Hate-Watching “Saturday Night Live”

Can everyone in the room who still watches Saturday Night Live raise their hand?

Okay, you two – now put your hand down if you genuinely enjoy it. Now put your hand down if you use SNL to put your kids, partner, or cockatiel to sleep.

Now stop pretending that anyone else in the room had their hand up to begin with, Brian, because you are seriously the last idiot in God’s green acres who still gives SNL a shot the two or three times a year that it’s not a Justin Timberlake rerun.

Saturday Night Live has become that distant aunt that the whole family pretends is doing just fine even though she is hoarding cats and crafting an army of creepy pantyhose children because no one wants to be saddled with the responsibility of actually having to do anything about her.  It hasn’t really been truly amazing television since the Ford administration – and between the trailblazing early years and the late-’80s revival (and then again after) it was stuck in what apologists would refer to as an “uneven” spell. You know what’s “uneven”? A poorly-poured driveway. The distribution of wealth. Home-cut bangs. At this point SNL is a certifiable hot mess.

And still, I – like literally DOZENS of other die-hard fans out there – sit down every Sunday morning (what, like anyone actually watches Saturday Night Live live?) with one finger glued to the FF button to see what sketches I’ll be complaining about at my SNL Survivors support group.

Why We Watch It

  • Nostalgia. Like it or not, it’s an American television institution. Like Regis Philbin, or Dick Clark. Neither of whom are on the air anymore.
  • The Juggalo ads with DJ Supersoak and Lil Blaster – they are so random yet perfectly spot-on that they work. And who doesn’t love a Female Gremlin reference?
  • The unconvincing smiles on the band members’ faces as they sit behind the guest host during the monolog
  • Stefon. Sorry, haters – he’s a treasure.
  • The standing chance that Jon Hamm will appear for no reason
  • The pre-shot fake ads have always been some of the show’s funniest bits, and the Digital Shorts are usually high points as well. And considering that with DVR no one watches the show live anymore, why not ditch the live aspect and focus on making a really solid pre-taped sketch show instead?
  • Jay Pharoah is brilliant. Even though the skits that happen at the high school never go anywhere, I still watch to hear him say “Attention teachersandSTUdents.”
  • The holidays are no longer complete without Drunk Uncle.
  • Plain and simple, there’s a serious shortage of options when it comes to televised sketch comedy, which I have loved since I stumbled across Kids in the Hall as a pre-teen and promptly had my mind blown. Alas, one can rewatch Chappelle’s Show reruns only so many times.

Why We Hate It

  • The opening political sketch, which I stopped watching after Tina Fey wisely decided that she no longer wanted to be the guy who graduated from high school three years ago but still hangs out by his car in the parking lot letting kids bum cigarettes and look at the porn in his trunk and stopped doing Sarah Palin. For me, the Fast Forward usually doesn’t come off until that big clock on the monolog stage tells us it’s time to meet our guest host.
  • The randomness of the hosts. In its first season, SNL‘s guest hosts included comedy legends George Carlin, Rob Reiner, Madeline Kahn, Buck Henry, Lily Tomlin, Candice Bergen, Richard Pryor, Robert Klein, Elliott Gould, Dudley Moore, and Dick Cavett. In the past year, guest hosts have included comedy legends Eli Manning, Lindsay Lohan, Charles Barkley, and Bruno Mars.
  • Don’t even get me started on the musical guests – mostly because I can’t remember any of them. Even when there is a name I recognize, the sound quality of the musical performances is, without fail, ear-punishingly awful. In fact, aside from Don Pardo, atrocious musical performance sound levels are probably the show’s most consistent feature. When I spot a flash of the musical stage being set up while fast-forwarding through the ads, I give my finger a rest – because there’s a good 10 minutes of a tinny set from Mumford and Sons and 37 more ads to blow through before we return to normal speed for the next sketch.
  • The constantly rotating cast of underused, seemingly interchangeable comics who do their best to land a recurring sketch big enough to guarantee a lead role in a poorly-received summer comedy. Who the hell is even on this show anymore? Is Andy Samberg still alive? Is Fred Armisen still a castmember or does Lorne Michaels just have some reeeeeally good dirt on him that prevents him from escaping? And what happened to Kate McKinnon? After hitting the ground running with her Ann Romney and that crazy Jesus-defacing Spanish lady, she has been MIA for several weeks. Maybe after gently mocking Ellen and making out with Louis C.K. she’s been sent to New Hope for a tune-up? Anyway, at this point we can pretty much split the cast into two groups: Bill Hader and Not Bill Hader.
  • The zombielike, cue-card-dependent guest performances. I really want to like Jeremy Renner, SNL – can’t you just let me?

I realize that the challenge of mounting a live television show featuring multiple sets, frequent costume changes, and a forest’s worth of cue cards must be enormous. More often than not, the result is half-baked, punchline-challenged sketches and a confused and/or disappointed audience. But still I tune in, in the hopes of the rare solid episode (Louis CK, you have our thanks) or the off-chance that Rihanna will be beheaded by a CGI peace sign.

 

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