Thursday, April 16, 2020

Giving Thanks: Let Us Thank The Comedy God’s For The SNL Movies That Never Happened.

Name your favorite SNL produced movie. No, Blues Brother’s doesn’t count. Wayne’s World, right? What do youmean that’s the only one you can remember?! Well, there are the timelessclassics like… Umm… ahh… Did I mention Wayne’s World already?

First, let me get me get you up to speed… There have been 11 SNLproduced films based on one-note characters and while some have been moresuccessful than others- they ALL pretty much sucked. Except for Wayne’s World. Wayne’s World hasaged remarkably well.

Here’s a list I’ve complied of all (most?) the SNL theatricalreleases and since I’m a helluva’ fella’, I included their Domestic totalgross:
Rank Title                Studio         Gross/ Theaters                    Opening / Theaters              Date
1 Wayne's World       Par.           $121,697,323/ 1,878              $18,122,710/ 1,768         2/14/92
2 The Blues Brothers  Uni.         $57,229,890 -                          $4,858,152/ 594               6/20/80
3 Wayne's World 2    Par.           $48,197,805/ 2,400                $13,516,699/ 2,400         12/10/93
4 Superstar                  Par             $30,636,478/ 2,016                $8,912,743/ 1,943           10/8/99
5 A Night at theRox  Par.          $30,331,165/ 2,169                 $9,604,791/ 1,865           10/2/98
6Coneheads               Par.           $21,274,717/ 1,978                 $7,100,501/ 1,978           7/23/93
7 Blues Brother 2000 Uni.         $14,051,384/ 2,516                 $6,129,615/ 2,507           2/6/98
8 The LadiesMan      Par.          $13,616,610/ 2,043                  $5,426,390/ 2,022          10/13/00
9MacGruber              Uni.          $8,525,600/ 2,551                    $4,043,495/ 2,551           5/21/10
10 Stuart Saves His    Par.          $912,082/ 400                           $371,898/ 400                 4/14/95
11 It's Pat                    BV            $60,822/ 33                               $31,370/ 33                      8/26/94

I stumbled upon this awesome article written by Bradford Evansover at (thanks, guy!) and decided I had to share it with myfellow readers. It’s pretty interesting actually, definitely makes youappreciate the SNL comedies that did get green lit a little less. Wait… what?

Ever since the first Wayne's World movie became a surprise hit,making $183 million from of a scant $20 million budget, releasing a sea ofcatchphrases into the public consciousness and turning Mike Myers and DanaCarvey into actors in high demand, Lorne Michaels and his producing partnershave been searching for the next big SNL movie. In the three years thatfollowed, Hollywood released a string of SNL spin-offs that failed to reachWayne's World's level of success, including Coneheads, It's Pat, Stuart SavesHis Family, and a second Wayne's World film. In 1995, because of theunderperformance of these titles and SNL hitting a creative slump, several SNLmovies already in development were put on ice.

1995 also saw one of the biggest cast turnovers in the show'shistory, with Lorne Michaels cleaning house by removing the likes of AdamSandler and Chris Farley and bringing in Will Ferrell, Darrell Hammond, andCheri Oteri, amongst other additions. With the new cast hitting its stride inthe mid-90’s, Michaels restarted his quest to find the next Wayne's World,producing A Night at the Roxbury, Superstar, and The Ladies Man, each of whichendured various degrees of success but failed to live up to the highexpectations set by the 1992 Mike Myers-Dana Carvey classic. These filmsfalling short of blockbuster status led to a decade without SNL movies, untilMacGruber came out last year and also performed poorly at the box office.

Turning a short comedy sketch into a full-length feature film isa daunting and fairly irrational task, and it's no wonder that Wayne's World'ssuccess has been so tough to replicate. That hasn't stopped the producers ofSNL from trying, though. Over the years, several SNL movies were planned thatnever made it to the screen. The era immediately following Wayne's World'striumphant box office victory is when most of these were put into development,and it seems that there were attempts to build movies off of just about everyMike Myers character except “Lothar of the Hill People.” Let's take a look atsome of the planned SNL spin-offs that never got off the ground.

