Every few years the Saturday Night Live discussion happens: “It’s not as good as it used to be!” “Well such-and-such is the only good sketch they’ve done in a while…” “Haven’t watched it since [Insert Cast Member Name Here] was on!” However hack the lines may be, the last few years have been hard for the late-night comedy sketch show as the Not Ready For Primetime Players attempt to rebuild after an incredible run that featured cast members like Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers, Bill Hader, Kristin Wiig, Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis and Fred Armisen… just to name a few.
As with rebuilding any new cast growing pains are to be expected and this has been ever apparent over the last few seasons of SNL. The struggle feels magnetized this season though as the iconic comedy sketch show celebrates its 40th anniversary. I recap the show for Nerdist weekly and have found myself struggling a little bit since the season premiere, hosted by the very funny and very talented Chris Pratt. How does the show go from strong episodes featuring Jim Carrey, James Franco and Woody Harrelson and then drown in all of the unfunny during alternating weeks featuring just-as-funny people like Pratt, Sarah Silverman and, dare I say it? Bill Hader. I thought about the cast this season and started making my way through the players one by one looking for the weak link and then it hit me — they’re all great on their own, the problem is that they are not great together.
There’s Emmy nominee Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer, Cecily Strong, Kenan Thompson, Taran Killam, Jay Pharoah and Bobby Moynihan, who have been there a while. We can’t forget Sasheer Zamata, Kyle Mooney, Beck Bennett and Aidy Bryant or season newbies like Michael Che, Leslie Jones and Pete Davidson. Finally, there’s Colin Jost, head writer and “Weekend Update” co-anchor. Jost has been writing for the show since 2005 so clearly he’s doing something right and came up working with some of the best. So, there it is. If one speaks objectively, I really don’t see a weak member in the bunch. Sure, I like some more than others, but I can also point to a specific moment so far this season where every single one of the cast has done something really, really funny.
It seems that SNL currently features an ensemble that relies on the host to be the glue of the show. If you think about the casts over the last 15 years, I think it’s safe to say that perhaps the opposite was true. That the host could easily accentuate the material if they were game (people like Reese Witherspoon, The Rock, Melissa McCarthy and Justin Timberlake spring to mind) but they could also take on minor roles or one liners in sketches if they weren’t particularly able to carry the show on their own. That way, the rest of the cast would be able to do the heavy lifting. Now we find ourselves in a position where if the host is weak, the show will suffer because the rest of the cast is not working as a functioning group. It’s almost like this current cast is full of hosts but no ensemble which, I would argue, is why they’re having such a hard time.
I’ve never been to 30 Rock, seen the show in person, or visited behind the scenes so I don’t know if the weakness lies within the types of sketches that are making it to air, the group of players that has been assembled, or both… or none. What I do know is that I wholeheartedly believe that the current cast of Saturday Night Live is as strong as ever — just not together.
What do you all think? Are you enjoying the 40th season of Saturday Night Live? What are your thoughts on the current cast and batch of sketches? Tell us in the comments below!