SNL: Five Good Minutes Followed by 60 minutes of Lameness


My reaction to last night’s Saturday Night Live premiere was the same as everybody’s: the much-hyped appearance of Tina Fey as Sarah Palin was fine, and almost everything else was boring.

I don’t blame Michael Phelps for that. Phelps is not telegenic, not particularly handsome, not really a showbiz type — that’s part of his appeal, that he’s a great athlete who’s a little awkward when not doing what he does best. Anyway, there’s no reason why he should be good at hosting a comedy show, and SNL was lucky to get him, rather than the other way around; if the SNL writers can’t figure out ways to write around the limitations of a non-actor as host, that’s their problem, not the host’s.

One thing that SNL has had a problem with for a long time, but seems to be getting worse, is the non-specific nature of the writing and the characters. Comics are usually at their best when they’re given something specific to play, either a specific celebrity or political figure, or a very specific type. They’re at their worst, at least in the SNL format, when given non-specific characters like Family Member or Couple in Restaurant (have you noticed that 50% of all comedy sketches ever written involve a couple going to a restaurant where the waiters are wacky?) or even generic types like the characters in the quiz show sketch; with not much time to write or rehearse, it’s no wonder they can’t make anything specific out of these things. It’s personal taste, of course, but I find I enjoy these performers’ work more when they’re given an established character to riff on — like Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin or the celebrities on the Match Game sketch last season — rather than trying to make up a character on the spot.


SNL: Five Good Minutes Followed by 60 minutes of Lameness

  1. Perhaps it’s the difference between cringing at the characters and cringing at the actors.

  2. I’d have to give them the benefit of the doubt, and say it was the last minute pull out by Senator Obama. That made the skits that were going to carry the show non-existent.

  3. Kenan Thompson still has a job at SNL. Sigh.

  4. I agree about the assessment of last night’s show.

    Overall I like Kenan Thompson though. He had a great sketch last year or the year before playing Colin Powell as Fred Sanford (Red Fox). It was buried in the last half hour when it should have opened the show.

    I don’t get Wiig’s cashier character in the Target skits — is she supposed to be on crystal meth or something?

  5. Overall, I find SNL to to be just…not very good.

    I don’t know if it is because they are afraid of breaking rules(censorship, comedy conventions, etc), or if they are afraid of trying something new…And I dont even know who the “they” is anymore.

    All I know, is that SNL started out as a Variety show, and that it has become a mundane, repetitive waste of time. This is coming from someone who holds Monty Python and KITH up as a comparison mind you, and those shows are admittedly pretty out there.

    Having said that, if SNL were “out there”, I’d definatly watch. For now tho, I’ll look back fondly on the 80’s and early 90’s, when it was still cool to be different.

  6. I am in love with Krisen Wiig.

  7. Thank God for my pvr. The opening Palin/Clinton skit was brilliant. Comedic acting at its very best. But almost everything else on the show was a waste of time.
    The news was ok, while they were doing the news. But the news “guests” were bloody awful. Alaska Pete was the best of the 3, but the Cathy bit and the “political humourist” were unwatchable. Samberg is the least talented member of the cast.

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