This brief overview of the long-running, influential sketch-comedy show is brimming with facts but lacking in substance.
When Saturday Night Live premiered in 1975, it was bold, raw and revolutionary. It offered sharp, biting commentary on politics and other current events, as well as witty satirical pieces skewering all facets of American culture. Kaplan’s brief overview of the show chronicles its rise, impact upon popular culture, influence upon comedians and comedy programs that followed it, occasional controversies it stirred, and how it has served as a launching pad for a remarkable number of future stars in film and television. He is quite correct when he claims, “Saturday Night Live changed the way we think about comedians and comedy” and that it “paved the way for other provocative and intelligent comedy shows.” Unfortunately, Kaplan never elaborates on this statement, focusing instead on who were the most popular performers and what were the most popular catchphrases and describing some of the more notable sketches in the show’s history. He does pay some cursory attention to how the show evolved in its treatment of minority cast members. Another notable shortcoming is the singular attention given to the show’s star performers—there’s no mention made of the essential role writers had in making the show innovative and sustaining its longevity.
A sketchy, superficial treatment of a subject worthy of much more. (source notes, bibliography, further information, index) (Nonfiction. 12-16)