NEW YORK (AP) — There's no denying: The age of TV variety that found viewers flocking week after week to the likes of "Ed Sullivan" and "Carol Burnett" is long over.
But insistent reports of variety's death have been exaggerated. The latest evidence: "Maya & Marty" .
Starring Maya Rudolph and Martin Short, this NBC music-and-comedy series completes its limited run Tuesday at 10 p.m. EDT. Along with fellow regular Kenan Thompson, the finale welcomes Emma Stone and Steve Martin, with Short (as addled celebrity journalist Jiminy Glick) sitting down with Kelly Ripa.
"We're still on our feet! It's quite shocking!" Short laughed a few days after wrapping the breakneck six-episode season. "It's like you're hosting 'SNL' every week."
"It was a joy," said Rudolph. "But doing six in quick succession, we're fried!"
"Maya & Marty" debuted May 31 after months of brainstorming and with "Saturday Night Live" executive producer Lorne Michaels at the helm, tucked into the cushy berth following "America's Got Talent." It has averaged a healthy 4.5 million viewers each week while most summer newcomers have received a cold shoulder from the audience.
But now it's almost time to go.
"Like any new industry, you start by working out the kinks. And then, when you really have the kinks ironed out, it's weird to stop," Short conceded. "But like they say: Always leave 'em asking for more."
Skeptics were wondering what NBC was up to — and what Michaels was thinking — when plans for "Maya & Marty" were unveiled, especially since it was coming on the heels of NBC's much-anticipated "Best Time Ever," a variety series starring Neil Patrick Harris that failed to cause much of a stir last fall.
"Television has been recycling forms for a long time," noted Michaels, "and people like Maya and Marty — who can sing and dance and do comedy and impressions — are perfect to host the kind of show that was central to television in its first 30 or 40 years. And now the big shows on NBC like 'The Voice' and 'America's Got Talent' have their roots in variety shows. There's an audience for it."
So is "Maya & Marty" bidding farewell prematurely?
"I don't think you can do 24 anymore, like they did with 'Laugh-In' and 'Sonny & Cher,'" said Michaels, referring to the full-season demands placed on most series, including variety, in decades past. "I think you just burn out the people (doing it), and I don't think you can sustain its audience."
Instead, the idea for "Maya & Marty" was always to be a summer treat, or, in Michaels' word, "a pop-up."
But he voiced confidence that, at the right time and in the right slot, it would pop up again.
So did his stars.
"After it wrapped," said Short, "Maya and I were still discussing new ideas: 'Wouldn't it be great if ...?' 'Yeah, we gotta remember that!'"
"I could perform with Marty for the rest of my life," said Rudolph. "I don't feel like it's over."
EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at email@example.com and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier. Past stories are available at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/frazier-moore