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Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live Hardcover – October, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
This oral history of NBC's Saturday Night Live is the juiciest treasure trove of backstage gossip, sex and drugs since The Andy Warhol Diaries. With almost three decades' worth of memories from cast members, celebrity hosts, writers, crew and network execs, readers get first-hand reports (often contradictory) on the volatile, competitive, grueling and often drug-fueled process of creating a weekly, 90-minute, live comedy show. While the cast and writers changed over the decades there were two constants: the universal loathing of guest host Chevy Chase and the power of producer Lorne Michaels ("I think he picked the right profession," assesses Jane Curtin, "because he gets to lord over people who want to kneel at his feet and he doesn't acknowledge them-which makes them work harder."). Regulars like Dan Aykroyd, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Mike Myers, Billy Crystal, Bill Murray, Al Franken, Martin Short as well as guest hosts like Tom Hanks, Penny Marshall, Alec Baldwin, Carrie Fisher, Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin contribute sterling anecdotes that are alternately hilarious, touching, upbeat and scathing. With the exception of Eddie Murphy (who's positively portrayed), virtually the only missing voices are of those who have passed away (the editors use only interviews conducted for the book and not vintage interviews with John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Phil Hartman or Chris Farley). Scandals, infighting and plenty of showbiz dirt make this a guilty-pleasure page-turner from start to finish. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Given access by Lorne Michaels himself, two journalists with TV connections Miller has produced two TV series, Shales is TV critic for the Washington Post recount this show's 25-year history.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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Miller and Shales are attempting to accomplish two goals here: the first is to give the reader an idea of what it’s like to work at SNL; the second is to establish the show’s place in television history. Towards the latter goal, it’s not surprising that much space is devoted to the formation of the show and the original cast of Not Ready for Prime Time Players. For the television historian, the endless debates over the details of the show’s creation may be important, but for the casual fan the network politics can get rather dull. I understand that Lorne Michaels is the heart and soul of SNL, and likely a comedy genius, but does anyone really watch the show for Lorne? Most likely you watch the show for its cast members, and what this book doesn’t do well is let the cast members’ voices be heard, unless they’re talking about Lorne. Writers are an important part of the show also, and it’s interesting to hear them talk about how certain sketches were created. Unfortunately, too many of the writers just discuss the same things over and over again—how hard it is to get stuff on the show, staying up all Tuesday night writing, and once again, Lorne. Even though everyone analyzes Lorne ad nauseam throughout the entire book, when you reach the end you get a final chapter entitled “Lorne” which is an absurd exercise in eulogizing the living.
If you’re interested in romances or feuds between cast members, there’s little of that mentioned beyond what’s already common knowledge. Another problem with the oral history approach is that almost everyone is reluctant to say anything bad about anyone. There’s a few cast members that everyone seems to agree were difficult, and when the topic of worst host ever comes up, the usual easy targets are mentioned. Surprises are few. Some great cast members either declined to participate (Eddie Murphy) or are barely present (Will Ferrell, Mike Myers). The best part of the book is the Kevin Nealon/Jan Hooks/Phil Hartman years through the Sandler/Farley/Spade/Rock era, because that’s when you get the most cast input and the best idea of how much fun it is to put the show together. Surprisingly, an inordinate amount of time is devoted to the very recent years of the show, with a lot of unnecessary congratulatory back-slapping. From the way praise is heaped on Andy Samberg’s juvenile music videos, you’d think he were the next Fellini.
Fifty years from now, television historians are going to consider this book a valuable documentary record of the history of SNL. For the fan, however, it can be a colossal bore. It’s so easy, even addictive, to just read the next little tidbit, but at the end of twenty minutes you realize you’ve just heard forty people say the same thing, and you wonder why you wasted your time. If you can find this book cheap, get it, but just look up the passages concerning your favorite cast members. To read the whole thing is a disappointing and mind-numbing experience.
Most recent customer reviews
A bunch of blowhards whining about each other but keeping it politically correct.