SNL Backstage

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Of all network television shows, NBC's "Saturday Night Live" arguably has benefited the most from online video thanks to such breakout YouTube hits as "Lazy Sunday" and "Dick in a Box." Now "SNL Backstage," a recent addition to NBC.com, gives viewers a glimpse behind the scenes, through video tours and interviews with producers and hosts, of television's longest-running sketch-comedy program.

It's humorous. It's entertaining. It's the "inside baseball" of professional funny.

How appropriate. Audiences can't get enough behind-the-comedy-scenes these days between NBC's "30 Rock" and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." If you've watched those shows, "Backstage" can be unnerving. Almost as if you've seen "Backstage" before, but with better lighting.

Beyond videos, "Backstage" offers interviews with "SNL" costume designers and makeup artists ("The Dressing Room") and biographical info on musical guests such as Neil Young and Britney Spears ("The Green Room"). The "Library" section offers an interactive timeline of "SNL" history, a trivia game and desktop wallpaper downloads.

But the videos are the main attraction. "SNL" producer Marci Klein hosts, and wouldn't you know it, many of the interview subjects are actors on "Rock," which makes the videos an extended exercise in product placement. If you haven't hosted ("Rock" star Tracy Morgan), Klein asks you if you would host. If you have hosted ("Rock" star Alec Baldwin), Klein asks you how many times. If you're about to host (Chris Rock), Klein asks you what it's like looking forward to hosting.

At times "Backstage" feels like a promo reel for Klein: Marci with James Downey. Marci with Tracy Morgan. Marci tours the wardrobe room. Marci, Marci, Marci!

The most entertaining clip (there are 13 so far, plus a trailer) is the one that feels the most surreptitious. We're privileged to see Andy Samberg meet Lily Allen with a handshake, then Drew Barrymore arrives to shoot a promo teaser for that week's show. The camera dwells on each actor, and on some of the supporting crew, but pans away each time the subject notices. Reality TV, without the aping for the TV.

In other segments the camera pulls back from Klein and her subject to show the boom mike and the cameramen taping the interview. At that point you're getting the backstage look at the backstage series. You wonder: Are there cameramen lined up down the hallway and spilling out into Rockefeller Center, onto 6th Avenue, an infinite regression of people filming each other film each other? Probably. I guess we call that YouTube.
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