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John G. Avildsen
This special, produced by the "Saturday Night Live" production crew and starring most of the SNL cast, uses vignettes and vintage film and television clips to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Superman. Also includes interviews with most of the cast of the many film and television incarnations of "Superman". Written by
I was never a big Saturday Night Live fan, which explains why this special left a bad taste in my mouth. SNL skits are generally scattershot productions, hoping to score a hit by blasting jokes every which way. Produced by SNL creator Lorne Michaels and his Broadway Video company, this was typically bad SNL, with poor lighting, costumes, writing, cheap sets and hammy acting from the SNL cast members. Another bad idea was bringing back familiar faces such as Noel Neill to play Metropolis citizens in mock interviews. Don't even get me started on Ralph Nader's appearance. And what genius thought that Jan Hooks playing trailer trash who claimed to have Superman's illegitimate child would be a funny skit? Like many SNL skits, it wasn't funny but they kept it going on and on without end. Al Franken and the other guy as the Awesome Pair were similarly cringeworthy. Like any given SNL episode, this special didn't have any real point or purpose, just a series of jokes loosely connected together with a Superman theme.
What's truly lamentable is that there has never been a serious television study of how Superman became an American icon, recognizable the world over. Superman's golden anniversary was a prime opportunity to look at the history of the character from its humble beginnings in the hands of creators Siegel and Shuster. They had a sound bite from John Byrne, the artist/writer credited with restarting and revitalizing the Superman comic the year before, but anyone who wasn't a reader wouldn't have known who he was and the special didn't bother to explain. There were plenty of clips from the various screen incarnations of Superman, but no context. They could have given Kirk Alyn more time, noting he made an uncredited cameo in the 1978 Superman movie. There was so much they could have done. Indeed, during the 50th Anniversary celebration, anyone who walked into a comics store was bombarded with a surfeit of magazines and books celebrating and analyzing the Superman phenomenon. Even Time magazine had a cover story on it. But there was not a single television documentary. Only this waste of a perfectly good primetime hour. 50 years of material to draw on and they decide to write their own. I can only hope someone will do better during Superman's diamond anniversary in 13 years.
UPDATE 2006: Forget this piece of trash. Watch "Look! Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman" instead. This is what they should have done 18 years ago. Respectful, well done, if a little self-serving with executive producer Brian Singer's extensive Superman Returns promotion. More clips and trivia than you can shake a Kryptonian crystal at. No terrible jokes. Two minutes of that had more hard, interesting information than this entire anniversary show, and it goes on for two hours! I liked it much more than Superman Returns. That's what I'm talking about!
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