Tonight marks the final original episode of MADtv, at least on FOX. The network cancelled the show last December after 14 years on the air but that doesn’t mean that the troupe is leaving gracefully.
The oft-ignored late-night comedy show has been a staple of some Saturday night rituals for nearly a generation. Current cast members include Crista Flanagan, Keegan-Michael Key, Bobby Lee, Arden Myrin, Nicole Parker, Johnny Sanchez, Erica Ash, Eric Price, Lauren Pritchard, and Matt Braunger.
This evening’s swan song brings back alumni Alex Borstein, Mo Collins, Will Sasso, and Debra Wilson Skelton, and also features comic actor Fred Willard and stand-up comedian Artie Lang. In the spoof of American Idol’s fundraising efforts, Willard hosts a telethon called “MADtv Gives Back.”
Executive producer David Salzman tells the Daily News, “We tried to come up with a finale that is in keeping with MADtv’s irreverent and un-self-serving way of doing things… I’ve been sworn to secrecy, but it is a different format than a usual show. We’re bringing back a few of our former cast members and favorite characters, and that title could give you a little bit of a clue to the direction we’re choosing.”
While MADtv has always been compared to NBC’s Saturday Night Live, Salzman believes there’s a core difference between them. He says, “Our show has always been wall-to-wall pop culture parody, putting the cast front and center and not the guest, though we’ve had great guests through the years, and one of the things we’ve tried to remain consistent about is, like Mad magazine, we put our arm around the underdog and stand up to authority.”
Of the cancellation, Salzman relates, “It was a surprise and it wasn’t a surprise. There had been rumors, so the possibility that MADtv might not continue on FOX was something we realized existed… but it seems too soon. There’s so much more for us to do.”
While this may be a fitting end to the series, Salzman maintains he’s still not giving up on the show. He notes, “We view this as the FOX finale. We’ve had 14 incredible seasons with FOX… but we are in discussions with other networks about continuing the show, though we don’t have anything definitive to talk about now.”