Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Should SNL's Brittany Murphy Skit Be Pulled?

The Brittany Murphy sketch on Saturday Night Live two weeks ago was mildly funny at best, more noteworthy for the fact that it skewed an actress that hadn't done a notable movie in some time, and was not much in the public eye recently. Her biggest hits--Clueless, 8 Mile--were over five years old, and she was a voice in a relatively low-profile show, King of the Hill. It was one of those bits that you knew the writers threw out in a desperate attempt for an idea, and they had a somewhat competent actress able to play her (Abby Elliot, best known for her Angelina Jolie "bebes" bit; this was a good try, but the whole thing was just not good), and it made it onto the air. In normal circumstances, the piece would be forgotten.

But Brittany Murphy died suddenly and tragically, so far without explanation, last week, and the eerie timing of the piece was uncomfortable. And with the web and Hulu, things live online. So while most people were unaware of the Brittany Murphy sketch, it floated to the top of the heap, spurned by those arts aggregators and the few who were actually watching NBC at 12:20 am on a Sunday.

Now, it makes sense that NBC and Hulu (which NBC partly owns) would pull it out of respect. It's not funny, and it doesn't have anything to say. It prevents this now-gruesome mockery from becoming further terrible, obscuring the actual actress and her work. Does this mean that it should be forever gone? Is that restricted to the web (where bootlegs can surface)? Does SNL have an obligation never to air it again, whether in reruns on NBC or on other sites like Comedy Central? What about DVDs and the like? While I doubt that this piece will be considered one of Abby Elliot's standouts (let's hope), does it really deserve to be buried because of unfortunate timing? Is it just a matter of timing, that in another few weeks or months the clip will quietly resurface? That is probably the most likely case, since while the piece was in bad taste (though there are plenty that say the Tiger Woods sketch was way worse), it only suffered from bad timing. If this sketch had happened a year ago, even a few months ago, it wouldn't be as big a deal, though it would suffer from the same problem.

Was Brittany Murphy even aware of the sketch? Was she bothered by it? That would be interesting to know.

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