- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 16, 2005

‘SNL’s‘ early years

Documentarian Ken Bowser watched every episode from “Saturday Night Live’s” first five years to prepare for this weekend’s special chronicling the show’s birth.

He walked away laughing more than he expected, but he also thought the show’s sketches gave an eerie glimpse into the psyches of those “Not Ready for Prime Time Players.”

“The good stuff and the bad stuff, the happy relationships, the drugs, it’s all in the sketches,” he told reporters earlier this week.

“Live From New York: The First Five Years of Saturday Night Live,” airing Sunday at 9 p.m. on NBC, recalls the early years of the groundbreaking sketch show, warts and all.

Original cast members Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd and Garrett Morris will share their memories from those ribald days in the late 1970s.

Mr. Bowser insists “SNL” creator Lorne Michaels gave him carte blanche on the project.

“He never asked to see the film. He just said, ‘I hope I can look my children in the face in the morning,’ ” Mr. Bowser said.

The show also interviews favorite guest hosts, many of whom (including comedian Eric Idle) had no problem dishing about their experiences.

“He said, ‘I love talking about this stuff. If you ask me about Monty Python my eyes glaze over,’ ” Mr. Bowser recalls.

Maher’s ‘Real’ return

Just because the elections are over doesn’t mean left-leaning comic Bill Maher has run out of things to say.

HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher” returns to the cable network’s weekly lineup ” with new episodes and a cheeky mix of political and celebrity panelists ” tomorrow at 11 p.m.

Kicking off the show’s new season will be Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat; former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson; and actor-comedian Robin Williams.

“Real Time” enables Mr. Maher to riff on the day’s headlines and features the brand of roundtable chatter he favored on his old “Politically Incorrect” talker on Comedy Central.

Yahoo! gets ‘Fat’

Viewers curious about Showtime’s upcoming sitcom “Fat Actress” needn’t be subscribers to the pay cable channel to watch its first installment.

Yahoo! and Showtime are teaming up to offer the show’s March 7 debut online via a simultaneous Web streaming, Reuters News Agency reports.

“Fat Actress,” which stars the formerly svelte Kirstie Alley, will air Monday evenings at 10.

This is a first for Yahoo! and underscores the increasingly cozy relationship between the Internet destination and the entertainment industry.

Recent movies such as “Elektra” have offered sizable chunks of their content to be streamed online to whet the appetites of moviegoers. On the other hand, a combo plan between television content and the Web isn’t so common.

America Online has streamed complete programs before, most notably the WB’s “Jack & Bobby,” but those are available only to AOL subscribers.

There is no charge to view “Fat Actress” online, which will remain available to stream on Yahoo! TV (https://tv.yahoo.com) until March 12.

“We want the show to be sampled by as many people as we humanly can, and the marketing dollar never goes as far as you want it to,” said Robert Greenblatt, Showtime’s president of entertainment.

The novel broadcast platform will tell Showtime officials plenty about viewer reaction to the show.

“I’d like to know how long people watched in terms of number of minutes,” Mr. Greenblatt told Reuters. “People don’t have a good history of watching long entertainment on their computers, and it’s OK with me if they don’t, but hopefully they’ll see enough to be interested in wanting to see more.”

A Puccini portrait

TV5/USA, available to Comcast subscribers, will offer a profile oF one of the opera world’s most prolific composers, Giacomo Puccini, in “La Fin de la Voix.”

The special, airing at 11:20 tomorrow evening on the French TV network, will explore such Puccini masterpieces as “La Boheme” and “Tosca.” It will also chronicle Puccini’s life and work through choreographed movements set to the composer’s music.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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