NBC’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ 40th Anniversary Special Set

By | Friday April 18, 2014 @ 11:25am PDT

snl18NBC set a date for its three-hour bash — February 15, 2015 — but did not say which past and present cast members, musical guests, etc. would appear. NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt said the “special is just one of many ways we plan to celebrate ‘SNL’s historic 40th season next year.” Today’s announcement: Read More »

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Jay Leno’s ‘Tonight Show’ Exit: Carefully Orchestrated Do-Over

LisaColumn__131015210634-275x198On Thursday night, Jay Leno once again will hand over The Tonight Show to NBC’s younger-better idea – this time it’s his lead-out, Jimmy Fallon.

Most of the coverage has been about Leno taking with him a commanding ratings lead in late-night, not only among total viewers but also in the 18-49 age bracket advertisers covet.  And in the days leading up to his exit, The Reporters Who Cover Television dusted off think pieces about Leno leaving the show in the wake of a demographic shift affecting millions of baby boomers who are being pushed aside to make way for a younger generation with different sensibilities. In many ways, Leno’s handoff to Fallon does mirror the first time the press wrote those think pieces, when NBC replaced Leno withJay Leno NBC his lead-out, Conan O’Brien in 2009 – a plan that famously flamed out over seven months.

Related: Jay Leno Hazes Jimmy Fallon On ‘Tonight Show’ (Video)

But the bigger news here is the incredible gift Leno’s been given: a handoff do-over.

It’s a loaded gift for Leno.  He owes much of his ratings success, and longevity, to the fact that he’s much adored in flyover country — Leno won last month’s 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll asking which late-night host was most likely to make you laugh, handily beating his latest replacement Fallon, his first replacement O’Brien, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, and Craig Ferguson. But the media doesn’t like Leno so much, having pegged him decades ago as the closet-hiding, eavesdropper who backstabbed their late-night crushes Letterman and, later, O’Brien.

Related: ‘Tonight Show With Jay Leno’ Sets Final Guests As NBC’s Bob Greenblatt Addresses Jay Leno’s Future, Possible Car Show
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Year-End Late-Night TV: ‘Tonight’s Move To NY May Give NBC More Clout With Talent, But Digital May Make Booking War Obsolete

Letterman1Late Night with Jimmy FallonKimmel3__131227211757

YearEnd2013_badge__131227212819__131230220451The year 2013 will go down as a big one for late-night TV, and not because Saturday Night Live was shamed into hiring a black woman for its cast – though that was pretty big. Decades from now, in Theory and Practice of Post-11 PM Programming classes at USC and NYU, aspiring network execs will study 2013 as the year NBC decided to move The Tonight Show back to New York. After months of speculation, a slew of news stories, a handful of NBC denials, a ton of late-night jokes, and one Jay Leno-Jimmy Fallon duet, NBC announced in April it had set a date for Leno’s latest departure from Tonight, and officially named Fallon his latest replacement, adding that The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon will be based in New York City, where the long-running franchise originated.

Tonight’s return to New York drastically changes the late-night landscape. With Tonight at 30 Rock, Lorne Michaels for the first time will have charge of the network’s flagship late-night show as well as Saturday Night Live and Late Night – which SNL alum Seth Meyers will host — and can orchestrate an “event” for a guest across all three programs. nbc4NBC can also throw in a Today appearance; it’s also housed at 30 Rock. Lorne Michaels Packaging already has been in effect across the other two NBC late-night programs, say industry navel gazers who note how many SNL guests this season also appeared on Fallon’s Late Night. “It’s pretty much been 100% over the last year and a half,” insisted one. “Now he’ll have more power because [Fallon] will be in a better time slot. You’re talking about somebody who has a big series of stages” to offer, the pundit said.

NBC Broadcast chairman Ted Harbert says the network is working to streamline guest booking across its various celebrity-centric New York-based shows which, starting in the fall, will include a Meredith Vieira daytime talk show. “Every single person selling something comes to New York – it’s part of the swing,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll find anybody who only does late-night in Los Angeles and that’s their promotional tour.”

Related: Jimmy Fallon Talks ‘Tonight Show’ Timeline
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UPDATE: Here Are The Black Female Performers Testing For NBC’s ‘Saturday Night Live’

By | Friday December 13, 2013 @ 3:10pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

UPDATE, FRIDAY 3 PM: ashThe pool of Saturday Night Live finalists is expanding. I’ve learned that Erica Ash, who co-stars on SNL alum Tracy Morgan’s FX pilot Death Pact, also is set to test for the NBC late-night show Monday. She joins the other nine women I reported on last night. I’ve found out that they all have been invited to test, though some of them are currently tied to other projects, so it is unclear how many of them would be available.

