No, it wasn't the Oscars, but it sure felt that way.
NBC celebrated the 40th anniversary of “Saturday Night Live” Sunday night with a live special that was as long (3½ hours) and as stuffed with montages as an Academy Awards broadcast. The network also treated it with a similar level of fanfare, including an hourlong red carpet special hosted by the “Today” team of
The special included appearances by dozens of former cast members (
The special, a mixture of pre-packed highlight reels and live sketches, was a sort of greatest hits collection that celebrated "SNL" old and new and, for better or worse, left virtually no favorites untouched.
There were montages celebrating seemingly every aspect of the show, including its fake commercials, political coverage and musical characters. One reel included audition tapes featuring fresh-faced future “SNL” stars like
For nostalgists, there was a nearly line-for-line remake of the famous “Bass-O-Matic ‘76” commercial featuring original “Not Ready for Prime Time Players”
For more contemporary fans, there was a Californians sketch featuring
Still other sketches blended vintage “SNL” with its more recent history to great effect. Poehler and
Like the Oscars, the special included an “In Memoriam” reel celebrating deceased “SNL” cast and crew. Throughout the broadcast, the legacy of late but great cast members Gilda Radner and Chris Farley in particular loomed large.
Other heavily anticipated moments left the audience wondering, “Is that it?”
But rather than reviving one of his recurring characters, such as Gumby or Mr. Robinson, or performing a stand-up set, as some fans had hoped, Murphy made a few boilerplate remarks about being happy to return to the show. "It feels like returning to my old high school, kind of," he said. After speaking for less than a minute, Murphy threw to commercial but an awkward pause ensued before the camera cut away, as if even the show's director was expecting him to do more.
In what at times felt like a strained effort to prove the show’s continued relevance, there were musical sets by contemporary superstars
It was Simon who got the night's last word, closing out the show with a performance of the 1975 hit he also sang as host of "Saturday Night Live's" second episode: "Still Crazy After All These Years."