Part of the ritual of watching Saturday Night Live is checking the show’s YouTube page to see what brilliant bit of weirdness Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett dreamed up, filmed, and then didn’t get to air because the latest installment of “The Whole Cast Does Their Worst Celebrity Impression” ran long. This week, things must have moved along at record speed, because Mooney, Bennet, and host Larry David actually got to put one of their 1990s sitcoms on the air. This time around, it’s a very special episode, in which David, as “Cousin C.J.” battles an Afterschool Special case of alcoholism.
This kind of parody is either extremely your thing or extremely not: the stilted acting, endless musical stings, nonsensical establishing shots, and Larry David in a backwards baseball cap wailing on a Stratocaster are not for all palates. But however you feel about this kind of sketch, it’s worth noting that the show is giving Bennett and Mooney more leeway lately—two years ago, when they shot a similar sketch with Ryan Gosling, they did it widescreen, stretching the vintage NBC logo at the end to fill the space:
Saturday night’s installment did a better job of duplicating the look and feel of shows from that era, much like October’s sketch “The Last Fry” apes the bad lighting and fisheye lenses of low budget music videos. One of the weaknesses of Saturday Night Live’s parodies of films and television of the past has always been the lack of attention to detail when it comes to period style—see, e.g., “Vincent Price’s Halloween Special,” which takes Price’s 1970s TV work like Once Upon a Midnight Scary and The Horror Hall of Fame and moves it back to 1959 through the application of a black-and-white filter and nothing else. This is probably unavoidable in live television, but for pre-taped bits, the more verisimilitude the funnier. Giving Bennett and Mooney free reign for their segments is a good start, and so is actually putting one of their sketches on the air. But there’s one important caveat: SNL viewers who don’t find bizarre parodies of 1990s sitcoms funny are probably not going to be thrilled with more of them. Seems like those viewers might benefit from a Very Special Episode about not denying themselves joy.