The Coneheads animated series (pilotaired 1983)
Rankin/Bass, a production company best known for its stop-motionanimation work like the classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer holiday special,also dabbled in unnecessary, tacky cartoon adaptations like an animated seriesstarring The Jackson 5 and a one-off pilot to a cartoon show based on TheConeheads. Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin and Laraine Newman all reprised their rolesfor the pilot, which was produced by Lorne Michaels and written by original SNLscribes Al Franken and Tom Davis. It also featured a laugh track. The Coneheadspilot wasn’t picked up to series, but it did air on NBC in primetime and was released on VHS. Coneheads became a live-action feature film a decade later.

The Saturday Night Live Movie (indevelopment 1990)
Lorne Michaels left SNL in the early 80's and returned midwaythrough the decade to save the show from the clutches of cancellation. It tooka season or so of trial and error for SNL to get rolling again, but with atalented cast that included Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, KevinNealon, and Jan Hooks, and a writing staff that featured SNL veterans like JimDowney, Herb Sargent, Al Franken, and Tom Davis, and newcomers like Conan O'Brien,George Meyer, Greg Daniels, Robert Smigel, and Bob Odenkirk, the show finally started to hit its stride again in 1986. In 1990, with the show still ridinghigh as the tail end of this creative renaissance neared, the writers startedputting together the script to a project known as The Saturday Night LiveMovie, which would have been a feature-length, anthology-style string of comedy sketches on the theme of going to the movies. Among the sketches planned forthe film was an E.T. spoof that was nearly a decade late, a short filmfollowing Dana Carvey as a young George H.W. Bush at Yale, and a crime movieparody called “Tip Stealer,” written by comedy nerd demi-god George Meyer.
Drew McWeeny over at Hitfix, who is solely responsible for thepublic knowing that this project ever existed, has more detailed descriptions of each sketch in this great piece from last year.

Hans & Franz: The Girly-ManDilemma (in development circa 1993)
The canceled SNL movie that seems the most promising is theplanned “Hans and Franz” film, Hans & Franz: The Girly-Man Dilemma. Don'tget me wrong. Hans and Franz, the Arnold Schwarzenegger-inspired machoweightlifters played by Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon, are one-note charactersthat don't exactly beg for the feature film treatment, but what the writingteam of Carvey, Nealon, Conan O’Brien and Robert Smigel had planned for thismovie sounds pretty impressive. Arnold Schwarzenegger was onboard to co-star(as himself) and co-produce, and the story revolved around Hans and Franzfollowing in Schwarzenegger's footsteps by traveling to Hollywood to becomemovie stars. The Hans and Franz movie was to be a gag-heavy musical that toyedwith a lot of the conventions of cinema. Robert Smigel recalls one runningjoke, in which the film would cut to Siskel and Ebert watching the movie in progress, only to be interrupted by Hans and Franz barging in and asking for feed back. Arnold Schwarzenegger got cold feet and pulled out, causing Hans& Franz: The Girly-Man Dilemma to be cancelled. Presumably, it was becauseLast Action Hero, another satirical film in which Schwarzenegger played himself, had bombed, and he didn’t want to star in anything that was in asimilar vein.

Untitled “Superfans” Movie (in development 1994-1995)
Robert Smigel and Bob Odenkirk wrote a movie based on “TheSuperfans,” the group of stereotypical Chicago sports fanatics whose catch phrases "Da Bulls" and "Da Bears" swept the nation after Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Robert Smigel, and frequent SNL guest GeorgeWendt originated the roles in a series of popular sketches. The plot for the proposed film involved the Superfans dealing with a businessman who doesn’t understand football buying the Chicago Bears and turning Soldier Field into aluxury stadium for the rich. Smigel and Odenkirk wrote the part of BurtonKimpkington, the businessman who purchases the Bears, for Martin Short. Smigel even quit his job as Conan O’Brien’s head writer to work on the script, but thetiming didn’t work out right. SNL was going through its disastrous 1994-95season, and a scathing review from New York Magazine made a bad situation worse. The network called off all future SNL movies. Putting another roadblockin the Superfans movie's way, Tommy Boy became a huge hit for Chris Farley,leading his management to become disinterested in him taking ensemble work. A staged reading of the Superfans script took place at the Just For Laughs comedy festival in Chicago last year, with George Wendt, Joe Mantegna, Horatio Sanz(presumably filling in for Farley), Smigel, and Odenkirk all participating.

