Fix It – 5 Steps to a Better Saturday Night Live

Ah, there was a time when I didn’t have a care or an inkling as to how bad Saturday Night Live was.  It was that blissful period between my hardcore babysitting days and my now super hardcore baby having days.  I remember a time when Saturday night meant something other than, “Let’s go out for an early 5:00 dinner so we can get the boy to bed by 7:00 and I can be asleep on the couch by 8:30, only to wake up at 10:30 to catch the most-likely disappointing cold open of SNL.”

Anyway, so, yeah, I care that SNL sucks (and I understand how passe it is to be complaining about how much it sucks).  But.  It could be easy to fix.

1. Forget everything you ever knew about a cold open. For the past I don’t know how many millions of years, SNL has been opening the show with political sketches.  I understand that The Powers That Be believe political commentary is their bread and butter; but with The Daily Show and The Colbert Report brilliantly commenting on political matters four days a week, your addition to the conversation had better be as good or better than theirs.  SNL lucked out big time last year with Tina Fey/Sarah Palin; but since the ’08 election, none of the limp impersonations of political figures (from Barack Obama to Timothy Geitner) have made a big impact.  The time has come to move the cold open out from behind the desk or podium and mix it up a bit, a la a game show parody or Adam Lambert at the AMAs or I don’t know.  I’m not a sketch writer.  And there’s a reason.

2. Speaking of parody… The sketches that are supposed to be send-ups of real events/TV shows/whatever are usually carbon copies of the original.  It is the Date Movie/Meet the Spartans version of comedy — direct imitation.  There’s nothing particularly clever about merely being able to sound like and look like the famous person you’re impersonating.  The reason the Jeopardy sketches worked so well was because Darrell Hammond didn’t just stand up there and do a Scottish accent, he brought something new to the character of Sean Connery.  Merely putting on a wig and saying you’re John Edwards does not make a lasting impression on anyone.  Go back and do some homework.  Watch Dana Carvey as Ross Perot or the late, great Phil Hartman as, well, anyone.

3. Diversify. You should not have to go outside of your cast to find an African-American woman to play Michelle Obama.  That is all.

4. The host can add a lot to the show, so don’t just call in the flavor of the month because she’s hot/he’s a great athlete.  You have a lot of great go-to performers to help you out when the show needs a boost (Alec Baldwin, Justin Timberlake), but you should be trying to expand that field.  There are a lot of hilarious actors on TV right now, many of them on NBC.  Think about Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Aubrey Plaza, Danny Pudi, Joel McHale, or Donald Glover (just to name a few).

5. Put all sketches on NBC.com. Two of the best sketches of the past two years (a Thanksgiving sketch where Will Forte plays a creepy guy who snuck into the house for dinner and a sketch called “Mirror Image” which featured Kristin Wiig and Amy Adams as “identical” twins) are nowhere to be found online, which means they basically don’t exist in the world anymore.  The potential for the show’s sketches to go viral is a great little focus group opportunity for The Powers That Be to see what’s resonating with the online community.  That said, don’t beat any dead horses.  Keep doing Gilly, sure, but mix up the premise a bit.  And don’t let the sketches run too long.  And never, ever let Jason Sudeikis stop dancing (via Hulu).

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