Friday, February 27, 2015

LEONARD NIMOY (1931-2015)

February 27, 2015 didn’t start off as a damned sad day, but it surely became one, once the news got out that Leonard Nimoy had passed away. For those of you who know me, it is very obvious why this news hit me fairly hard. But beyond the obvious, I am finding that in a very small way, it’s like losing my father all over again. They were the same age, born within a few weeks of each other, and Star Trek has been such an important part of my life since I was very young. So as much as I have been thinking about Leonard Nimoy, and what he has meant to me, I find myself also thinking about my dad, now gone nearly two years.  

I was interviewed earlier today by the radio station at Hofstra University and asked to provide some comments, because of my (albeit limited) connection to Star Trek—as many of you know, I wrote a series of Star Trek comics for Marvel back in the late 1990s, in which I was able to put my lifelong love for the franchise into some character-driven stories that I really wanted to tell. In answering, I said that the passing of Leonard Nimoy signifies the true end of the original era of Star Trek. More than anyone, even William Shatner, Nimoy was the face, the voice, and the soul of Star Trek. With just a few exceptions, he appeared in every single iteration of Star Trek ever produced: The original pilot, starring Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike; the second pilot, which introduced Shatner’s Captain James T. Kirk; the entire original television series; the animated series; the first six movies; two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation; and, most recently, the two reboot Star Trek films directed by J.J. Abrams. I would say that pretty much debunks the notion that he hated Star Trek and the Spock character, wouldn’t you?

Upon hearing earlier this week that his health had taken a turn for the worse, my first thought was that I really truly hoped that he would at least live to see the 50th anniversary of the franchise that he was so instrumental in building. And, if the rumors circulating several months ago were accurate, that he would be able to share the screen with Shatner one last time, in the next Star Trek movie. But it was not to be. Time—and nature—had other plans. 

Leonard Nimoy and his work have played a key role and have been a major influence on me throughout my life, and I have no doubt that they will continue to do so for the rest of my days.

I thought I would end this with something of a treat. This is the closest I ever got to Leonard Nimoy. It was June 22, 1985, in New York City, at a Star Trek convention in what at the time was called the Penta Hotel (now the Hotel Pennsylvania). Mr. Nimoy was the guest of honor. He had recently been announced as the director of Star Trek IV (the subtitle had yet to be revealed). I had set up camp as close to the stage as I possibly could, but my camera was so primitive that I knew I wasn’t going to get good shots of him unless I moved closer. I practically had to climb over this really annoying heavy-set kid—and nearly got my rear end kicked—to get close enough to get some decent shots. These two were the ones that came out the best. Nimoy’s shirt says “Star Trek IV in ’86.”

Photo by Glenn Greenberg (1985)

Photo by Glenn Greenberg (1985)

Not much else to say, other than: Godspeed, Leonard Nimoy. We will always... remember

© All text copyright Glenn Greenberg, 2015.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Sorry Ive been away for such a long time. Between my full-time job, a freelance gig writing an original X-Files story for an upcoming prose anthology, and starting graduate school—Im going for a Master's degree in Creative Writing—Ive been more busy than usual since the end of last summer.

But with Saturday Night Live having begun its 40th season, and the three-and-a-half-hour special airing tonight on NBC, I realized I had enough thoughts about the show as a whole to jot them down in a list and use it to get back into the blogging waters. 

Overall, while I’m impressed that it’s lasted for so long, I have no great love for Saturday Night Live, especially these days. Its gone through rough patches before, certainly worse slumps than the show is in now. But I think the most frustrating thing is knowing that there's genuine talent putting the show together, and yet there is still so much garbage that gets on the air. After 40 years, the show is still far too erratic in quality, it's filled with missed opportunities, and the writing is often lazy, dumb, and uninspired. And in recent years, the musical performances have become too reliant on pre-recorded tracks and vocals—thus demonstrating just how untalented todays music stars are compared to those of decades past. 

And yet... when the show is firing on all cylinders, its a joy to watch.

So here are my thoughts. Feel free to contribute your own in the Comments section.

Favorite Cast Member: Phil Hartman

From Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton to Frank Sinatra to Phil Donahue to the Anal-Retentive Chef to the totally-obscure-but hilarious Giant Businessman, it seemed like there was nothing he couldn’t do. Even when a sketch was bombing, he was almost always the best thing about it, and always managed to maintain his dignity. I think I enjoyed watching Phil Hartman more than any other cast member in the show's history.

Favorite Host: Alec Baldwin

No matter how bad a season is on the whole, if Baldwin is hosting, I have to watch. And I'm rarely disappointed.

