“Saturday Night Live” 41: Space Pants, Alien Encounters and Other Highlights (and Lowlights)

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Assigning a value judgment like “good” or “great” or “best ever” or “worst in five years” to a season of Saturday Night Live is inevitably a fool’s errand. Each season is best understood through the lens of key sketches, breakout moments and overall trends. Below, I’ve listed a few of each from this post-anniversary season of America’s most astonishingly resilient TV show.

And while you’re in anĀ SNL mood, check out my Indiewire investigation into the show’s record of diversity in its hosting choices.

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Stephen Colbert: Super Bowl Fumble, Sanders Touchdown

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On Sunday night, Stephen Colbert became the first host in the history of late-night TV to do a show immediately after the Super Bowl. That he and his team fumbled the gig should come as littleĀ surprise.

The post-Super Bowl slot has been a mixed blessing of late. Ratings for whatever show follows the nation’s most-watched television eventĀ of each year inevitably spike on that Sunday night, but the bump for subsequent episodes is far less substantial, even non-existent. Creatively speaking, most Super Bowl episodes are burdened with such high expectations from audiences and network executives that they’re more concerned with being big and loud than being good. By the end of an exhausting Super Bowl game and halftime show, the last thing most people want to do is keep their brain turned on for one to two more hours of programming, even if they keep their televisions on in an act of sheer inertia.

On top of all those built-in obstacles, Stephen Colbert’sĀ The Late Show is uniquely unsuited to the task of following up the most expensive, expansive spectacle in American pop culture. Continue reading

The M&M Report: “Room,” Grantland and Devin Doesn’t Like Things (!)

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On this episode of The M&M Report, Devin Mitchell and I review the claustrophobia-inducing dramaĀ Room, which stars Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay as a mother and child held captive in a garden shed for more than five years. This movie freaked us out, but we recommend it.

Then we paid tribute to one of our favorite web sites: Grantland, which ESPN abruptly shuttered a couple weeks ago.

And finally, Devin explains why he doesn’t want to hear one more word about the 2016 election. (This episode was recorded on Sunday, before Tuesday’s GOP debate.)

Room – 0:25
Grantland ends – 20:56
Devin Doesn’t Like Things: 2016 Election – 36:05

Peruse the M&M Report category page for previous episodes of the podcast. Thanks for listening!

“SNL”: Post-Trump, Lots of Grump

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This past week was the worst one in a while for passionateĀ Saturday Night LiveĀ defenders like me. In the run-up to this week’s episode, hosted by Donald Trump featuring musical guest Sia, a fervent crowd ofĀ SNL dissidents sprung up, as if from hiding, to diminish the cultural importance and creative vitality of a show they either haven’t watched in years or continue to watch while actively rooting against it. (Here are just two of many examples, from critics I otherwise respect: Buzzfeed’sĀ Kate Aurthur and Vanity Fair’sĀ Richard Lawson.)

The argument thatĀ SNLĀ has never been funny, I contend, is a product of unreasonable expectations. The show doesn’t proclaim to be consistent or even reliable. The live format inherently generates up and down weeks, high and low moments, strong and weak sketches. What makesĀ SNLĀ impressive is the frequency with which it succeeds at being funny despite the difficult production restrictions baked into it ā€” tight schedule, collaborative workflow, competing motivations, high-pressure environment, no do-overs.

But every once in a while, I have to doff my cap to people who have writtenĀ SNLĀ off, and admit that for all of its highs,Ā SNLĀ is also capable of great lows. Last night’s episode represents the show’s nadir in the last five years, if not longer. And it’s on me, and anyone who watched, for expecting anything different.

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