Related: ‘SNL’ To Audition Black Female Cast Hopefuls Monday

breshatanishaPREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, THURSDAY PM: One of these women could follow in the footsteps of Maya Rudolph and become the first black female Saturday Night Livecast member in five years. No one is talking, but I have compiled the names of nine young gabrielledennisMonroe_Misty__636performers rumored to take the SNL stage on Monday to vie for a featured player spot on the venerable NBC sketch comedy show. SNL chief Lorne Michaels told The New York Times today that he plans to audition 7-8 women. The in-studio test follows auditions, including one held in Los Angeles, where some 25 hopefuls we seen. ruffinpreliminary lesliejonesHere are the names I’m hearing as being on the short list for the Monday test: Bresha Webb, whose photo from the Los Angeles audition posted online brought to light SNL‘s casting plans; improv player Tanisha Long, cast member of MTV’s Girl Code; Misty Monroe, who comes out of Groundlings; Gabrielle Dennis, who recurred on BET’s The Game; and Amber Ruffin, member of Boom Chicago, an Amsterdam-based sketch group; actress-comedian Leslie Jones. Also said to be testing are UCB Theatre performers  Sasheer Zamata, whose name had been floated as a suitable SNL candidate before, and Natasha Rothwell, who previously won an NBC Universal Diversity Scholarship; as well as Briana KC.
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UPDATE: ‘SNL’ To Audition Black Female Cast Hopefuls Monday, Pick One For January Start

UPDATED: 4:30 PM: Saturday Night Live exec producer Lorne Michaels says he’s bringing seven lorne__121214195143or eight female African-American comediennes to New York to audition for the show on Monday — one of whom will be added to the cast in January.

Related: Here Are The Black Female Performers Testing For NBC’s ‘Saturday Night Live’

As many as two could “potentially be considered” but he does not want to add too many women at this time because the cast already has five of them, Michaels told The New York Times, in an interview given in the wake of a news report he’d tried out about a dozen black female comediennes in Los Angeles on December 1.  Three paragraphs later, the reporter reminded readers that when criticism of the show’s new cast members broke out before the start of the new season,  Michaels had said his process for selecting cast members “was driven purely by talent considerations.” Michaels this afternoon told the NYT he had seen two black women performers in Chicago when he was hiring for the show this fall, but they didn’t pan out when brought to New York for their final auditions. “Then when the deck got reshuffled and as we premiered we realized, it looks a different way.” (That would also be about the time the press started shellacking Michaels because the list included no black women and the late night program had not had a black female cast member for six years.)

A couple paragraphs later, the NYT reported Michaels “did not attribute the surge of interest in securing a black female directly to the criticism the show had faced,” but acknowledged that it was  “100 percent good for the show to have an African-American woman” in the cast.

PREVIOUS: 11:58 AM:  NBC‘s Saturday NightSaturday Night Live Kerry Washington Live held a tryout for black comediennes this month at The Groundlings in Los Angele. SNL holds showcase/auditions for potential new talent with some regularity in various locations. But this one attracted more media attention than usual because it was set up for black female hopefuls — one of whom posted a photo on Instagram of the group of hopefuls backstage. And, of course, the auditions took place a few months after the NBC late night series announced its lineup of newbies, and TV critics began hammering the show because the list included no black women, again.  Two black male cast members poured a little lighter fluid on the flame –  Jay Pharoah, when he told website The Grio he hoped the show would add a black woman, “like they said they were going to do last year, ” and Kenan Thompson, when he told TV Guide the problem is “they never find ones [black comediennes] that are ready.”

Related: ‘SNL’ Camp’s On New Cast: Black Comediennes Aren’t “Ready”
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Jimmy Fallon To Guest Host ‘SNL’ On December 21 As He Ramps Up For ‘Tonight’ Show Takeover

Lorne Michaels continues to ramp up for Late Night host Jimmy Fallon’s move to Tonight, announcing this morning that Fallon will host Saturday Night Live on December 21, with one of the … Read More »

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Lorne Michaels Making Most Of Casting Controversy On ‘Saturday Night Live’

By | Monday November 4, 2013 @ 10:49am PST

What will Lorne Michaels come up with next in his effort to put the kibosh on the weekly casting embarrassment that is Saturday Night Live? This is shaping up as one of the NBC late-night show’s more fun seasons to watch, as Michaels alternately snarks and hand-wrings about the show’s cast-diversity kerfuffle, since announcing the latest crop of new performers.

