SNL40: The Bad
Wenn, NBC/ Getty Images
And now for everything that reminds us that Saturday Night Live is never quite as good as we want it to be.
Actors impersonating characters
During the “Weekend Update” bit several actors appeared as famous SNL characters. Emma Stone impersonated Gilda Radner’s “Roseanne Roseannadanna”, Melissa McCarthy attempted to take on Chris Farley and “Matt Foley”, and Edward Norton almost got there with “Stefon” and Bill Hader. None of this really worked. Norton/”Stefon” was the best of the worst because Hader himself butted in as the real “Stefon” to correct the impression, but on the whole, this bit just proved that truly great comedians cannot be replaced or replicated. This also goes for the Blues Brothers revival which no one ever asks for or wants to see—without John Belushi, there is no bit.
This sketch kills me. SNL insists on acting like everyone enjoys it, but outside Southern California, no one does. The sketches on Portlandia work because hipsters exist everywhere, so anyone can laugh at hipster behavior. But unless you live in Southern California, how are you supposed to know that people really do talk constantly about the best routes for driving around town? They want this to be an era-defining sketch, like “Wayne’s World”, but unless the era you’re defining is “the sh*tty years”, it’s just not that level of material.
THAT’S IT? After all the hype and build-up, Murphy’s big return to SNL was a humorless introduction segment. Maybe Murphy wasn’t up to revisiting one of his (many) characters, but if he wasn’t, why even bother? Having Murphy on only to NOT deliver anything of substance was a waste of everyone’s time. I’d much rather have a short montage of his work from his years on the show than have the genuine article on stage, doing nothing.
The loss of absurdity
During Bill Murray’s left-field ode to Jaws, I realized that the ingredient that’s been missing from SNL in ever-increasing amounts is absurdity. Seeing clips from classic sketches, especially the stuff from the 1970s, reminded me that SNL built its foundation on the absurd. Every new season we ask how to fix SNL, well here’s how—start swinging for the left field fence.
The Run Time
The show went over its allotted three and a half hour run time, which is apropos. SNL sketches always go on too long.
Too many contemporary bits
Celebrating forty years of Saturday Night Live, the anniversary special skewed heavily toward material from the last fifteen years. Early cast members were brought back and did little to nothing, while more recent stars participated in actual sketches and fully developed bits. It was refreshing to see Laraine Newman in “The Californians”—though I wonder how many younger viewers wondered who she was—and Jane Curtain was great at the “Weekend Update” desk, but on the whole, this didn’t feel like a forty-year celebration, it felt like a twenty-year reunion. And that’s probably the best metaphor for SNL there is—it never quite delivers on what it promises.