Favorite Sketch: A two-way tie—
The Sinatra Group,” starring Phil Hartman as Frank Sinatra, Sting as Billy Idol, Chris Rock as Luther Campbell, Jan Hooks as Sinead O'Connor, Mike Myers as Steve Lawrence, and Victoria Jackson as Eydie Gorme—here's just a taste:


And “Carl Sagan’s Global Warming Christmas Special,” starring Mike Myers as Carl Sagan, Tom Hanks as Dean Martin, Jan Hooks as Crystal Gayle, Phil Hartman as Isaac Asimov, Dana Carvey as Paul McCartney, and Chris Farley as Dom DeLuise

Favorite Weekend Update Anchor(s): Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon

I enjoyed their chemistry, and the fact that they genuinely seemed to love with that they were doing, and that they were doing it together.

Least Favorite Weekend Update Anchor(s): Seth Meyers

Never liked this guy, never found him funny, always found him exceedingly smug, arrogant, and self-satisfied—not just on Weekend Update. In ANYTHING he appeared in. 

Cast Member Who Started Off Okay But Got Really Annoying Really Quickly and Became Overexposed to the Point of Absurdity: Kristen Wiig

She’s undeniably very attractive, and had some genuinely good moments when she first got on the show (her Megan Mullally impression was hilarious) but given her overall limited range and her abundance of awful characters (Gilly? The Target Lady? Aunt Linda? Judy Grimes?), I figure Executive Producer Lorne Michaels was madly in love with her, or she had photos of him with a goat. In her last few seasons, you would think there were no other women in the cast. 

Favorite Unscripted Moment:
The camera catches Ian Mckellen sitting on the side of the stage, bopping away joyfully, as Kylie Minogue performs “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”

All-Time Least Talented Cast Member: Horatio Sanz

Couldn’t do decent impressions of the celebrities he played, couldn’t read off the cue cards convincingly, couldn’t get through sketches without cracking himself up, always came off as woefully underrehearsed. It’s a show-business crime that he was on the show for as long as he was.    

Most Successful Cast Member With the Least Amount of Talent: Adam Sandler 

I enjoyed one—and only one—sketch this guy starred in: “The Denise Show,” in which he played a guy with a talk show in which he would spend the whole time talking about his ex-girlfriend Denise, then calling her and hanging up, and then he would call her new boyfriend and tell him in a threatening voice, “I'm gonna kill you.” That was pretty funny. He went on to make a string of some truly moronic movies that somehow became big hits. More power to him—but I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan.

Most Talented Cast Member Whose Talents Were Wasted on SNL: Chris Rock 

I thought this guy was a real waste of space... until I saw his 1996 HBO comedy special “Bring the Pain,” and I realized that he was one of the best stand-up comedians the world has ever seen.

Favorite Musical Performance: Paul Simon and George Harrison duet on “Here Comes the Sun” and “Homeward Bound”

Stayed With the Show Far Too Long: Tim Meadows

It was starting to get a bit sad.

Didn’t Stay With the Show Long Enough: Chevy Chase

This is a no-brainer. Even HE admits it now.

Should STILL Be On the Show: Martin Short

This is based on his absolutely STELLAR appearance hosting the December 15, 2012 episode. I’ve watched it at least four times. He killed in every sketch. This man is a comedy treasure.

Never Performed on SNL, Surprisingly Enough: The Who, or any member of the Who

You would think they would have by now, given that the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, three ex-Beatles, and Eric Clapton all turned up at one time or another.  

Performed on SNL, But Probably Shouldn’t Have: Brian Wilson

Oy vey. Happily, Brian is doing MUCH better these days.

Never Appeared or Performed on SNL, But Probably Would Have Eventually: John Lennon

All the other ex-Beatles made memorable appearances on the show, so it’s unthinkable that John would not have shown up eventually. Unfortunately, he probably would not have come alone:

All-Time Most Valuable Player: Eddie Murphy

He practically single-handedly saved the show when it came closest to being cancelled, during the disastrous 1980-1981 season. His “James Brown Celebrity Hot Tub” sketch still cracks me up. 

Cast Member With the Most Impressive Career After Leaving the Show: Bill Murray

Ghostbusters. Rushmore. Lost in Translation. Groundhog Day. Quick Change. Kingpin. Zombieland. Saying no—repeatedly—to Ghostbusters III, thus ensuring it would never see the light of day. Need I go on?    

Most Notorious Guest Host, in Retrospect: O.J. Simpson

Hosted the show on February 25, 1978 — “Uh... LOOK OUT!”

© All text copyright Glenn Greenberg, 2015.