Over the weekend Michaels made it tough for another black woman to guest-host the sketch comedy show this season, after using Scandal star Kerry Washington like a sock puppet to deliver his latest “nuts to you” response to critics. Too bad, because there’s no one on staff to play FLOTUS, Oprah, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, etc. now that cast member Kenan Thompson isn’t doing drag. Read More »

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‘SNL’: Kerry Washington’s Cold Open Lampoons ‘SNL’s Diversity Problem – Was It Enough?

By | Sunday November 3, 2013 @ 12:56am PDT

Lorne Michaels & Co. went for the elephant in the room with Kerry Washington hosting amidst Saturday Night Live‘s recent diversity firestorm. Giving the Scandal actress a workout playing Michelle Obama, Oprah, and (offstage) Beyonce in her cold open, the … Read More »

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‘SNL’ Camp’s Latest Theory On New Cast: Black Comediennes Aren’t “Ready”

Saturday Night Live has spent a considerable amount of energy lately explaining away its lack of cast diversity, since announcing the latest crop of white performers to be added to the show. In the recent season debut, they devoted a whole sketch to the subject. Kenan Thompson played host of a game show called “New Cast Member Or Arcade Fire,” and Tina Fey played a contestant trying to guess, for every couple trotted out, which was the new SNL cast member and which was a member of that week’s musical act. When the last couple stumped her, SNL exec producer Lorne Michaels was brought onstage to deliver the punchline/message: Unable to pinpoint which was his new hire, he looked at Thompson and snarked, “Is it the black one?” The show writers forgot to write Thompson some snappy comeback line — instead making a 90-degree turn in which Fey delivered the line, “Do I win anything?” and Thompson replied, like he meant it to sting, “Don’t you have enough?”

Today, poor Thompson got dragged back into the debate — he’s the guy elected to tell TV Guide it’s the shortcoming of black comediennes that’s to blame for SNL’s cast non-diversity. Yes, it’s the show’s sixth consecutive year without a black female cast member. But, turns out, there are just no black female comics out there who are qualified for the gig. “It’s just a tough part of the business,” Thompson says. “Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready.” Asked how the show plans to handle any spoofs of black female celebrities, or, say, a FLOTUS gag this season, Thompson responded, “I don’t know. We just haven’t done them. That’s what I’m saying. Maybe [Jay Pharoah] will do it or something, but even he doesn’t really want to do it.”

Funny, him bringing up Pharoah, who appears to have a different take on the root of the problem. He recently was quoted saying SNL should add Darmirra Brunson to the cast “because she’s black first of all, and she’s really talented…amazing,” and because “they need to follow up with it, like they said they were going to do last year” (emphasis mine). Brunson can be seen playing Drew in Tyler Perry’s OWN comedy Love Thy Neighbor, and a quick Google search reveals her list of celebrity impressions includes Beyonce, Kerry Washington, Lil’ Kim, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Oprah, Rihanna, and Wendy Williams. Read More »

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Jimmy Kimmel Takes On Kanye West While Training For NBC’s ‘Tonight Show’ Switch: Video

Getting ready to take on the formidable Lorne Michaels, and Jimmy Fallon, in late-night TV? Here’s your To Do List:

1) Prank America with fake YouTube video in which an twerking girl ignites herself. Check. 2) Get Paul McCartney to perform on yet another roof. Check. 3) Do comedy bit mocking notoriously thin-skinned Kanye West. Too easy? Check.

Watch Kimmel cash in on his Kanye West spoof last night, followed by the spoof that got Kanye’s undies in a bunch:

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Ashley Greene Joins Lorne Michaels-Produced ‘Staten Island Summer’

By | Tuesday August 20, 2013 @ 5:05pm PDT

EXCLUSIVE: The former Twilight Saga actress is going for the laughs. Ashley Greene has joined the cast of the Lorne Michaels- and John Goldwyn- produced comedy Staten Island Summer. Helmed by longtime Saturday Night Read More »

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John Mulaney’s NBC Comedy Pilot Eyes Series Pickup At Fox With Script Order

By | Saturday June 29, 2013 @ 10:08am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: The untitled John Mulaney/Lorne Michaels multi-camera comedy pilot, which missed the cut at NBC last month, has found a … Read More »

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HBO Greenlights Comedy Pilot From Lorne Michaels, Diallo Riddle & Bashir Salahuddin

