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Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Steve Martin Award Goes To Steve Martin

My wife and I just watched the Steve Martin AFI Life Achievement show, which aired last night. While I usually don't criticize awards show my friend Jon Macks has written, I'll make an exception when my comments have nothing to do with the writing, which was fine, as were the presenters, who included Martin Short, Queen Latifah, Carl Reiner, Lily Tomlin, Dan Aykroyd, and this bit from Tina Fey...


Those presentations aside, one of the problems was the way director Louis J. Horvitz cut the show. The editing reminded me of the old Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts, where shots of the performer were interrupted by cutaways of people in the audience laughing -- too often, it was obvious they weren't necessarily laughing at the joke or segment we'd just seen. While I know it's hard to reduce an evening that probably lasted three hours to a 90-minute television show (more like 65 minutes after all the commercials were inserted), the cuts were too abrupt. Come to think of it, why did the broadcast have to be limited to an hour and a half? I'd bet there was enough Grade A material to easily make it a smoother two hours, and it's not like TBS doesn't have the extra time available -- just air one less rerun of "The Big Bang Theory."

The other problem was how many of the clips and presenter comments focused on Martin's prodigious output of inventive comedy between 1975 and 1999. Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot of great recent stuff to show because it's been so long since Martin did anything worthy of admiration. In the 21st century, he's done a dozen movies, and the only one worth your time was "Shopgirl," released a decade ago. To his detriment, the list also includes the bad remake of "Cheaper By The Dozen" and its sequel (!) and two "Pink Panther" movies that should never have been attempted.

Compare that to the six in a row he did in his first five years in movies: "The Jerk," "Pennies From Heaven," "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid," "The Man With Two Brains," "The Lonely Guy," and "All Of Me." Wow! The tribute show also included several TV clips, most notably from Martin's career-making appearances on "Saturday Night Live" and "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," but not one memorable moment from anything more recent.

In other words, if this Steve Martin AFI tribute had been done ten years ago, you could still show it today without anyone saying, "Too bad they did it so early, because he gave us so much good stuff after that." To which Martin would probably respond, "Well, excuuuuuuse me!"