Caitlin Rickard: Maya Rudolph may have just saved the variety show

I had all but set in stone my column topic for this week, a glimpse inside this year’s Billboard Music Awards, but then something even better happened.
May 21, 2014
Caitlin Rickard

I had all but set in stone my column topic for this week, a glimpse inside this year’s Billboard Music Awards, but then something even better happened.

First of all, I heard Maya Rudolph was getting her own show and that was enough information I needed to fill my heart with glee. But a variety show? Even better.

The Maya Rudolph Show premiered Monday night in prime time on NBC, as viewers sat on the edge of their seat wondering if the genre could be revived or if the variety show comeback would be a moot point.

Really, you’ve got to pat NBC on the back, the powers-that-be over there continue to pack the punch in their networks lineup. Between critics favorites like Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock, shows that have ran for decades like Law & Order: SVU and the most-watched reality show on television, The Voice, it seems NBC is slowly taking over the tube. (We won’t talk about the Sound of Music Live revival, but, hey, at least it was something different!)

And just a disclaimer: I could care less if Maya did a variety show or a scripted show or a reality show, hello she’s literally one of the funniest women on the planet. It does not matter. 

Then after the first 30 seconds of her opening number, suddenly it did. Maya was born to host a variety show. 

But if her Beyoncé impressions and seven years on Saturday Night Live or her role in Bridesmaids didn’t sway you to watch, shame on you, and you missed out.

One great thing about Maya as the host, is she is not the obvious choice at all. She plays second fiddle to Kristen Wiig and is never quite the leading lady. But this time, I really think she found her niche and deserves credit where credit is due.

It wasn’t just the ease at which she acts and does impressions, but she also sings, dances, delivers comedy flawlessly and, oh, and recruited a bevy of big names to assist the night’s gig. I’m talking Fred Armisen, Sean P. Hayes, Andy Samberg, Chris Parnell, Kristen Bell and Craig Robinson, just to name a few.

Anyway, I get that we’ve moved on past the variety show, and I’m big enough to admit I don’t think I’ve ever even seen one, but once the show started I was like, “oh my gosh, I love variety shows!” (Actual quote to myself, from myself).

Maya’s show took true variety show formatting with a variety of acts; add in some dancing, a little sketch comedy and a lot of singing and laughs… and viola!

The hour song-and-dance featured an opening musical number fit for a queen, or at least a Las Vegas show, and didn’t stop riding off that adrenaline high once the whole night.

There were cheesy numbers and raunchy numbers, pointless sketches about nothing and sketches that hit the nail on the head, as well as random celebrity drop-ins, outlandish costumes and 60 minutes of pure joy.

Kristen Bell added some of the best singing for the night, as her and Maya did an “on the spot” musical number for the sequel to Frozen. I was laughing out loud as Bell sang how things were “frozen…again!” and Maya added she would be the new character, the sister Marla, who had a tragic flaw, “everything I touch, I thaw.” And hilarity ensued. Please YouTube the whole song.

Warning, don’t watch with children who are fans of the original Frozen, they may not like where the plot of Frozen Again is heading.

There were countless other numbers and sketches I found myself bending over in laughter watching, but hands-down there was one that stood out above the rest.

Again, Bell starred in a sketch where she introduces her boyfriend (Samberg) to her “famous” parents (Armisen and Maya). Their fame: they are the voices of the GPS system in cars. I actually don’t think I have ever even seen a SNL sketch this funny. 

The cracks in their voices, the mispronunciations, and any and everything in between just made this sketch such a treat. Literally, they not only sounded just like the actual voices, but they give Samberg the wrong directions to the bathroom “continue down the hallway 18 feet, then turn left at the credenza,” and also tells them to “expect delays on the pot roast.” It’s enough to make anyone bang their head against the dashboard and say, “Yes! They’ve misinterpreted me, too!”

I can’t speak to the future and whether Maya did enough to keep the variety flame alive, or to the past, because I don’t know how her show compares to the days of Donnie and Marie (they did variety shows, right?) or the likes, but I do hope the show gets another date, and then another, and another and another. 

Caitlin Rickard is a staff writer for The Democrat. Email her at crickard@lebanondemocrat.com or follow her on Twitter @wilsonnewswritr.

 

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