Critics Can Relax -- Brian Williams Hits Home Run as Saturday Night Live Host
Aside from the appearance by Barack Obama in the show's open -- which threatened to overshadow his entire appearance -- NBC anchor Brian Williams did himself proud as host of Saturday Night Live last night.
First and best of all, he was funny -- playing an intimidated New York fireman with spot-on skill and summing all his anchor guy pomposity for a digital short on what exactly he does all day (supportive phone calls to himself and hour spent watching his own past newscasts are key). Secondly, he brought the funny in several sketches without making himself look silly or compromising his image as a newsman.
Of course, he did play himself admitting that the media want Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic nomination. But that's true, so that can't hurt him.
Williams joked in the beginning about other newsmen who had done SNL, eventually admitting they were played by actors doing impressions. But the list of notables who have done the show -- from NBC correposdent Edwin Newman to journalist Jimmy Breslin and Sen. John McCain -- shows several leaders and reporters have hosted the show without ruining their credibility.
Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz notes several times in his new book Reality Show that NBC executives have tried to hard to get Williams to show some of the wit which makes his TV talk show appearances so engaging. And while I admire his steadfast refusal to bring the funny in his main job, I don't think it hurts his crediblity or the world of TV journalism that he's taken a calculated and well-thought-out step outside his own particular box.
See for yourself by checking out this parody of the Nightly News opening, casting williams as a Bond-style adventurer: