Monday, May 10, 2010
Betty White's 'SNL' stint: Less than golden
By Robert Bianco, USA Today, May 10, 2010
Like other fans of Betty White in the United States, I was looking forward to her appearance Saturday night as host of "SNL" (which used to be called "Saturday Night Live" until NBC's marketers got their sweaty hands on the name). The amount of interest was huge. But I came away from the program wondering who was getting the last laugh on this one.
So I was surprised, more or less pleasantly, when USA Today's critic put his finger on some of the problems, including the following: "they had her make some blue jokes, bear the brunt of multiple 'isn't she old' jokes, and pump for the upcoming MacGruber movie — and then make a few more blue jokes." The entire exercise in semi-adulation of a an 88-year-old actress/comedienne was unsettling in the way it toed the edge of tastelessness, then promptly jumped across it. For my own part, it left me with a strange sense of embarrassment. Betty White's ability to combine "angelic manner and gutter language" can be good for a laugh -- but in rapid-fire repetition, it bears the whiff of something approaching senior abuse.
None of this would matter much, if it weren't for the fact that Betty White wound up on "SNL" as a result of "popular demand" via Facebook. It's heartening to note that Betty told the sad truth about Facebook when she admitted what we all (secretly) know -- that it's a "huge waste of time." Watching Betty wasn't exactly a waste of time, but it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Something was misguided about this exercise, beginning with the recent Snickers TV commercial that started Betty's off-color ball rolling. And I wonder if the joke was on Betty, or on viewers, or on the much-enlarged "SNL" cast brought in for the event, or on that imperious man behind the green curtain named Lorne Michaels. One thing is for certain: listening to the vox populi doesn't guarantee success.