The variety show died a long time ago, yet NBC keeps trying to revive the format from the grave. The network’s latest attempt is Maya and Marty, which stars Maya Rudolph and Martin Short. On paper, the concept couldn’t be better: two veteran performers who can sing, dance, and make an audience laugh entertain us for an hour.
Reality hits Maya and Marty hard. Instead of a campy throwback to variety/comedy shows of the past, the result is a third-rate Saturday Night Live. The show survives solely on the audience’s goodwill toward the show’s likeable hosts and guests. None of the premiere’s segments were funny.
It was all downhill from the cold open, which was called “The Astronaut” and had Tom Hanks’ character pretend to be in space because he wanted nothing to do with his wife. That sketch was followed by what was supposed to pass for a monologue. A poor sketch about Steve Harvey’s Little Big Shots was thrown in to promote that show, poke fun at Steve Harvey’s bugged-eyed expression, and give the audience a chance to watch Jimmy Fallon literally roll on the floor laughing. To make matters worse, NBC hyped the Melania’s “Edible Diamonds” sketch, which made no sense and wasn’t helped by the fact that it was nothing more than a silly accent. Both an Abraham Lincoln sketch and a Goodnight Moon sketch continued the pattern of Marty and Maya’s comedy falling flat.
The only respite was when Larry David laughed through an entire Jiminy Glick sketch. While the sketch was far from funny, it was nice to see that Larry David is more than his Curb Your Enthusiasm character.
Somewhere in this mess of a show, Miley Cyrus performed two songs with her natural southern twang. Neither was very good, but it’s not because Miley has a bad voice. She was clearly having an off night. When Maya Rudolph joined Miley on stage, the performance got better, which isn’t saying much.
The highlight of the night was the cast of Shuffle Along, whose performance should have been at the beginning of Maya and Marty. Had the Broadway show not been buried at the end of mediocrity, it would draw the audience at home into Broadway theater seats. It’s a shame that the best part of the show was the ending segment.
Maya and Marty suffers from a lack of comedy in a comedy show. Even the supposed-to-be adoring studio audience laughed only a handful of times during the show. If NBC’s smart, it’ll learn the lesson that brilliance on paper doesn’t always translate into Must See TV. While the show will probably finish out its initial order, there’s no salvaging the show that makes Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris look good.