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Maya & Marty just may save the variety TV show

By David Cote
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Last night our channel surfing was briefly arrested by the pilot broadcast of Maya & Marty, NBC’s promising new variety show headlined by Maya Rudolph and Martin Short. While at first blush M&M could seem like a prime-time meal of Saturday Night Live leftovers (Kenan Thompson as a regular? Really?!?), the mix of sketches and musical numbers carried a fresh, hopeful vibe. (I found myself able to stomach Miley Cyrus for the first time, which is something). High points included the return of Short’s obese, oleaginous entertainment reporter Jiminy Glick; Rudolph as a bizarre Civil War-era belletrist; and the final number by the chorus of Shuffle Along.

Just check out these amazing hoofers:

  

The Shuffle appearance was heartening for theater folks who long to see more representation on the small screen. Sure, the ladies of The View, Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert have had Broadway stars on the couch, but the real test is booking musical-theater numbers, week after week. Here are some shows we'd suggest for Maya & Marty: Cynthia Erivo belting out “I’m Here” from The Color Purple; “Stick It to the Man” from School of Rock; Laura Benanti doing anything she wants from She Loves Meor her own personal music collection. If they want a little downtown flavor, we dare them to invite Stew to do something from The Total Bent, his funky odyssey at the Public. We hope the comedy sketches improve with time, but Broadway talent is always there, bringing it a hundred percent eight times a week.

Maya & Marty could save the variety-show genre, but to do it, they need to keep the Great White Way in the mix.

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