--like the funny-at-first "lesbian" one below--really were about her old age, the real joke being, ha-ha, the old lady is the only one willing to say 'lesbian'!

Like what?

How about a Golden Girls revival? Imagine an even older, vulgar, cynical Rose. Or imagine Betty White as Blanche, who she originally tried to be cast as? And imagine the rest of the cast: Rachel Dratch as Sophia! Ana Gasteyer as Dorothy! Tina Fey as Rose! (The least unlikely, but that could make it the most interesting.)

Or what about a parody of The View? I can't imagine anything in this life that would be better than watching Betty White do a merciless portrayal of Barbara Walters. Her age would be an implicit joke, suggesting a much older Barbara Walters, but the skit wouldn't be dependent on that. And you know Betty would have done it.

The one thing the show did reveal--which we probably suspected already, given the world's love for the actress--is that Betty White will do just about anything for a laugh. So why no PETA skit for the notorious animal lover? Why not something, anything but another old lady joke?

The videos below reveal that Betty White is her very own self-made phenomenon. She's one of the rare living legends who lives up to the legend. It's just such a shame that this once-in-a-lifetime SNL hosting gig had to be all about her age rather than her brilliance as a comic actress. Betty is better than last night's show. But, really, wasn't that inevitable?

You knew Betty White is funny. But did you know she could sing?

Long live Betty White. May she forever be better than her material.

No comments: