"Maya & Marty" Is The Summer's Biggest Flop

"Maya & Marty" Is The Summer's Biggest Flop

NBC's latest clunker is all flash, no substance

I have, for many years, explained to anyone who would listen that there is no reason why the variety show is no longer a staple of television. After they inevitably change the subject out of disinterest, I think to myself about how, aside from Saturday Night Live, we have no programming comparable to the hit-or-miss shows of the 1960s and '70s, shows which offered a myriad of entertainers crammed into a single hour. The fact that so many genres of television, most significantly talk shows (which have become little more than a string of viral-worthy clips), have learned to adapt to the capricious tastes of modern viewers makes the inability of variety shows, seemingly tailor-made for the viral age, to gain footing all the more baffling.

NBC, hot on the heels of a failed, Neil Patrick Harris-led attempt to reboot the genre, has created Maya & Marty, a variety show starring Maya Rudolph and Martin Short. The show is doubly burdened by both the palpable lack of chemistry between the stars and by the painfully evident fact that the show is fighting an uphill battle to raise an entire genre from the dead. One skit from the second episode makes it clear that the writers would rather create a schmaltzy tribute to a bygone era than offer a fresh take on an obsolete style. In it, guest star Tina Fey joins Maya Rudolph in a medley of songs such as "Wedding Bell Blues" and "Da Doo Ron Ron," including Rudolph employing her always-funny Charo impression for "Love Will Keep Us Together." They discuss the impact of Carol Burnett, Donny & Marie, Sonny & Cher, and The Mandrell Sisters, and, because Carol Burnett is quite honestly the only person mentioned whose show can and should be taken seriously, the tribute is less emotional than it is hokey. It does little in the way of tugging heartstrings or eliciting laughter and only serves to remind the viewer of just how long it's been since a variety show drew in a sizable enough audience to warrant mention. Whether this trip down memory lane is meant to be self-congratulatory or a genuine ode to their predecessors, it falls flat and renders the episode a slipshod pastiche as opposed to something fresh and novel.

All that's missing is the obligatory mediocre guest star(s)

Worse still, is the fact that the tribute (if it can be called that) is sandwiched between two period pieces, one set in the 1920s, and another set in the 1980s. The "roarin' '20s" was a well-trodden trope of television by even the standards of the 1970s, and underscores the fact that the only ones putting forth effort are the show's stars; Maya Rudolph, with her irreverent, spot-on impressions, and Martin Short, with his frenetic, puppyish-despite-his-age style. The greatest variety shows of all time relied, aside from an occasional skit or musical number, on contemporary culture for their humor. Maya & Marty is covering familiar territory which was done better four decades ago.

The first foray into the relatively recent is a skit in which Martin, Maya, Tina, and Steve Martin play two over-the-hill, yuppie-esque couples meeting in a restaurant. The skit, which attempts to lampoon the self-obsessed elite, is a toothless rehash of jokes made a decade ago by Saturday Night Live's recurring "Two A**holes" and Rudolph's far superior Nooni Schooner character. The biggest laugh comes from Kenan Thompson, playing a waiter, approaching and mentioning that he "took a single glance at [their] table and [has been] avoiding" them, if only because the viewer can relate to his instinctive dislike of the characters. With so much combined talent, the blame can only be placed squarely on a writing team that would rather earn a paycheck than produce noteworthy comedy.

Because of both my adoration of the stars and my desire to see a flourishing variety show on television, I will not pass definitive judgement on Maya & Marty. If they can stop relying on the crutch of acknowledging the difficulty of reigniting public interest in an art form as irrelevant as vaudeville and separate themselves from the pervasive influence of Saturday Night Live, they will have no difficulty attracting an audience. In the meantime, I'll be watching the real thing, praying that something of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour's controversy and caliber returns to television, and soon.

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A Letter To My Humans On Our Last Day Together

We never thought this day would come.

I didn't sleep much last night after I saw your tears. I would have gotten up to snuggle you, but I am just too weak. We both know my time with you is coming close to its end, and I just can't believe it how fast it has happened.

I remember the first time I saw you like it was yesterday.

You guys were squealing and jumping all around, because you were going home with a new dog. Dad, I can still feel your strong hands lifting me from the crate where the rest of my puppy brothers and sisters were snuggled around my warm, comforting puppy Momma. You held me up so that my chunky belly and floppy wrinkles squished my face together, and looked me right in the eyes, grinning, “She's the one."

I was so nervous on the way to my new home, I really didn't know what to expect.

But now, 12 years later as I sit in the sun on the front porch, trying to keep my wise, old eyes open, I am so grateful for you. We have been through it all together.

Twelve “First Days of School." Losing your first teeth. Watching Mom hang great tests on the refrigerator. Letting you guys use my fur as a tissue for your tears. Sneaking Halloween candy from your pillowcases.

Keeping quiet while Santa put your gifts under the tree each year. Never telling Mom and Dad when everyone started sneaking around. Being at the door to greet you no matter how long you were gone. Getting to be in senior pictures. Waking you up with big, sloppy kisses despite the sun not even being up.

Always going to the basement first, to make sure there wasn't anything scary. Catching your first fish. First dates. Every birthday. Prom pictures. Happily watching dad as he taught the boys how to throw every kind of ball. Chasing the sticks you threw, even though it got harder over the years.

Cuddling every time any of you weren't feeling well. Running in the sprinkler all summer long. Claiming the title “Shotgun Rider" when you guys finally learned how to drive. Watching you cry in mom and dads arms before your graduation. Feeling lost every time you went on vacation without me.

Witnessing the awkward years that you magically all overcame. Hearing my siblings learn to read. Comforting you when you lost grandma and grandpa. Listening to your phone conversations. Celebrating new jobs. Licking your scraped knees when you would fall.

Hearing your shower singing. Sidewalk chalk and bubbles in the sun. New pets. Family reunions. Sleepovers. Watching you wave goodbye to me as the jam-packed car sped up the driveway to drop you off at college. So many memories in what feels like so little time.

When the time comes today, we will all be crying. We won't want to say goodbye. My eyes might look glossy, but just know that I feel your love and I see you hugging each other. I love that, I love when we are all together.

I want you to remember the times we shared, every milestone that I got to be a part of.

I won't be waiting for you at the door anymore and my fur will slowly stop covering your clothes. It will be different, and the house will feel empty. But I will be there in spirit.

No matter how bad of a game you played, how terrible your work day was, how ugly your outfit is, how bad you smell, how much money you have, I could go on; I will always love you just the way you are. You cared for me and I cared for you. We are companions, partners in crime.

To you, I was simply a part of your life, but to me, you were my entire life.

Thank you for letting me grow up with you.

Love always,

Your family dog

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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From One Nerd To Another

My contemplation of the complexities between different forms of art.


Aside from reading Guy Harrison's guide to eliminating scientific ignorance called, "At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life" and, "The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer" by Charles Graeber, an informative and emotional historical account explaining the potential use of our own immune systems to cure cancer, I read articles and worked on my own writing in order to keep learning while enjoying my winter break back in December. I also took a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.

I wish I was artistic. Generally, I walk through museums in awe of what artists can do. The colors and dainty details simultaneously inspire me and remind me of what little talent I posses holding a paintbrush. Walking through the Guggenheim was no exception. Most of the pieces are done by Hilma af Klint, a 20th-century Swedish artist expressing her beliefs and curiosity about the universe through her abstract painting. I was mostly at the exhibit to appease my mom (a K - 8th-grade art teacher), but as we continued to look at each piece and read their descriptions, I slowly began to appreciate them and their underlying meanings.

I like writing that integrates symbols, double meanings, and metaphors into its message because I think that the best works of art are the ones that have to be sought after. If the writer simply tells you exactly what they were thinking and how their words should be interpreted, there's no room for imagination. An unpopular opinion in high school was that reading "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was fun. Well, I thought it was. At the beginning of the book, there's a scene where Hawthorne describes a wild rosebush that sits just outside of the community prison. As you read, you are free to decide whether it's an image of morality, the last taste of freedom and natural beauty for criminals walking toward their doom, or a symbol of the relationship between the Puritans with their prison-like expectations and Hester, the main character, who blossoms into herself throughout the novel. Whichever one you think it is doesn't matter, the point is that the rosebush can symbolize whatever you want it to. It's the same with paintings - they can be interpreted however you want them to be.

As we walked through the building, its spiral design leading us further and further upwards, we were able to catch glimpses of af Klint's life through the strokes of her brush. My favorite of her collections was one titled, "Evolution." As a science nerd myself, the idea that the story of our existence was being incorporated into art intrigued me. One piece represented the eras of geological time through her use of spirals and snails colored abstractly. She clued you into the story she was telling by using different colors and tones to represent different periods. It felt like reading "The Scarlet Letter" and my biology textbook at the same time. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing ever, but to me it was heaven. Art isn't just art and science isn't just science. Aspects of different studies coexist and join together to form something amazing that will speak to even the most untalented patron walking through the museum halls.

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