Bill Carter on Covering ‘SNL’ and Lorne Michaels

Longtime NYT TV beat writer Bill Carter, now writing for The Hollywood Reporter:

That’s one reason Michaels is given so much personal credit for the phenomenon of Saturday Night Live. He conceived a supremely effective formula, perhaps the only one that successfully could have sustained a live sketch-comedy/music show inside a landmark skyscraper, housed in a retrofitted radio studio originally built for a symphony orchestra. Even today, if you hang out in the narrow hallway outside Studio 8H when the show is in progress, you take your life in your hands from all of the castmembers, makeup artists, wig fitters, technicians and stagehands flying by, as well as the hulking sections of sets being shoved past you on dollies. And that has nothing to do with supervising the writing and performing and the periodic demands of recasting the thing. The show was, and is, a production marvel. “That’s Lorne as Einstein — the formula was his E = MC²,” says Jimmy Fallon, one of the dozens and dozens of breakout stars and writers Michaels has birthed.


But if there is now a somewhat gentler version of the driven young visionary of the ’70s, that does not mean writers and performers do not still experience the intimidation factor. Tina Fey felt it. “It was like The Paper Chase,” she says. “People endowed Lorne with all this power. People wanted his approval in a personal way, but you literally needed his approval to get airtime — and many people lost their minds in pursuit of it.”

How The Times let Carter walk away is beyond me.

(Via Dave Pell’s NextDraft.)

Thursday, 5 February 2015