Judge Lacey Worrell would have spent more time on this review, but she...uhhhh...had to help plan Brad and Angelina's wedding. With her wife, Morgan Fairchild. Yeah, that's the ticket.
"I just want to be loved, is that so wrong?"
An argument is often made that Saturday Night Live is, at best, an uneven show. There have been truly terrific years, and quite dismal ones. Although Jon Lovitz's reign was during some of the rockier times, some of the material has held up surprisingly well when viewed today. Unfortunately, many of the sketches that were chosen for this particular collection are forgettable; surely Lovitz did far better work during his time at SNL, so the blame for the fact that this disc fails to please lies more with the producers than with Lovitz himself.
Lovitz is at his best when doing over-the-top characters, such as Mephistopheles the Devil in a spoof of The Peoples Court with the late, great Phil Hartman playing Judge Wapner. In this sketch, Lovitz is dressed in a red satin Halloween costume that could have been purchased at Party City; the fact that he stays totally in character is what makes him so funny. He's just so serious about being the devil; there are never any sly winks to the camera or other evidence that he is laughing about the character on the inside, and that is what makes him so funny.
Lovitz's best character on the show was, hands-down, "Hanukkah Harry," a Jewish substitute for Santa Claus after Santa becomes ill on Christmas Eve. Instead of reindeer, Harry has donkeys named Schlomo and Herschel, and instead of toys, he gives socks, slacks, and chocolate coins. He lives on Mt. Sinai instead of the North Pole. In short, Hanukkah Harry was the perfect precursor to Adam Sandler's wildly popular "Hanukkah Song," which also made its debut on SNL.
Another favorite character was Lovitz's "Annoying Man," who often visited the set of Weekend Update to, well, be annoying. The particular sketch included on this collection, however, is not one of the best ones; Annoying Man was a recurring character, so surely a better selection could have been made.
Keep an eye out for famous guest stars Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones and Demi Moore (Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle), as well as SNL regulars Jan Hooks, Kevin Nealon, Victoria Jackson, Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Nora Dunn, and even Dennis Miller in his mullet days.
Overall, thanks to the many included skits that are all too forgettable, this disc drags in far too many places. Even the most die-hard Lovitz fans will be grateful for the fact that the disc gives viewers the ability to select individual sketches. That said, good luck figuring out which sketch is which. The scene selection menu consists of only headshots of Lovitz, so it is almost impossible to figure out which scene one is about to view. The picture quality and sound are no improvement over what one might expect on television.
Viewers will, however, be happy with the generous amount of bonus footage. Lovitz's audition tape makes it clear why he was cast to begin with, as his quirkiness is readily apparent. There is also a great interview included with Conan O'Brien that is not to be missed. The interview features Jon just being himself, and some discussions about Y2K place the interview in its proper timeframe. Viewers will delight in Lovitz's man-on-the-street interviews for the show, where he asks passersby whether they believe Conan O'Brien is gay. Lovitz also tells a groaner of a joke that almost falls flat, but it so bad that the audience laughs anyway. He also sings the final few bars of "The Star Spangled Banner" with surprising authority. The interview demonstrates Lovitz's ability to improvise, something I wish he had been able to do more of in the average material that is included on the rest of the disc.
Since leaving SNL, Lovitz has gone on to repeated guest appearances on television's Las Vegas and The Simpsons, and appears on the big screen in The Stepford Wives and in the upcoming remake of The Producers. By playing small character bits, he has managed to sidestep the obscurity many other SNL alums have fallen into after leaving the show.
Despite the fact that E! Entertainment Television has recently procured the rights to run classic episodes of SNL, this "Best Of" series is a worthwhile investment for fans of individual cast members such as Phil Hartman, Will Ferrell, and Tracy Morgan. In any given episode of the television show, only about 20-30 minutes are really worth watching; these DVDs cull the most memorable characters into a nice package. Lovitz, however, as one of the most recognizable faces from the show, deserved better. This lackluster collection does not do him justice.
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Scales of Justice
• Audition Footage
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