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Feb. 12 2010 - 6:50 pm | 2,332 views | 0 recommendations | 5 comments

How Betty White got screwed by the Winter Olympics

NEW YORK - JUNE 11:  Actress Betty White atten...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

She’s the hottest octogenarian ever. Golden Girl Betty White may have started her showbiz career in the 1940s but these days you haven’t hit the big time until you’ve gone viral. Now, finally, the 88-year-old actress has arrived: Betty White is a real live meme.

More than 245,000 people have joined a Facebook campaign suggesting Betty White host Saturday Night Live. You hear that and you think, “Huh. Good idea, Internets.” The Facebook page Betty White to Host SNL (please?)! has been gathering momentum with status updates and blog posts and twittering and re-twittering.
Are you listening, Lorne Michaels?

Dear Lorne Michaels...Please let Betty White host SNL.  Love, the Internets.

Dear Lorne Michaels...Please let Betty White host SNL. Love, the Internets

You can’t really call this a comeback since Betty White never went away. She is on quite a streak, though, the kind  that makes Chevy Chase, Mickey Rourke and Jay Leno drool with envy.

The streak started with Betty White’s role in the movie The Proposal, alongside Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. Is she funny in the movie? Yes. But she’s even funnier in this behind-the-scenes spoof.

That sent Betty White and the phrase “ab-crunching jackass” into the digital galaxy. In the past month, though, Betty kicked it up three notches:
1. She accepted the SAG Lifetime Achievement award with this line: “I look out at this audience and I see so many famous faces. But what really boggles my mind is that I actually know many of you. And I’ve worked with quite a few. ::beat:: Maybe had a couple.”

2. She was the surprise star of a Super Bowl ad:

3. She became the subject of the aforementioned grassroots Facebook campaign to get her to host Saturday Night Live, which prompted coverage from NPR and the New York Times.

All good, right?  Wrong.  As Betty White knows, timing is everything.  In this case, the timing could not be more off. You see, there is a new formula for today’s multimedia economy:

Digital Presence + Story Arc = Window of Opportunity

In the past, the Window of Opportunity would stay open weeks at a time.  As information immediacy grew with blogging and Facebook and Twitter, the WoO closed bit by bit.   Television has four Sweeps periods each year; in the digital world every day is Sweeps.  Scratch that, every hour is Sweeps.  Looking at the formula in Betty White’s case, the timeline is pretty clear.   Her digital presence is high, her story arc is peaking, the window of opportunity is now.  She should be on Saturday Night Live tomorrow night.

Enter the Winter Olympics.  More than 2,500 athletes from 80+ countries over 17 days  are collectively ruining the Betty White SNL dream.  All that Olympic-ness is on NBC, home of — you got it — Saturday Night Live.   In fact, SNL isn’t even on the air tomorrow night.  The next show is scheduled for February 27th with Jennifer Lopez as host.   Anything can happen between now and then, 15 days is an eternity in the tweet life.  One thing, though, will most certainly occur:  the Betty White momentum will stall.  Might she still appear on SNL?  Very possibly.  Will we still tune in on a Saturday night two weeks from now with hopeful anticipation?  Very possibly not.  If it happens, we’ll catch it on Hulu the next day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see Betty White host SNL.  It’s exactly the kind of surprise that show needs.  But the meme-line demands it happen now to take advantage of the build-up, the Betty White mind-meld.  With the 2010 Winter Olympics starting tonight, we’re already off meme’ing about Vancouver and luge and the fateful turn of events.

Still, the idea of Betty White on SNL is too good to let it fall into the short-attention-span precipice. So Lorne Michaels, here’s what you should do:  Make Betty White a regular. Have her join the cast of Saturday Night Live.  Let Betty White pop in and out of every show in an unexpected and surprising way.   She can sing with Samberg.  Report the news with Seth.  Hijack JLo’s monologue — or better yet, sing and dance backup.

We’ll never know when she’ll show up or how, but we’ll all keep watching and waiting for Betty White.   If you really want to shake things up, don’t even tell the cast members which skits she’ll be in.   Let’s see what happens when you go off-script with improvisation and ad-lib.  A cameo by Abe Vigoda wouldn’t hurt, either.

The new meme starts now:  Put Betty White on SNL, and put the Live back into Saturday Night.


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  1. collapse expand

    I’ve already joined the petition. Betty White has far better comedic timing than the rest of the current SNL crew put together- she would be an invaluable mentor as well. I don’t think they’ve recovered from the loss of Tina Fey.
    Though I pray she be spared from the Digital Shorts. Let’s just not cross that line.

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