I used to be a "Saturday Night Live" disciple. Watched the show religiously for decades in the '80's, '90's, and early 2000's. It was must-see TV. I would never miss an episode, never miss a skit. Yes, over those years there was a steady decline overall in the show. The perfomers as a whole, with a few exceptions, were not as strong or versatile. The writing not as sharp and was at times pandering. But I stuck with it.
Until I finally had to stop. The decline eventually became precipitous. The show became too transparently left-leaning and political. Angry. Agenda-driven. Like state TV propaganda.
But most importantly, not funny.
Fast forward to "SNL" in 2018. I no longer sit down to watch the show. I'll check out the occasional clips on YouTube if there's buzz about a cold open, a Weekend Update segment, or whatever. Generally, I find the buzz that drove me there to be unwarranted. The show is a shell of what it once was in what, in my opinion, was the heyday in the mid-to-late 80's with Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, Jon Lovitz, Nora Dunn, Kevin Nealon, Victoria Jackson, Dennis Miller, etc.
My main issue with the current incarnation of "SNL" is the desperate grab for ratings and for getting clips to go viral online by stacking skits with star-studded cameos from big name actors and actresses to (hopefully) distract from the woeful writing of overly-long political pieces. The fact that they hired Alec Baldwin to play President Trump (knowing full well the venom Baldwin has for Trump that would seep into each and every sketch) shows that producer Lorne Michaels no longer trusts his cast, and that his cast may not be versatile enough to pull off a good Trump impression. Even smaller parts that would normally be played by a cast member are now farmed out to Hollywood royalty. In last weekend's cold open sketch featuring Stormy Daniels (that this radio station posted on our website and on Facebook because it, once again, was getting "buzz"), Lorne Michaels' ratings grab featured not one, not two, not three, but four big-time celeb cameos in what was a cluster-eff mess of an eternal 7-minute skit. You had Ben Stiller, Martin Short, Scarlett Johanssen, and Jimmy Fallon mugging for airtime as guest performers.
How must the cast feel about this? Being relegated to sit on the sidelines as the Big Guns take away their airtime. The original charm of the show was that a bunch of unknowns, the Not Ready For Primetime Players, were going to walk a tightrope and do live TV where anything could happen - anything could go wrong, a spontaneous moment could occur that would go on to become a classic moment in television. I feel a huge disconnect from this current cast. Like I don't even know them. Don't know their names. Can you imagine Dana Carvey sitting silently in the wings as a big star host or guest came in and sucked up all the meaty roles? If Carvey was on the show today, he would have worked and worked and worked to master a comical, caricature-like Trump impression that was light and fun and not so full of vitriol until Lorne Michaels had no choice but to give him the role.
But it's all about the viral videos these days. Brand the show on YouTube, etc. by racking up the views and trying to win new, young fans and bring them into the fold. Get hashtagged on Twitter or Facebook. But as the old saying goes, "you can't polish a turd." The quality of "SNL" in its prime has always depended on the writing, and Lord knows these days that is sorely lacking. Not even the biggest stars of the day - even if you put 50 of them into one sketch - could camouflage weak writing or make up for it. "SNL" needs to get back to its roots - solid, smart, satirical but not hate-filled writing, skewering politicians on both sides of the aisle equally, quirky, memorable, quotable, even catch-phrase-based characters, daring sketch premises, unique short films, parodies of other TV shows, personalities, pop culture, etc.
I have no faith that "SNL" will go back to those days. Our technology culture demands that it play by a different set of rules - get people blogging about you, sharing your content, Tweeting positively on it, etc.
And that's all understandable. And the reality we live in. If only "SNL" realized that the best way to get content to go viral is with thoughtful, unique, pioneering, smart writing, solid comedic acting, and not just with pretty and famous faces that you can plaster all over a screenshot on YouTube or wherever.
Lorne, please search harder for the next generation of truly gifted writers. You had a knack for finding them in the early days. You discovered many geniuses in the past and the comedy world thanks you for giving them their deserved forum. Trust your current cast to shine instead of populating sketches with the Hollywood elite in their stead. Maybe there's a genius, a diamond in the rough, who simply hasn't been given enough opportunities to shine. I would rather see Ben Stiller in a film rather than in an "SNL" skit as a lawyer. An "SNL" skit should be about the host and the cast of the (maybe) next generation of comedy working their butts off to get us to embrace them and laugh with them.
Please, Lorne, try harder. I used to love your show, and I miss it.