NBC will go live from New York! as usual on Saturday Night. But James Franco’s hosting turn on Saturday Night Live doesn’t air until 11:30. Before that another charming James will occupy the screen for the NBC. At 8pm the reliably colorful peacock network will air a black-and-white film from 1946. The choice is perhaps the polar opposite of live–not a single actor portraying a major character remains among the living–but it’s a film that seems destined to live forever: It’s A Wonderful Life.
James Franco has no enviable task in following James Stewart as Stewart gets the moon for Mary and saves Pottersville for umpteen-thousandth time. And remarkably each time–for most viewers, anyway–the powerful conclusion of Frank Capra’s most enduring film is a tear-jerking revelation about what’s important in life. Stewart’s character George Bailey famously starts out wanting to “see the world” but never gets beyond the town he grew up in. Yet what irony that all these years later the world has come to see him instead, over and over again. It’s A Wonderful Life was based on a short story written by Phillip Van Doren Stern, which he self-published in 1943, years after he wrote it. Or did Clarence publish it? We’ll never know. NBC invites more millions tonight at 8pm.