Saturday Night Live cold-opened its 39th season finale riffing on the security video of Jay-Z and Solange duking it out in an elevator, providing a “soundtrack” revealing that Solange was just trying to brush a spider off the mogul rapper’s jacket. Even with the delicious Maya Rudolph showing up as Beyonce, it was pretty flat beer. Guest host and SNL alum Andy Samberg, hot off his Brooklyn Nine-Nine series (produced by NBCUniversal and shown on Fox), monologued about his prominence in SNL videos and played dueling impressionists with Bill Hader and, very briefly, Martin Short. It wasn’t until almost an hour into the show that SNL troupers present and past fired on all cylinders, with a Michael Sam-inspired Vogelcheck family orgy of tongue-in-everyone-else’s-cheeks (and ears, hair, etc.) featuring alums Fred Armisen, Kristin Wiig and Paul Rudd. Here’s the opener:
Here’s Samberg’s intro:
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Oprah Winfrey’s OWN is partnering with Pilgrim Studios and filmmaker Amy Rice to produce The Untitled Michael Sam Project (working title), a multi-part original documentary series about Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player to be drafted into the NFL. The series takes a deeply personal, up-close look at the All-American defensive end and SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year as he enters the competitive world of pro football, says OWN. Cameras will follow Sam as he works to earn his spot on the St. Louis Rams all while under the intense scrutiny of being the first openly gay player in the NFL. “We are honored that Michael is trusting us with his private journey in this moment that has not only made history but will shape it forever,” said Oprah Winfrey.
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EXCLUSIVE: Ross Katz, who produced The Laramie Project and the superb HBO pic Taking Chance, has signed on to write Out At Home: The Glenn Burke Story. He joins Juma Entertainment’s Jamie Lee Curtis and Robert Horowitz as producers of the film that tells the story of Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A’s player Burke, who was honest with his teammates and management that he was gay at a time in the 1970s when such a revelation was unheard of. It’s still perilous today, though the Brooklyn Nets’ Jason Collins just became the first openly gay player to play on a major pro sports roster, and 2013 SEC co-defensive player of the year Michael Sam is preparing to enter the NFL draft as football’s first openly gay player.
I have been surprised by the level of discussion on ESPN, where some ex-jocks expect Sam’s draft stock to fall simply because of the awkwardness in the locker room and the prospect that some athletes won’t accept him. Seems to me that skeptical players might want to watch the Jackie Robinson movie 42 before they decide whether they want to be on the right or wrong side of this issue when it is judged half a century down the road. I just don’t see much difference between Robinson’s struggle against racists and a player like Sam as they try to overcome bigotry to be accepted for their outsized athletic skills, and the right to be comfortable in their own skin.
All this brings a timely context to Out At Home, which is based on a 1995 memoir Burke wrote with Erik Sherman. Drafted by the Dodgers in 1972 and hailed as baseball’s next superstar, Burke played in the majors from 1976-79. He was the only rookie to start in the 1977 World Series, when the Yankees defeated the Dodgers in 6 games. A larger-than-life character both on and off the field, Burke unexpectedly was traded to Oakland in 1978. He retired after his second season with the A’s. Although his teammates and management knew the truth, Burke didn’t go public with his sexuality until 1982, in an appearance on NBC’s Today with Bryant Gumbel. It was still an act of courage, because Burke was the first ballplayer to do so. Read More »