by pat howard

MADtv | 14×16: “MADtv Gives Back”

In Uncategorized on May 17, 2009 at 2:19 pm

I caught last night’s series finale of the Fox also-ran Saturday night sketch show, and as I watched the faux-telethon, complete with clips and cameos of funnier times and characters, it was not hard to see why this show is getting the long-overdue boot. Just because the bloated corpse of SNL continues in perpetuity doesn’t mean this imitation, the spinoff of a once-popular magazine, should be granted the same repreive.

I really enjoyed MAD in the late 1990s, pretty much during the Nicole Sullivan years. She has since found success beyond the show, and was not among the alumi who returned last night to say farewell. We did get appearances by Debra Wilson Skelton as Oprah, Alex Borstein as Ms. Swan and Will Sasso as Kenny Rogers. My favorite was Mo Collins’ return as Lorraine, who hilariously broke character, losing her composure after ambling over a row of phone bank volunteers to find her seat.

But this stunt is a metaphor for where MAD often went wrong, taking the long way around or milking a punchline, at the expense of its dignity and viewers’ patience. Episode orders grew shorter as the series dragged into its final seasons. Arden Myrin did a yeoman’s job of holding up the curtain these last few seasons; hopefully she’ll continue to appear on the roundtable at Chelsea Lately.

As for MADtv, thanks for the memories, though your attempts at DVDs and syndication seem to have failed at the hands of extremely inconsistent material. Kudos to Fox for putting the show out of its misery, and cancelling it last fall so that this finale came as no surprise. In an upfront season that seems especially forgiving, it’s sort of nice to think that sentimentality did not play a factor here; or perhaps it did, as the time to pull the plug was a few years ago. Rumors that MAD will surface in another form on cable have so far proved to be just wishful thinking on the part of producers.

Meanwhile, the season finale of SNL saw Will Ferrell return as host, bringing back the well-worn Celebrity Jeopardy (with Tom Hanks as himself), among other moments. In fact, SNL had as many if not more guest appearances than MAD last night (Artie Lange appeared on both — and what’s up with that?), and it will surely return in the fall. This suggests either a budget issue or bad blood between MAD and some of its former stars; it certainly exhausted my goodwill long ago, but I managed to bother watching the finale for old times’ sake. At least, I hope this is dead and buried; 7th Heaven pulled this stunt on me once.

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