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Betty White is just right on 'SNL'

Posted by Matthew Gilbert  May 9, 2010 09:40 AM

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Last night's "Saturday Night Live" was the most consistently good episode of the series in years. Ooh, what a little Betty White can do. Not to mention Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Ana Gasteyer, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, and Molly Shannon. Every sketch was funny and had forward energy -- qualities that are generally missing on the show these days. I can't remember the last time I didn't want an episode of "SNL" to end.

It wasn't a night of political humor, and I can't say there was one classic sketch that's going to go down in "SNL" history or take on viral momentum. But the good old silly stuff was good and silly, with White, 88, making her many jokes about being old and dirty feel new. White made all of her material fly -- as McGruber's humiliating grandmother, as the "Little Women" lady who kept saying "Because she's a lesbian," as David Caruso's great aunt in "CSI: Sarasota." Every time she said "muffin" as the bakery chef in the Gasteyer-Shannon NPR sketch, she killed. White's comic ease and expertise, honed over many decades on sitcoms, is not diminshed by the rigors of live TV.

I loved the fact that the much-hyped episode didn't devolve into sanctimony about giving the old gal a chance. The writers were notably unwilling to condescend to White, or to give her only easy cameos. Indeed, she figured prominently in every sketch, as well as in the Weekend Update segment. In a digital short, the "SNL" cast paid tribute to her with a sentimental version of the "Golden Girls" theme song, "Thank You for Being a Friend." But White was having none of that. She put on a mask and led them in a headbanging version And, in her opening monologue, instead of getting teary about the Facebook campaign to get her to host "SNL," White ridiculed Facebook as a "huge waste of time."

(BTW, hulu.com has a few exclusive rehearsals of sketches that didn't make it on the air, including Dratch's DEBBIE DOWNER.)

The episode also served as a reminder of the funny women who have emerged from "SNL" over the years. Last night's show belonged to White, but Poehler, Fey, Dratch, and Co. were definitely pumped and added lots of mojo. Alas, their presence was a reminder of how weak the women in the current cast are, except Kristen Wiig. 

What did you think? Here's a clip containing about two-thirds of last night's episode:

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