DAVID BIANCULLI

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Post-Strike Rewards: "Saturday Night Live" One Night, Oscars the Next
February 22, 2008  | By David Bianculli
 
What a terrific weekend for live television.

Tomorrow night at 11:30 p.m. ET, NBC's Saturday Night Live returns for the first fresh show since the writers' strike began - and returns with one of TV's most talented comic writers, SNL alumnus Tina Fey, as the guest host. Brilliant choice.

Then, Sunday night at 8:30 ET, ABC presents the Academy Awards, with a star-studded red carpet instead of a star-barring picket line. The host this year, working with just over a week's preparation, is Jon Stewart. Again, brilliant choice.

saturdaynightlivebarack.jpg

SNL has been in reruns since the first week of November, when NBC News anchor Brian Williams was the guest host - and, for the record, was very funny. Dropping in for a cameo? Barack Obama, for real. Now the show is scrambling to find someone to play him - and whoever gets the gig may have a juicy recurring role for years, with or without Amy Poehler's Hillary Clinton.

Not having SNL around during these past four months has been almost tragic: Every week has brought unexpected new twists in the Republican and Democratic races for the presidency, twists that could and should have provided this show with reams of priceless material. Rudy Giuliani, just to name one, literally got away easy.

And Fey, coming off a superb second mini-season of 30 Rock, returns to her old stomping grounds as the perfect returning-show guest host. And if Fey is there, can 30 Rock co-star and frequent, brilliant guest host Alec Baldwin be far behind?

And then there's the Oscars. When Stewart originally said yes to hosting for a second time, there may have been pressure to do better, and do well. But now, putting any show together at all, under the most rushed circumstances imaginable, will be met with nothing but gratitude. Stewart has a free pass. He can't fail.

But he can, and doubtlessly will, joke about politics, and the writers' strike, as well as the films and Hollywood. What a great year to have Stewart at the helm - and, after so many months of having to make do without TV writers, what a great weekend to have SNL and the Oscars back at full strength.

 
 
 
 
 
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