Written by Allison Lips
Variety shows are hard to pull off. There’s a reason that for every Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, the major networks have also given the world a Pink Lady & Jeff. Fortunately for the eponymous star, The Maya Rudolph Show the special won’t go down as another failed attempt at a modern take on the variety show. While The Maya Rudolph Show wasn’t the best thing ever, it was far from Rosie Live.
As with anything featuring sketch comedy, there were hits and misses. For the most part, the musical numbers hit and the sketches missed. The opening had Maya Rudolph introduce herself — a fitting homage to past variety shows and explained to those less familiar with her work why she was qualified to host her own show. The second best song was about a potential Frozen sequel, which had Kristen Bell accompany Maya under the premise that Maya was going to play her sister. The song showed Maya’s full range as a singer. It also made me realize that I’m the only person in the world who hasn’t seen Frozen.
The only sketch worth mentioning was the Garmyns, which was about a family where both parents are “famous” as in they voice GPSs. The premise had their daughter bring home her fiancé. During their first meeting, the Garmyns would mispronounce names and give confusing directions to the bathroom. The rest of the sketches were misguided, especially the Pyramid parody. The Russian socialite character wasn’t funny. Really wrong answers to game show questions are only funny when an actual contestant gives them or it’s approached like SNL’s Sean Connery Jeopardy! parody.
The Maya Rudolph Show’s supporting players were Andy Samberg, Fred Armisen, Chris Parnell, and Sean Hayes. Three former Saturday Night Live cast members and a guy probably filling out the rest of his NBC contract after Sean Saves the World flopped. Most of the time they came across as annoying or not fully into the sketch. Either they didn’t practice enough or NBC forced them to get on board with Maya’s passion project.
The highlight of The Maya Rudolph Show had nothing to do with Maya Rudolph. Janelle Monae stole the spotlight from the star and became the most memorable part of the special with her performance of “Electric Lady.” Maya is talented, but Janelle is a more captivating performer, who can sing, dance, and keep your interest without stripping.
If there is another episode of The Maya Rudolph Show, it won’t be the end of the world. It will just join the list of mediocre shows currently on television. In a world that has Netflix, YouTube, and HBO, it’s becoming clearer that the variety show belongs in a bygone era.