My relationship with Saturday Night Live is at the point where I need to delete their number, block them on all forms of social media, and cringe whenever their name comes up in conversation.
I loved SNL. Not L-U-V. Not loosely. I had genuine affection for a sketch show that I could bond over with my dad, laugh about with my friends, and break the ice with strangers by referencing classic characters and lines. When have you been able to do that with this current cast? Kate McKinnon’s “Hillary Clinton” maybe, and then what? Another sour-faced Taran Killam creation?
Rather than develop memorable characters or be funny anymore, this current brand of SNL is all about what’s trendy and what might be viral the next day. Social media practically wrote last Saturday’s “Larry David as Bernie Sanders” cold open on the night of the Democratic Debate.
Then host Tracy Morgan was reunited with his 30 Rock cast mates for his monologue. That was terrific! Understanding how far Morgan has come since his near fatal bus accident over a year ago, it was a special moment for him and his fans. What was note-worthy after the monologue though? I changed the channel two sketches later when the writers were resorting to poop jokes and more cutaways to awkward Keenan Thompson reactions.
It’s not the Saturday Night Live I grew up with. Being a kid in the 90’s, I had Wayne’s World, Operaman, Matt Foley, and yes, Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. Characters like that made me so interested in the past and all the superstars that were produced from the show like John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy and Gilda Radner. That all made me romanticize about Second City in Chicago and how I could eventually see performers there show up on NBC every Saturday nights.
Outside of McKinnon and maybe Pete Davidson, there’s nobody in the current cast that makes me excited for what they can do after Saturday Night Live. There isn’t a Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Bill Hader or Kristen Wiig. You couldn’t pay me to suffer through another Kyle Mooney “I’m a nervous kid giving a high school presentation” bit. I’m sure Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant, and Vanessa Bayer will do fine in complimentary roles in the future, but I’m not tuning in or buying a movie ticket because of them. And Jay Pharoah’s impressions have gone from “wow, that’s dead on,” to “oh look, it’s Jay Pharoah as Jay Pharoah trying to be someone else.”
You also know it’s not your kind of show anymore when saying something critical about SNL on Twitter turns into having to block every One-Directioner, Belieber, and Demi Lovato fan that lives-and-dies by things like that, and wants you to know it. That’s right. SNL is the Justin Bieber of television. They make headlines over quality for ratings. Choosing Miley Cyrus to host your season premiere and to give Donald Trump an entire episode is more than enough proof of that. I certainly don’t plan on watching the Trump episode, but I would find some comfort in reading the next morning that musical guest Sia went Sinead O’Connor on a photo of him.
The 40th Anniversary Special last winter was everything. I hadn’t laughed that hard in years, thanks to the Celebrity Jeopardy reprisal, Bill Murray singing, and Wayne Campbell telling Kanye to sit down. They played the hits, just like you’d want to hear at classic rock band’s concert. There were clips of sketches that have lasted over four decades, and hardly anything from the current cast. It was great. It also reminded me that any of the better moments on the show recently had to do with a former cast member making a surprise appearance or hosting…and that Colin Jost still sucks.
Rather than waste more time on a Saturday evening or DVR space, I have to let SNL go. The fact I felt compelled to write over 700 words on the topic is probably a pretty good reason to (and probably get some help as well). Maybe SNL will change for the better. Maybe it will be funny again. The healthier thing for me, and perhaps you, to do is to not wait and see.