When it comes to legendarily cool decade-to-location combinations, it’s indisputable fact that Seattle in the ‘90s is second only to London in the ‘60s, and still probably the cooler of the two. I say this not because of guys like Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder (neither of whom was technically even from Seattle, for the record), but because of Almost Live!, Seattle’s painfully, lovably low-budget answer to Saturday Night Live that ran on the local NBC affiliate from 1984 – 1999.
Most weekends during my childhood involved settling around the TV for some age-inappropriate, highly specific local sketch comedy, courtesy of the show that served as the launching pad for both Bill Nye the Science Guy and Joel McHale. More importantly, Almost Live! functions as an immaculate time capsule of the frumpy boomtimes that once graced the Emerald City. These were the days when Microsoft employees were untouchable, jokes about elaborate espresso orders were still (somewhat) fresh, and slam dunks in Seattle were still possible because the Super Sonics hadn’t yet been sold to another city and destroyed. These were our wonder years.
I have to admit, the show was and still is unbelievably hit or miss. Some material, like this game show where contestants have to guess if a business is on Pike or Pine Street is so Seattle-centric that it’s more or less useless to the majority of viewers. Some is charmingly dated, like the Lame List (Or, “What’s Weak This Week”), which featured local members of bands like Soundgarden, Bitter End, and Forced Entry giving a weekly roundup of things that were, obviously, lame. And some sketches, like the High Five’N White Guys, are still just right:
Yes, that’s Bill Nye in unflattering shorts, high five’n in Canada with the best of them, and no, there has never been a trope more quintessentially American than a roaming pack of inexplicably beloved, self-satisfied, and totally unchecked white men. Will such a mirror ever be held up to our society again? Oh, right.