Nothing could have been more excruciating than watching this past weekend's Saturday Night Live. Not funny? Not even an issue. Painful? That's a problem. Irrelevant, not irreverent. Crashing and burning.
So I will tell you that it's pretty much a done deal that Jimmy Fallon , the bright spot on the show, is finally getting ready to escape. He couldn't have picked a better time.
When the current season expires and is buried in two weeks, Fallon, I am told, will pack up and seek his fortunes elsewhere.
This shouldn't be too hard. With six seasons under his belt, Fallon has already appeared in a few feature films and has issued a decent comedy record. He has leading man potential, à la Jim Carrey — maybe even better — if he and his associates can keep him from going the Chevy Chase/Bill Murray route of stupid comedies.
But again, with the right judgment calls, Fallon should be OK. There's been some talk of making an English-language version of The Closet, the hilarious French movie about a straight man who pretends to be gay, over at Miramax with Jimmy in the lead role: an excellent idea.
This fall Fallon will appear in Woody Allen's new movie, Anything Else. And at the same time he'll take a small role in Shopgirl, the film version of Steve Martin's novel.
But with Fallon gone and Darrell Hammond drifting away, SNL is just in huge trouble. I had no idea what the magnitude was until I saw Saturday's show.
The opening bit about President Bush was interminable, but the star monologue — with Ashton Kutcher wearing no pants — was the deal-breaker. It's been so long since SNL had hip hosts or anything to do with hip, and this really cemented it.
The god-awful appearance of rapper 50 Cent was the last straw. By then, it was only too ironic that another NBC show, ER , in repeats on our local ABC affiliate, was more compelling.
SNL is now completely paralyzed by reflecting what its writers think is popular rather than setting a tone. The last biting thing I saw on that show was a Robert Smigel cartoon about Michael Jackson. Otherwise, the program is reduced to factory-built comedy that pales in every way to the most banal stuff John Belushi, Gilda Radner and Dan Aykroyd tried in their day.
At this point, NBC would be smart to show their own ER reruns or at least send SNL into a real E.R. fast.
Believe it or not, the new pair of Woody Allen one-act plays is performed in a church. It's an Episcopal church on bucolic West 20th Street in Chelsea, but it's sort of funny that the quintessential Jewish New Yorker selected the Atlantic Theater Company's location.
Of course, the plays are rendered in a former parish house next to the church, in a beautifully converted 165-seat auditorium.
The only problem is that the restrooms are inconveniently hidden behind the stage, so you can't use them during the show or during the first 10 minutes of the intermission, when there's a big scenery and prop change. Not good for the mostly older crowd, if you get my drift.
Still, Writer's Block, which is the name of the evening comprising Riverside Drive and Old Saybrook, is a great evening, full of laughs and terrific acting.
Lest anyone (publicists) get upset, this is not a review. These are just my observations after being able to score one of the hard-to-get $50 tickets last night right before the 8 p.m. curtain.
I did get to see Woody himself disembark from a black chauffeur-driven Mercedes into the stage-door entrance. After the show I had the pleasure of talking to one of the actors, Paul Reiser, of Mad About You fame.
(I do hope Reiser doesn't mind that I mention, as a man of my age, he now too has a very endearing bald spot. Did he always have it or was it covered up on TV? Anyway, he should be doing more New York theatre.)
Each of the one-acts echoes themes from Woody's movies, specifically The Purple Rose of Cairo, Crimes and Misdemeanors and Hannah and Her Sisters. Outside of one slightly uncomfortable tweak on Woody's personal situation (a character reveals he slept with his wife's mother — nudge, nudge), the stories are free of drawn comparisons.
Instead, and unlike Allen's last couple of films, the plays are funny, with great one-liners and set-ups, a little Allenseque philosophy and some reference of course to Schopenhauer .
The actors are superb and surprising, most especially Skipp Sudduth of Third Watch fame on TV. He's so good in Riverside Drive as an erudite schizophrenic hobo that he could win a Tony if the play were expanded and brought to Broadway. Who knew? Paul Reiser is a good match for him in this mostly two-character see-saw.
In Old Saybrook, what seems like a very funny Neil Simon-ish comedy gets a nice twist (which I won't ruin here). Christopher Evan Welch and Clea Lewis kind of steal the show, which is hard to do with Bebe Neuwirth on stage with Jay Thomas and Grant Shaud (Miles from Murphy Brown ). Again, this play could be expanded too without much trouble.
Writers Block runs through the end of June when, Reiser said last night, he will most likely depart and not return. The Atlantic could easily move the whole thing to a larger room off Broadway and start rotating more good actors through the roles, a la The Exonerated over in the East Village.
It was only a matter of time before celebrities and other folk with word-of-mouth ability started recommending City of God. Now that film's Alice Braga, niece of Sonia Braga, informs us that Brad Pitt has held a private screening of the violent but critically acclaimed Brazilian film and loved it. Join the club, Brad!
City of God was surprisingly snubbed by the Academy and failed to win an Oscar two months ago. This is probably the grossest mistake in the foreign film category in a long time.
So now that Brad Pitt has seen it, try and find City of God in a theatre. And lacking that, rent it the minute it comes out on video.
The second annual Tribeca Film Festival kicks off tomorrow night, and it looks like a winner thanks to Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff 's extremely hard work and love for the neighborhood. The main positive thing: the Festival will bring commerce to the World Trade Center area, where things are looking bleak at the moment.
But the innocents at TFF had better watch it. There was little mention of them in the papers over the weekend, mainly because on Thursday night a Vanity Fair-sponsored celebrity party produced such bad vibes with the press. Apparently, VF stationed the local columnists who did show up outside, and did not let them in at all.
Is this the TFF attitude? No. But I can tell you that all the main columnists in the city were over at the premiere of Gypsy instead of having to deal with this nonsense. The Tribeca Festival is supposed to be inclusion, not exclusivity. VF 's party and press policies are so ... three years ago.