A wunderkind producer in the 1970s, Lorne Michaels was the hot young producer who knew how to talk to the kids. He was tasked with launching a comedy show in the Saturday night timeslot occupied during the week by Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. The brief: It couldn't look or feel anything like Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. So he launched Saturday Night Live in 1975 - initially a variety show with some sketch comedy alongside stand-up comedians and a variety of musical acts.
Over the next five years, Michaels refined the show. Sketches became the focus of the show and it launched the careers of every major comedy actor in Hollywood throughout the following decade. Michaels left the show in 1980 for five years, which many saw as a creatively poor period in the shows history. He was encouraged to return and has been with the show as EP ever since.
This is a long-winded way to illustrate that Lorne Michaels will have been the producer for 45 years of the run of Saturday Night Live when it airs its 50th season in 2024. It isn't an understatement to suggest that he may have been the most influential producer of studio-based television in the history of the medium.
All eyes are on him and a potential retirement right now. It has been rumored for a while, but now Michaels is openly talking about his plans. He hasn't come out and said it, but it seems all but certain now that he will finish up with the show at the conclusion of its 50th season.
A few hours ago he told CBS Mornings:
“You know, I think I’m committed to doing this show until its 50th anniversary, which is in three years,” he said. “I’d like to see that through and I have a feeling that’d be a really good time to leave. But … I won’t want the show ever to be bad. I care too deeply about it. It’s been my life’s work. So I’m going to do everything I can to see it carry on.”
And it sounds like a succession plan may be in place:
Asked if there could be an SNL without him, the executive producer replied, “Of course,” and then added vaguely, “I have a sense of where we’re headed with that, you know.” Pressed for who would take over for him, he refused to say. “I’m not going to go on about it — it’s three years away.”
A thought that I keep having: New York-based ex-SNL star turned TV Producer Tina Fey has stayed involved with the show almost more than any other ex-star of SNL (she was even on it this past weekend when the COVID outbreak forced almost the entire regular cast home). If I were to read that she's taking it over, I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest. It seems like the next obvious career move for her.
Nine secure NRL for five more years
The Australian Nine network has announced it has secured the NRL football rights for the next five years. The new deal covers 2023 to 2027 and will mean the rugby isn't going anywhere anytime soon - for fans it will be business as usual.
But, there is one aspect that caught my attention. Nine's interest in the sport is focused very much around its broadcast network. Games will stay on regular ol' TV as they have for decades. There is a digital component with 100 hours of original content announced to stream on the advertising supported 9Now service. Some games will stream exclusively via 9Now, with the announcement pointing out that all Broncos versus Dolphins games will stream live in Brisbane.
It is interesting to me that none of the games are to be distributed via the Nine-owned subscription sports service Stan Sports. Was it a stipulation by the NRL that games had to be freely available to viewers? If this is just a business decision by Nine, it speaks to the lack of confidence in that platform. These days you need to go all-in or viewers will view you as little more than a dilettante.
SBS loses Director of TV and Online to Foxtel
Marshall Heald is finishing up in his role at SBS and will take on a newly created role at pay TV outlet Foxtel. As the Executive Director Foxtel Entertainment, he'll be managing the creative/editorial for all content on the owned and operated Foxtel entertainment and movie channels together plus all On Demand content on Foxtel IQ, Foxtel Now and Foxtel Go, including third-party channels, sports channels, integrated third-party apps and TVOD movies.
The hire of Heald, who had previously been Chief Digital Officer at the pubcaster, indicates that Foxtel are prioritising digital engagement on their service.
All eyes are now on who gets the gig at SBS. Do they hire from within, or is this an opportunity for a UK media exec looking to escape the Omicron outbreak? It will be a highly sought-after job.
- Spike Lee has signed a multi-year feature film deal with Netflix. Read: THR
- ITV's breakfast show Good Morning Britain has been taken off the air until Jan 4 after presenter Sean Fletcher tested positive for COVID-19. Read: Deadline
- Nicholas Barber asks: Have we seen the end of the Hollywood remake? Read: The Guardian
Docu-series We Need To Talk About Cosby debuts on Showtime Jan 30.
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return To Hogwarts debuts on HBO Max on Jan 1.
I Want You Back debuts on Amazon Prime Video Feb 11.
Eurphoria returns Jan 9 for s2 on HBO.
Chosen debuts on Netflix Jan 27.
What's next? Tomorrow.