Television

This Time, Facebook Is Right: Betty White Should Host 'Saturday Night Live'

Betty White at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on January 23.

hide captionBetty White, seen here at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in January, is the subject of a well-thought-out Facebook campaign.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

There are a lot of stupid things on Facebook that have a lot of fans. There's a page called "I feel stupid when I say 'what?' a thousand times because I can't hear" that has, as of this writing, more than 1.75 million fans.

But they're not all bad.

Take, for instance, the page Betty White To Host SNL...Please?, which is probably one of the smarter things the Internet has come up with in a while. With a current total (at the moment) of 192,604 fans, it's been written up by the Associated Press and People and lots of other places. Popular pop-culture blog Pop Candy has weighed in as a yes.

It might seem like a joke, the idea of putting 88-year-old Betty White on a show that has had this season, as hosts, the likes of Megan Fox, Taylor Swift (the singer) and Taylor Lautner (the Twilight guy) (no, the other Twilight guy). But it would actually be one of the smartest moves the show could make, for several reasons.

It's one of the few things they could do to get attention. Landing a big movie star like Megan Fox doesn't really matter anymore, because they can come on the show and — like Megan Fox did — come off as utter stiffs. Even when they get good hosts like Mad Men's Jon Hamm, they don't know what to do with them anymore. Hosting Saturday Night Live has become such an obligatory part of the PR circuit that no matter how big a celebrity a hot young talent may be, nobody is really impressed that the show landed him or her to host.

You know what would be a big headline? Betty White. It's such an unexpected maneuver that it would legitimately cause people to pay attention to what's become one of the most expected shows on TV.

Betty White is great, and other reasons, after the jump.

She's awesome. Look, if they're just trying to get headlines, SNL could go out and get Kate Gosselin to host the show. But they shouldn't, because the show will be terrible, because Kate Gosselin isn't funny. The reason to get Betty White is that Betty White is not just widely regarded as really funny — she's really funny. The Super Bowl ad she appeared in last weekend did indeed use her position as an octogenarian as a punch line, but it took her delivery of lines like "That's not what your girlfriend said" to make it sing.

She's been funny for years. She was funny before Sunday, she was funny before The Golden Girls, she was funny before The Mary Tyler Moore Show. This isn't a mercy petition being made out of respect — she's really funny.

She's extraordinarily quick. It used to be, long ago, that you could make a career, or at least a significant segment of your career, as a celebrity panelist on game shows. Charles Nelson Reilly did it, Richard Dawson did it, Paul Lynde did it — but only Betty White, in her appearances on Password, was so smart and so clever and so sparkly that she walked off with the host, Allen Ludden, whom she married. Look how good she is.

She's probably the best game-show guest celebrity who ever lived, and frankly, that ability to adjust, bounce off other people, and think on your feet — which there's every reason to believe she still has — is largely what it takes to be an SNL host.

She's perfectly well significant enough. She just starred in a high-profile Super Bowl commercial, she was in the hit The Proposal last summer, she'll be in You Again with about half the rest of the women in Hollywood in September, and she's an 88-year-old lady with a nearly 200,000-person Facebook campaign being conducted in her honor. If Charles Barkley can host, Betty White certainly can.

NBC could really use the PR. Frankly, this is a network that could stand to have something happen that wouldn't make people swear at it. It's been a mostly rotten SNL season (as we've discussed), and NBC has spent the first six weeks of 2010 unceremoniously escorting Conan O'Brien off The Tonight Show to make room for Jay Leno. The network is ratings-impaired, but it's also goodwill-impaired, and there is absolutely nothing it could do in late-night right now that would be as well-received as Betty White hosting SNL.

She doesn't seem to be saying no. There's a lot of no comment coming from White's camp. I can't help thinking that if she didn't want to do it, it would be awfully easy to say, "I'm incredibly honored, but I'm too busy," or whatever. The fact that she hasn't taken the opportunity to tamp down the furor makes it seem like perhaps she's at least open to it. And maybe she wants to do it.

Betty White is a bawdy, funny, versatile, high-energy lady, and she's just as much a comedy legend as, say, Milton Berle was when he hosted in 1979 or Bob Newhart was when he hosted in 1980. (Or the Smothers Brothers in 1982, or Joan Rivers in 1983 ... ) They've done this before, and this is a perfect opportunity to do it again.

The bottom line? If Saturday Night Live chooses to rest as a show that Donald Trump has hosted and Betty White never has, that's going on somebody's Permanent Shame Record.

For more pop-culture updates and advocacy for the awesome, follow us on Twitter at @nprmonkeysee.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: