After four-and-a-half hours, including the red carpet telecast, the “SNL 40th Anniversary Celebration” on NBC Sunday night was like watching a regular broadcast. In other words, it was designed to be like its 90-minute format with an intro skit and the famous opening tagline, host monologue, various sketches, short films, musical guests, and everybody involved with the show on stage saying goodnight. The only difference it was double the airtime lasting three-and-a-half hours, while being on a different day and time.
Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake were the opening act with a clever rap featuring well known catchphrases spanning four decades. They officially opened the anniversary reunion special with its “Live from New York, its Saturday Night.” Rachel Dratch was one of many cameo appearances from the illustrious “Saturday Night Live” regulars of the past. She briefly reprised her Debbie Downer character. Steve Martin acted as a host (he’s a member of the Five-Timers Club) for this very special program. He stated it was mostly comedians who have hosted the late night TV comedy show.
Tom Hanks did a Kanye West by interrupting Martin saying actors have hosted, then it was followed by Alec Baldwin inquiring what about actors who can do both comedy and drama, Melissa McCarthy chimed in about women, and finally Paul McCartney and Paul Simon asked about singers named Paul who have hosted. It was great hearing them sing and play on guitar “I’ve Just Seen a Face.”
Throughout the special it was a cornucopia of guest celebrities and former cast members introducing montages of past episodes, musical guests, and reprisals of past famous sketches presented live. Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek in “Celebrity Jeopardy!” was one of several laugh out loud moments in this marathon. These featured very inept celebrities such as Darrell Hammond’s Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin’s spot on Tony Bennett, Kate McKinnon (the only current cast member featured in a sketch) as Justin Bieber, and Norm MacDonald as Burt Reynolds in a brilliant impersonation.
From the 2000s/2010s featured the soap opera spoof of “The Californians” with the regulars that included Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, and Fred Armisen. Bradley Cooper made a cameo as the pool boy. It was great seeing an original Not Ready for Prime Time Players Laraine Newman fit in perfectly. Taylor Swift, on the other hand, was completely out of her league being with these stellar comedians. At one point she covered her face in what looked like an awkward moment. Thankfully Betty White saved the skit from total ruin when she was reunited with pool boy in a passionate kiss.
Now this was a reunion when Jane Curtin, the original Weekend Update female anchor was joined by her female anchor co-horts, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Actual auditions of cast members were shown, which was a rare treat. Wayne’s World was brought back and it seemed like it never really left. Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey still have that magic. They certainly put Kanye West in his place.
One of the longest sketches of the night ended up being the most memorable of all. Martin Short and Maya Rudolph as a perfect Beyonce hosted musical moments by their original characters in seasons past. Adam Sandler brought back Opera Man, Steve Martin was King Tut, Will Ferrell and Ana Gasteyer as Marty and Bobbi Culp singing the last tunes such as “Turn Down for What,” and “All About That Bass,” and Dana Carvey played on piano “Choppin’ Broccoli.” Even the Blues Brothers returned with Jim Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.
It was Bill Murray’s legendary Nick the Lounge Singer that stole the show. His rendition of the “Jaws Theme” complete with clips from the film was laugh till you cried funny. This was a perfect opportunity for Eddie Murphy to bring back the James Brown hot tub sketch. Murphy’s return was a long introduction from Chris Rock, which lasted longer than his actual appearance by the popular “SNL” cast member. It was the first time he was back at Studio 8H since the 1980s.
Musical guests included a very hoarse Paul McCartney with his passionate “Baby I’m Amazed,” Miley Cyrus covered Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years” respectfully, Kanye West’s performance art of his latest release “Wolves” featured Sia (yes, her face was covered up) and Vic Mensa, and closing out the 40th Anniversary television special was none other than Paul Simon singing, appropriately enough, “Still Crazy After All These Years.”