Ty Burr says a ''Dieter''-less future may not be such a bad thing

By Ty Burr
Updated June 14, 2000 at 12:00 PM EDT

Why ”Saturday Night Live” spin-off movies aren’t alright

So Universal Pictures is suing Mike Myers to the tune of (and please read the following figure in the voice of Dr. Evil) $3.8 MILLION dollars, because the star has bailed out of a planned movie version of ”Sprockets,” that skit he used to do on ”Saturday Night Live” featuring Dieter the black-wearing Teutonic art-slime. The film was also going to be called ”Dieter,” and it was to have costarred David Hasselhoff. The plot involved something about the hero searching Los Angeles for his missing monkey. Myers is making countersuit noises, accusing Universal of fraud. Universal is panicking because they no longer have a ”big picture” for the summer of 2001.

The moviegoing public, meanwhile, would be right to offer their hosannas to heaven. Why? Because this means there will be one less pitiful, ”SNL”-derived ”comedy” clogging up theaters.

Face it, have there been ANY feature films spun off from the aging comedy franchise that haven’t been embarrassing crap? Okay, one: ”Wayne’s World” had some good horse laughs. Other than that, it’s been one long run of smug waste, from the lazy car crashes of ”The Blues Brothers” to recent farragoes like ”It’s Pat,” ”A Night at the Roxbury,” and ”Superstar”.

Why do movie suits keep cranking these puppies out like sausages? Simple: built-in brand recognition. Who cares if any particular recurring skit ceased to be funny the third time around on the show? It’s still being beamed into the brains of millions of home viewers too credulous, tired, or wasted to change channels. There doesn’t even have to BE a plot: They could film a plate of Jell-O, title it ”Mango,” and be guaranteed a decent opening weekend. Factor in the video and cable sales, and you’ve recouped your investment.

In other words, creativity ain’t a necessary part of the mix when it comes to SNL films — they’re franchise extensions no different from (and often as thin as) a T-shirt. So why is Universal hanging its summer slate on one bad idea? Beats me. Mike Myers is some kind of genius, but even he can’t figure out a way to turn a 4-minute shtick into a 90-plus minute experience (maybe he learned his lesson from the anti-movie mess that was ”Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”). In a public statement last week, the comedian said, ”The question from the beginning has always been can ‘Sprockets’ move beyond a sketch into being a full length feature film, and despite my greatest efforts, I have not been able to achieve that.”

And for this he’s being sued? A grateful nation should be PAYING him.

Episode Recaps

Saturday Night Live

The original late-night comedy sketch show from the one and only Lorne Michaels.

  • TV Show
  • 46
  • TV-14
  • Saturdays at 11:30 PM
  • Lorne Michaels
  • NBC
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