By | Monday June 10, 2013 @ 1:44pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: HBO has given the green light to a half-hour comedy pilot from former Late Night With Jimmy Fallon writers/performers Diallo Riddle & Bashir Salahuddin, which is exeRead More »

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Lorne Michaels Says He’s Not Leaving ‘SNL’ Anytime Soon But Stays Quiet About ‘Tonight Show’ At HRTS Lunch

“I’ll do it as long as I possibly can. I think that there will be a day when I’ll look at it and say I don’t have the edge I used to,” said Lorne Michaels today about his future at Saturday Night LiveA seasoned and cool operator, the late night executive producer of course did not say when that day might be and if it would be related to his taking over The Tonight Show next year. In fact, Michaels didn’t say a lot about the Tonight Show Tuesday at a Comedy On TV luncheon hosted by the Hollywood Radio and Television Society on Tuesday in Beverly Hills. Of course, that’s what was on everyone’s mind now that Michael’s protégé Jimmy Fallon has formally been tipped by NBC to take over the show next year. Michaels’ one Tonight Show comment was about the plan to move the show back to New York after over 40 years out in Burbank. “Jimmy’s from New York, the show appeals to New York, I think New York is different from when Carson left and New York was on its ass,” the soon-to-be Tonight Show EP remarked. Fellow Canadian and former SNL regular Martin Short moderated the sitdown with the multiple Emmy-winner and past and future ruler of late night. “It worked out that way,” Michaels joked when Short asked if he really ruled late night. Michaels’ recent appointment as the upcoming Executive Producer of The Tonight Show means he is in control of NBC’s 11:30 PM slot six of the seven nights of the week.

Related: Lorne Michaels: The Real NBC Late Night King 
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Alec Baldwin — NBC Late-Night Host?

By | Tuesday April 9, 2013 @ 5:10pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

The NBC late-night saga continues. With the Tonight Show transition set, the attention is shifting to the other members of the network’s late-night lineup. NBC brass had been hinting of wholesale changes, and that may include … Read More »

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‘SNL’s Nasim Pedrad To Star In NBC’s John Mulaney Comedy Pilot, Michael Nathanson Joins CBS’ Rottenberg/Zuritsky Comedy

By | Tuesday April 2, 2013 @ 7:40pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

With time on pilot castings running out, Lorne Michaels called upon his Saturday Night Live co-star Nasim Pedrad for a lead role in NBC’s untitled John Mulaney multi-camera comedy pilot, which Michaels is executive producing. Written/exec produced by Mulaney and exec produced by Robert Carlock, the project  is a young ensemble loosely based on Mulaney’s life. It centers on John (Mulaney), whose naïve and often pointles, desire to “be a good person” challenges his friendship with his roommates, the sweet, intelligent, and lazy Jane (Pedrad) and Seymour (Griffin Newman). Elliott Gould and Martin Short co-star. If the pilot doesn’t go forward, CAA-repped Pedrad is expected to continue on SNL, where she has been since 2009. Read More »

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‘Girls’, ‘Louie’, ‘Doctor Who’, Lorne Michaels Among Peabody Award Winners

By | Wednesday March 27, 2013 @ 7:35am PDT

Athens, Ga. – Thirty-nine recipients of the 72nd Annual Peabody Awards were announced today by the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. The winners, chosen by the Peabody board as the best in electronic media for the year 2012, were named in a ceremony in the Peabody Gallery on the UGA Campus.

The latest Peabody recipients reflect diversity in content, genre and sources of origination.

They include “Girls,” Lena Dunham’s HBO comedy-drama about the young and the feckless in New York; “Putin, Russia and the West,” a compelling portrait of a modern-day czar; “Rapido y Furioso (Fast and Furious),” Univision’s Mexican perspective on the infamous Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive gun-tracking debacle; “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” a sterling magazine series that springboards from athletics; “Robin’s Journey,” a public-service campaign created around “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts’ treatment for a rare blood disease; and “Design Ah!,” an imaginative Japanese series aimed at developing children’s creative vision.

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Lorne Michaels: The Real NBC Late Night King

By | Saturday March 23, 2013 @ 12:06am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

For decades, the host of The Tonight Show has been crowned NBC’s late-night king. But through the years, one figure has been looming larger than any host or executive in NBC’s late night, producer Lorne Michaels, and the … Read More »

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NBC Picks Up Multi-Camera Comedy Pilot From Lorne Michaels Starring John Mulaney

By | Friday January 25, 2013 @ 12:07pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

NBC has given the green light to an untitled multi-camera comedy from Saturday Night Live writer John Mulaney and SNL honcho Lorne Michaels. The … Read More »

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