I grew up on SNL.  For me, it was live.  I was five or six when I first started watching. Chevy was already gone and Bill Murray well into his own among the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players.   I also remember a time when the show tried desperately to live up to that Golden Age.  I remember the post-Lorne years into the mid-1980s and, especially the miserable end to Jean Doumanian’s disaster and the Ebsersol rebuilding years.  It instilled in me a great respect for live theater and comedy in particular.  Those post- NRfPTP years emphasized how brilliant those first five years had been.   In the beginning Lorne Michaels hired brilliant people and established the format that worked.  For a while after, the show had to keep changing its format to suit the talent it hired until it hired the talent that could honor the best format again.

This weekend’s SNL40 special was a blast.  The dark times without Lorne were seldom mentioned (it was telling that Seinfeld was there with SNL writer Larry David but Julia Louis Dreyfus was not.) – so we didn’t get to see much more than Eddie Murphy’s lackluster applause generator and “return to the small high school” speech (which he repeated several times before and after in interviews) and Joe Piscopo doing his classic Frank Sinatra during the musical montage.  It was as interesting to note who was not there and who was allowed stage front and who stayed in the audience or in the pit.  Mayor Rudy and Governor Palin but no Senator Franken?

I sat through the Red Carpet show wishing they could have ditched the Today Show bobbleheads and the infomercial feel and picked a few cast members who didn’t make the cut for the main show.  Seeing Tim Kazurinsky or Nora Dunn on the press line interviewing unprepared celebrities about their hairpieces or their attitudes toward man-dog romance would have been preferable to Carson and Al asking “HOW DOES 40 YEARS OF SNL MAKE YOU FEEL?” over and over again.   Chris Kattan, Cheri Oteri, and David Spade would have been great here.

Michael O’Donoghue was featured in the first clip (the first sketch ever) and deserved more.  But he was there in spirit.  I wanted to see Gilda’s ballet with Steve Martin and more of Jan Hooks dancing with Phil Hartman to “Love is a Dream” each to go along with the Schiller short “Don’t Look Back in Anger.”  But Gilda was there in her audition video looking vibrant as ever.

Not seeing Dennis Miller at the Weekend Update tribute was a disappointment.  Say what you will about him now, but his version of WU set the stage for The Daily Show AND he is the longest-serving anchor at the desk.  Brad Hall?  Brian Doyle-Murray?  Too busy?  However, seeing Jane with Tina and Amy at the desk was gratifying.

THIS was the money shot of the night for me:

Dana Edelson/NBC

Dana Edelson/NBC

Bill Murray won the battle of the musical performances. Hands down.  Though Maya-Beyonce and Martin Short were wonderful.

When I first saw Emma Stone slide up to the desk in the big black wig, I did not like it.  I didn’t like it at all.   She performed her tribute to Roseanne Roseannadanna and that bugged me more than the other tributes to Stefon and Matt Foley.  Foley bugged me a little, too.  I don’t think athletes should wear retired jerseys even in tribute, but that’s just me.  I read that Bill Murray has great respect for Emma Stone and that he loved Gilda very much.  I’d like to imagine that Stone had Murray’s blessing (and maybe GE Smith’s) so maybe — who the hell am I to say otherwise?

Not having the original, surviving members of the cast on stage together disappointed as well.  We saw all of them, but they deserved time and recognition for creating the standard by which the 35 years to follow are judged.  Having them together would have shone a spotlight on John and Gilda because the stage was never so bright as when they stood there.

Could Adam Sandler look any less excited to be there?  He looked a little too embarrassed by Opera Man, but did a fine job with Sanberg in the “That’s When You Break” short (which was also a clip montage).