The book is written based on hours and hours of interviews with the producers, executives, writers, stars and guest hosts of the show from the very beginning through the 2002 season. While there is a lot of often-tread material on some aspects of the show (surprise! Chis Farley idolized Jim Belushi) there is far more that will be a complete surprise to the reader. Breakdowns of the actually process by which the show comes together (or doesn't) every week, a certain amount of dishy detail on certain stars and guests (you'll likely either dislike Chevy Chase by the end of this book or just feel very sorry for him) and finally the candid details of Lorne Michaels' departure and return to the show. Only Eddie Murphy refused to be interviewed for the book (which is its own interesting set of stories.)
The writers, who act more as curators, step back and really let the stories be told with a minimum of editorial guidance. Often three perspectives on the same situation are offered in one page, all conflicting somewhat. This is one of the best things about this book. Reading it is like being at a giant, multi-generational family reunion where all the cousins are trying to tell you the same story, all contributing little bits of it, filling in gaps in the narrative left by others, and talking all at once. The interviewees are candid too, elevating the book above the level of a sentimental retrospective.
While I found the book absolutely absorbing, the part I found the most enjoyable was the final section of the book, entirely concerned with Lorne Michaels. Almost every story is in the book is about his in some way, but in the final section the interviewees really bring home the point that without this one person , SNL could never have existed.
This book is not for readers who don't like SNL to begin with, but an absolute must-read for everyone else.
|Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by its Stars, Writers and Guests by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller, Hachette, 2002|