Skip to main content

'The Maya Rudolph Show': What's the verdict?

By Breeanna Hare, CNN
updated 4:07 PM EDT, Tue May 20, 2014
Leslie Jones is going from "Saturday Night Live's" writers room to the main stage. The comedic talent <a href='http://deadline.com/2014/10/leslie-jones-saturday-night-live-new-cast-member-856104/' target='_blank'>has been promoted</a> to "SNL's" main cast after getting her start behind the scenes in January. Click through to see other female SNL comedians through the years: Leslie Jones is going from "Saturday Night Live's" writers room to the main stage. The comedic talent has been promoted to "SNL's" main cast after getting her start behind the scenes in January. Click through to see other female SNL comedians through the years:
HIDE CAPTION
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
The women of 'Saturday Night Live'
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Maya Rudolph's variety special aired on NBC Monday
  • It featured cameos from her former "Saturday Night Live" co-stars
  • The ratings were nothing to sneeze at
  • But critical reaction has been more mixed

(CNN) -- There's no question that Maya Rudolph is supremely talented. The real question is whether the best home for those talents is on her own variety show.

The "Saturday Night Live" alum tested that theory on Monday night with the hour-long NBC special "The Maya Rudolph Show." Critics weren't bowled over, but the ratings were nothing to sneeze at with 7.2 million tuning in. (It probably didn't hurt that "The Maya ... Show" premiered after "The Voice," which had 11.5 million watching the first part of its season finale.)

The concept for "The Maya Rudolph Show" is a callback to the variety specials of yore, with '70s programs like "The Carol Burnett Show" and "Donny & Marie" serving as inspiration. Monday's hour included song, dance, sketches and plenty of "SNL" cameos, but unlike Rudolph's former gig, the variety show wasn't live, late night TV.

"I always really responded to the familial aspect of it and how much fun they were having, which is what I miss more than anything about 'SNL' -- my friends and laughing," Rudolph previously told Entertainment Weekly.

According to critics, Rudolph's special wasn't too short on laughs -- but it did lack cohesiveness and timeliness.

"To be honest, it was a bit of a mess -- albeit a wildly entertaining one," said The Daily Beast's Kevin Fallon. "It was a sometimes too-corny, sometimes too-raunchy, scattershot hour that was as gut-bustingly hilarious as it was completely baffling." So while "it's certainly admirable that NBC is attempting to bring the variety show back -- and they've made a genius decision in entrusting Rudolph to lead the way -- the question is whether anyone will follow, or even if they'd want to."

With audiences accustomed to watching entire networks devoted to precisely what they're in the mood for -- music, comedy or otherwise -- the variety show necessitates the sort of patience the average TV viewer may not have, argues NPR's David Bianculli. And with critics divided on whether Rudolph was magnetic enough to hold viewers' attention for an hour, it's unclear if she can single-handedly revive the retro format. (Bianculli, for one, thinks Justin Timberlake or Neil Patrick Harris would be able to do it better.)

Slate's TV critic Willa Paskin agreed that "The Maya Rudolph Show" was "pleasant without being particularly funny or memorable, odd without being urgent or edgy, scattershot without taking any big swings."

"On the strength of last night's pleasant, listless example, maybe (the variety show) needs reviving even less than pop-up video."

New York magazine's Margaret Lyons, too, wasn't quite sold that "variety is a format that makes sense on American TV in 2014," but she did think the first airing of "The Maya Rudolph Show" had its strengths.

"I hope this isn't the series' only outing because I have almost infinite positive regard for Rudolph, and I'd rather see a show like this find itself than watch another second of some hate-soaked but competent sitcom," Lyons reviewed. "But I kept wondering what the mission of 'TMRS' is, what tone it aspires to, how it sees itself, how it's supposed to feel. ... Mostly, though, the show just needs to be more."

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT