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 an SNL mood, check out my Indiewire investigation into the show’s record of diversity in its hosting choices.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is not what you’d expect from a movie starring Tina Fey, written by Fey’s 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt writing partner Robert Carlock, produced by Fey and SNL boss Lorne Michaels, and featuring Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Alfred Molina, Christopher Abbott, Billy Bob Thornton and Josh Charles.
Then again: what do you expect from a movie with those credits?
The answer to that question might explain the movie’s piddling box office numbers this weekend. The marketing, from the mystifying title to the underwhelming trailers, suggested a broad, silly comedy about a hapless journalist’s adventures overseas. But the actual movie is a lightly comedic drama about Americans embedded among soldiers amid a dangerous conflict that no one, not even the people fighting it, really understands. That’s not an easy sell, even with someone as theoretically bankable as Fey in the lead role.
Devin and I commenced our third annual Oscars recap with a special guest: Chloe Johnson, who helped us sort out our feelings about Chris Rock, surprising winners, the lumpy telecast and the come-from-behind Best Picture victory of Spotlight.
Don’t forget, you can now subscribe to our podcast on iTunes and download the feed directly into the podcast app of your choice. New episodes should show up on your feed immediately and on iTunes within a day or two of release. Subscribe away!
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 little surprise.
The post-Super Bowl slot has been a mixed blessing of late. Ratings for whatever show follows the nation’s most-watched television event 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’s The Late Show is uniquely unsuited to the task of following up the most expensive, expansive spectacle in American pop culture. Continue reading →
Here are six takeaways from last night’s season 41 premiere of Saturday Night Live.
This Saturday Night Live premiere was never going to be a classic.
Season premieres of Saturday Night Live often struggle, mostly because the show doesn’t operate on the schedule that people might assume. The show’s staff had the same number of weeks to write and prepare this week’s sketches as they do any other week: one. Much of what appeared to be sloppiness and laziness can be attributed to the gears on the SNL machine slowly shaking off the rust that accumulated over the summer.
Last night’s Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary special began with a musical tribute to the show’s iconic characters performed by two of its most currently camera-ready stars. Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake “History of Rap”-ified forty years of surreal catchphrases and gross-out gags before intoning the show’s now-infamous opening salvo.
Another season of Saturday Night Live concluded on May 17 with a returning sketch in which Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong play retired porn stars advertising a luxury item for a quick buck. The sketch played, in some ways, as a microcosm of season 39. It was intermittently hilarious with an arguably unnecessary cameo appearance and a sense that these characters came back out of obligation rather than inspiration. It was SNL in a nutshell.
It’s not criticism to point out that Saturday Night Live is an inconsistent show. Some episodes are better than others, but few are uniformly perfect. Some sketches work, others don’t. Some cast members jell immediately, others take time, and still others never find their corner. Some recurring bits remain funny with repetition, others fall flat as they grow older. The appeal of Saturday Night Live is in the pursuit, not the attainment, of perfection. I watch each episode looking for the moments that I’ll remember in five to ten years, even while I’m fully aware that I’ll forget most of the show within a few weeks.