by TED S. McGREGOR JR. & r & & r & Saturday Night Live & r & & r & (Saturdays, 11:30pm, NBC) & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & E & lt;/span & verybody knew it was coming -- Tina Fey coming back to SNL to play her separated-at-birth twin Sarah Palin. And we tuned in, giving the show its biggest audience since Al Gore came out of hiding to host in 2002. And Fey and Amy Poehler (as Hillary Clinton) delivered an instant classic -- one of the funniest bits in the show's 33-year history.
But then they had to do some more skits (they had the whole summer, mind you) and delivered some of the worst, least funny bits in the show's 33-year history.
Weekend Update -- the original fake news outlet -- is worth staying up for, but beyond those two things, you have to ask what the hell happened to this beloved American institution? Even a show about the show (30 Rock) is funnier.
It starts with the "talent." Apparently Lorne Michaels decided that Andy Samberg was the next Adam Sandler. He's not. And that Kristen Wiig could be the next over-acting, obnoxious Molly Shannon. She's not.
The best seasons (after the first few unmatchable ones) have had actual stars; most cast members support those stars (like Will Ferrell or Dana Carvey). So they need to get over the idea that it's an ensemble. We want to see more of the funniest people. Right now, I'd say Will Forte is the best they have -- and he's no Will Ferrell.
So that means they need a better talent scout. Just check out The Daily Show if you want to see who is pulling in the best talent -- comedians who are routinely getting placed in primetime series and in movies. Dig into that NBC bag o' money and hire The Daily Show's talent scout away.
And the problems extend into the writing. (Does there have to be a fake game show every week? No, there doesn't. Time for a fake game show moratorium until further notice.) Again, it's about the stars and writing funny characters they can perform again and again -- America likes the familiar, like Church Lady and Ferrell's cheerleaders. Maybe Alec Baldwin could come down and fire some lame-o writers, just like he does on 30 Rock.
As long as Sarah Palin is around, Saturday Night Live will be reeling in the viewers. Now they just have to figure out how to keep them awake after the opening skit ends.
Season Three kicks off with an hour of catching up, then a new episode called "Villains" -- meaning, yes, there will be more bad guys this season. (Monday, 9/22, 9 pm, NBC)
When four brothers moved to Hollywood from Youngstown, Ohio, it was a typical American story of heading West for brighter prospects. It worked out pretty well, as those brothers were named Warner and their movie studio has, for 85 years now, been a leader in the world of film. The American Masters series tackles the tale in three parts in You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story, narrated by Clint Eastwood. Interviews with the likes of George Clooney, along with clips from classics like Casablanca will fill six hours. KSPS can't seem to figure out when to schedule it, so watch Idaho Public TV. (Part One: Tuesday, 9/23, 9 pm; Part Two: Wednesday, 9/24, 9 pm; Part Three: Thursday, 9/25, 9 pm, KCDT, Comcast Ch. 26)
Are you up for another season? If so, tune in for the two-hour premiere and meet the contestants and check out the West African jungleland of Gabon. (Thursday, 9/25, 8 pm, CBS)