Everything old was golden again for this week’s historic Saturday Night Live. Anticipation for host Betty White was sky-high. The hype, for a lesser star, could have meant disaster for the show. As you’ll see, the writers took the easy way out. The lines they wrote weren’t what was funny, it was the fact that Betty White that delivered them that got the laughs. It only goes to prove that it’s more than just age or a sitcom title that makes Betty White a “Golden Girl.” It’s a combination of professionalism, open-mindedness, chops, timing and good old-fashioned sense of humor. Everything she touched turned to gold.
And, luckily, that was just about the entire show. White appeared in every sketch from beginning to end, including a bit during Weekend Update and several more that could only be seen at dress rehearsal or as a Web Exclusive. She didn’t just keep up with the cast. She didn’t even just keep up with the cast plus a bunch of returning stars from casts past. Oh yeah, by the way, the cast was bolstered by Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ana Gasteyer, Molly Shannon, Maya Rudolph and Rachel Dratch.
And still it’s fair to say that Betty White was far and away the star of this show. That’s saying a lot, especially when mega-star musical guest Jay-Z took a step back and dedicated his second performance “Young Forever” (his remix remake revamp of Alphaville’s early ‘80s hit “Forever Young”) to “the most incredible Betty White”.
Heck, even commercials (real ones, not the funny faux show ones) were Betty White-based: the Snickers ad that started the entire Facebook Betty White revolution and a promo for her upcoming show on TV Land, Hot in Cleveland.
Suffice to say, you’d be Betty White’s age by the time you finished reading if I went sketch by sketch commenting on every sketch or pointing out all the good stuff. So I’ll just pull a few of the super-highlight clips and leave it to you to search for the rest, which I highly recommend.
When you do search, start with CSI Sarasota, just in case it ever shows up. One of the best bits of the evening (and also one of only two that didn’t involve White being inserted into a pre-existing premise), wasn’t offered by the network, which also had it deleted from YouTube.
In it, White played Vivian Caruso opposite Rachel Dratch as Sy Horowitz, investigating the death of a 103-year-old in a nursing home. With plenty of mugging a la David Caruso (known to CSI: Miami fans as Horatio Caine), she postured and deadpanned lines like “Looks like he’s fallen… and he’ll never get up.”
Now on to what you can see here and now.
It’s not much of a stretch for Betty White to take on the role of a grandmother. She did it in four separate sketches, however, showing some pretty damn impressive range.
The show opened with a sketch that managed to get all the returning cast together on stage with White (plus Kristen Wiig’s not-quite-right Denise). Who could pull that off? Fred Armisen’s Lawrence Welk, of course! Check out how long the audience goes nuts when White first appears!
After a fine monologue, she was totally the bomb as MacGruber’s grandmother, and continued to be with each subsequent installment of the sketch. It culminated with different kind of bomb, then a bombshell ending.
She was a straight-talking, needle-pointing matron in a “Little Women” type sketch set in the early 1900s. And finally, best of all, when Kenan Thompson returned as his movie plot dropping con character Lorenzo Macintosh, he brought Grandmamie Loretta Macintosh to back up his threats and rough Bill Hader up to the point of nearly cracking. White even got the parting line, ending the sketch (for once) on a strong punch line.
But before you think White was just grandma over and over, when you do that search, see if you can find Andy Samberg’s Golden Girls themed digital short. In its absence from the website (also removed from YouTube), the most likely viral contender goes to…
On December 12, 1998, a sketch aired that was so spot-on that, watching it now it still seems like it was first splitting sides only yesterday. The premise had existed before, and went on for several years after, even trying to repeat its success with the same guest appearance. It last aired March 16, 2002… until Betty White came along.
Now, it’s likely that nothing will ever top Margaret Jo McCullen, Teri Rialto and Pete Schweddy discussing that “Delicious Dish”… Schweddy Balls. Not even Schweddy Weiners are as delectable. But Betty White talking about her muffin almost hits the spot.
She may not have unseated him for best ever “Delicious Dish” (or did she?), but for overall show success, White’s set the bar pretty high for Baldwin, who hosts the season finale next week with musical guest Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.