'The Maya Rudolph Show' is what entertainment television needs

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Maya Rudolph’s eponymous variety show debuted on NBC May 19th and pulled in a solid 7.23 million viewers, beating out the Bachelorette premiere. Helmed by the multi-talented Saturday Night Live alum, Bridesmaids star and Prince cover band member Maya Rudolph, the show was an hour of quality entertainment.

The variety show format, which reached its peak in the 1970s with the Carol Burnett Show, is similar to today’s sketch comedies, but with more cheesiness, singing, dancing and tons of celebrity cameos.

For her show, Rudolph paid homage to all of that and maybe even upped the cheesiness factor with her hyper self-aware opening number. Not only did she go through several outfit changes, dance with the Laker Girls and introduce her own hashtag, she also requested and received a pony.  Her reaction to that, mid-song, was  “Yay! I got a pony!” It was such a goofy and over the top way to open the show that viewers could not help but laugh.

Fellow SNL favorites Andy Samberg and Fred Armisen joined in on the fun as well as Will and Grace star Sean Hayes. The Garmyn Family sketch was a stand-out during the debut. Frozen star Kristen Bell played a daughter bringing her boyfriend (Samberg) to meet her parents, (Rudolph and Armisen) who happened to be the ubiquitous voices behind the Garymn GPS car devices. There were numerous laugh out loud moments, and unlike your typical SNL sketch, it was genuinely funny and not a second too long.
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Craig Robinson (The Office) also popped in for a “deez nuts” sketch that was pretty funny. Aside from that and a few other slightly risqué jokes, the Maya Rudolph Show was family friendly. The more adult-themed jokes would likely go over the heads of younger children.

Rudolph can actually sing (she’s the daughter of the late great Minnie Ripperton), and she held her own during a skit with Bell about making a sequel to Frozen.  The musical guest for the show was the red-lipsticked, pompadoured bundle of feel-good energy known as Janelle Monae.  She sang and danced to “Electric Lady”as the show’s band leader Raphael Saadiq looked on. Saadiq is best known for being the lead vocalist of the platinum-selling R&B group Tony Toni Tonè.  Perhaps The Roots serving as the house band for Jimmy Fallon was part of the inspiration for Saadiq to take on the variety show gig.

The best thing about the show is that this is the brainchild of a multi-talented, creative black woman. She is the face and running force of the Maya Rudolph Show.  You get the impression that Rudolph is not attempting to “represent all black women” or consciously off-set some of the more negative entertainment on television today.

She seems to just be enjoying herself and wanting to share her laughter and love of life with the public.  It’s refreshing to be able to watch television without cringing, feeling guilty or fighting the urge to start a Change.org petition because of the debauchery on your screen.

The show was not flawless. There were sketches that felt disjointed (one included a dying grandmother and dancing eyebrows) and a few jokes fell flat, but overall it was an enjoyable experience.

Did you check out the Maya Rudolph Show? What did you think?

Follow Demetria Irwin on Twitter at @Love_Is_Dope and connect with her on Facebook.