Coffee Talk (in development mid-90’s)
Towards the end of the era in which studios were frantically green lighting SNL movies left and right, Mike Myers had begun working on a filmbased on his popular Jewish talk show host character, Linda Richman. Myersbased the character off of his mother-in-law and even named the character afterher. The movie was called off when the failure of titles like It's Pat andStuart Saves His Family prompted NBC to put the kibosh on future SNLadaptations. Very little is known about the Coffee Talk movie, but thiswouldn’t be the last SNL character Myers tried to adapt for a feature film...

Dieter (in development 1999-2000)
After the success of the first Austin Powers secured MikeMyers's place as a movie star, he began developing a project based on his SNL character Dieter, an asexual, black turtleneck-wearing German talk show host.The script, written by Myers, Jack Handy, and Michael McCullers, coveredDieter’s journey to find his lost monkey Klaus. Up-and-comers Jack Black andWill Ferrell signed on to costar and David Hasselhoff was expected to make anextended cameo. Myers was unhappy with the script that he and his writing partners had created and got into a fight with the studio that resulted in him leaving the project. Universal Studios sued him for $3.8 million and ImagineEntertainment for $30 million. He countersued the studios, and DreamWorks execsSteven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg stepped in to mediate, with NNDB reporting that the settlement involved Mike Myers agreeing to star in The Catin the Hat. Myers also faced allegations from his Second City colleague DanaAnderson, who claims to have co-created the character and several catchphraseswith Myers.
This seems like a missed opportunity for everyone involved. MikeMyers hasn't had much live-action success in the past fifteen years outside ofAustin Powers, and Dieter could have proven he still could pull in audiences.With Will Ferrell and Jack Black, who were each just a few years away frombursting into full-fledged movie stars, by his side, Dieter had plenty goingfor it.

The X-Presidents (in development late 90’s)
Adam McKay and Robert Smigel wrote a script to a movie based on the TV Funhouse segment “The X-Presidents” on spec in the late 90’s, intending for it to be produced cheaply for $3 million. As SNL fans will recall, theoriginal sketches followed former presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, RonaldReagan, and George H.W. Bush gaining superpowers and fighting crime. WhenSmigel and McKay were unable to get the film made, they turned the story into agraphic novel, which was released in 2000.

Key Party (in development circa 2005)
In 2005, Seth Meyers signed a deal to star in and write a moviebased on an SNL sketch called "Key Party" with Lorne Michaels on board to produce. The original "Key Party" sketch only appeared on the showone time in 2004 and it starred a pre-Weekend Update Seth Myers and Amy Poehleras an odd couple presiding over a partner-swapping key party. The sketch is most notable for introducing the character Carol, whom Horatio Sanz played indrag and became a late period recurring role for the actor. The Key Party film would have deviated from the sketch significantly; with Meyers playing anaverage guy who’s life is turned upside-down after attending a key party withhis wife. Still, it seems weird to base a film off of a one-time sketch. Maybethis would have been a new direction to go with SNL movies, though, just using the sketch as a jumping-off point for a movie instead of trying to stretch athree-minute bit to fill an hour-and-a-half. Myers became bogged down withscripting duties on SNL, when he became the show’s head writer later on in2005. I suspect the busy schedule that job entails is part of the reasonKey Party hasn't moved forward. It hasn’t been formally announced that KeyParty was cancelled, and Meyers could very easily pick the project back upsometime in the future, but no news has come in about the movie in quite sometime. As things stand right now, neither a director nor any additional castmembers are attached, and Key Party doesn’t look like it’ll be nearingproduction anytime soon.

The Ambiguously Gay Duo (in development circa 2005)
In a 2010 interview with the AV Club, Robert Smigel said, “I’mguilty of writing probably as many SNL movies as anybody, but mine have neverbeen made.” Taking a look at all of the past SNL movies Smigel’s been involvedin, he’s probably right. Smigel and Stephen Colbert wrote the script to alive-action film based on The Ambiguously Gay Duo TV Funhouse animated shortsaround 2005, but the project never made it to production. This past season onSNL, we finally got a glimpse at what a live-action Ambiguously Gay Duo wouldhave looked like in the Ed Helms-hosted episode, which featured a non-animatedversion of the sketch. Jon Hamm and Jimmy Fallon played Ace and Gary, whileSteve Carell and Stephen Colbert, who voiced the original homosexual heroes,dropped by to play villains Bighead and Dr. Brainio. The sketch was probablymuch more fulfilling than any 90-minute long version of these characters couldever be, even if Smigel and Colbert would have been behind it.