During the 2008 season of Saturday Night Live — specifically the week in which the cast and writers were prepping the John Malkovich-hosted episode — James Franco embedded himself behind the scenes with cameras and captured the entire process. It premiered on Hulu Plus today — timed, no doubt, to the show’s 945th season premiere this weekend, with Chris Pratt hosting. But should you watch it?
Are You a Comedy Nerd?
No? Then move along, because this isn’t actually funny. Because comedy, as every comedian will tell you, is serious business. There are moments of humor, to be sure: The Monday of the SNL cycle is when the cast and writers pitch ideas to both Lorne and the host (in this case, Malkovich) and some of those ideas are priceless. (Then-head writer Seth Meyers pitches a sketch in which Malkovich is trying to raise money for a stage production of Dangerous Liasions set in a hot tub called J'Accuzzi.) But if you want to see how the sausage is made, then dig in. Watching Kristen Wiig debate the funniest length of a fart is wonderful.
Do You Like Shaggy, Unshaven, Unshowered Exhausted White Guys?
Then this is 90 minutes you’ll love. Part of the week-long incubation period for every episode of SNL is the all-nighter the cast and writers pull on Tuesday nights to get everything written before the Wednesday read-through. There could almost be a time-lapse of the stubble growing on Will Forte’s face.
Do You Want to See Franco Be Interviewed In His Own Documentary That’s Not About Him?
You’re in luck.
Are You A Workplace Efficiency Expert?
Then, by all means, don’t watch. The process by which SNL is made seems like the worst example of “We do it this way because we’ve always done it this way.” There has got to be a better way to get the best out of really smart people than by pushing them to the breaking point week-in, week-out. But it’s an “institution” built on “tradition,” so there you go. As it ever was.
Do You Like Schadenfraude?
You, know, that particularly German notion of taking joy in someone else’s failure? Watching jokes die on the vine is deliciously horrible.
Do You Like Good Movies?
You’re in luck. Franco is aided immensely by being handed a “cast” full of smart, telegenic comedy professionals actively making a thing. And the Monday-Saturday cycle is a natural dramatic spine to build a narrative around. Still, there are a lot of ways he could’ve screwed up this documentary and he didn’t. He gets an access that few people are ever granted and makes the most of it.
Also, it’s (mostly) free.
Marc Bernardin is the Deputy Editor of Playboy.com. He will continue to dine out on the fact that he was in the audience for the Christopher Walken episode of SNL that gave us the “Cow Bell” sketch.“