Reader Mike Gerber commented that I was far too charitable with Lorne Michaels in a previous post on Saturday Night Live. At the time, I was imagining I was damming with faint praise, but I can see how describing someone as a “good producer” in the most mercenary sense isn’t really damming enough.
Mike’s right. Just keeping something running isn’t enough. How much brain surgery does it take to pick guests that excite tweens? I’m surprised this week’s host, Paris Hilton, wasn’t made sooner. (Naturally it got bloggers talking look at suggestions for sketches here and here from Gawker.) The important thing is, when you make these concessions to keep something running, if you must make concessions at all, what can you do to keep it funny. To make it something of quality.
I’ve mentioned how cast and writer bloat and the ultra competitive nature of getting something, anything on air hurt the show. But reader Rob Bates (who knows a little of how SNL goes wrong considering he’s a writer/performer in the excellent SNL Rewritten show. Go see it.) pointed out how so few of the sketches even seem to have points to them anymore. During last week’s sketch featuring the Bush daughters in their rooms talking about the inauguration, I realized that SNL has completely dropped premise-based sketch comedy all together. They’ve simply replaced it with character sketches which are all middle, nothing to grab onto but a performer’s ticks, catchphrases and vocal mimicry.
Weekend Update remains the best part of the show, simply because it’s the only part of the show which seems to have comedic targets (though it misses all the time, at least it’s aiming). But the rest of the show has left behind any sort of notions of take-no-prisoners comedy, because how can you expect to kill anything if you’re not even hunting. The best thing the writers can do is simply pick something that they hate and then write a sketch that destroys it without consideration for characters at all. It’s Comedy 101, but they need the remedial education. Desperately.