SNL’s mid-life crisis


By Camron Owens

‘Saturday Night Live” is one of my favorite shows and one of the most important shows in television history. But, unfortunately, the show’s current season has left me wanting more. 

SNL has given birth to a number of comedy icons and legends such as Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Tina Fey, Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, and its influence is apparent in many television shows. For example, “Weekend Update” has influenced programs such as “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.” Other skits such as “Word Association” have influenced shows like “Key and Peele.” 

The program has a reputation for being an educated, comedic reflection of the times.

I had this in mind when I tuned in to SNL’s 40th season premiere a few weeks ago with high expectations. After I saw SNL lose many talents and face controversy about cast diversity in previous seasons, I was hopeful the show would start anew and not show negative signs of aging. But sadly, sketches featured basic jokes with premises based on people wearing wigs making puns about pets dying. 

The brightest minds in comedy had all summer to think of ideas and this is what they came up with? The smart, witty, worldly show of the past seems to have disappeared.

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To me and many others, SNL is more than a show; it’s a tradition. It’s a place where bright writers and talents come together to create intelligent comedic magic, while we viewers laugh along. 

But this current season of SNL has been light on laughs. The sketches like the aforementioned “Animal Hospital” and one about Kim Jong-un’s health felt lazy. 

SNL has created funny, talked-about comedy bits. Even if you don’t watch SNL, you’ve more than likely seen a skit online. 

The current season’s skits have not generated much buzz. Viewers need writers to create skits they want to share with friends online and laugh about for years to come.

The only skit that anyone seems to be talking about this season is one that faced accusations of plagiarism from the Groundlings sketch comedy school in California. While SNL denied these accusations, many performers at the Groundlings claimed they had performed the Tina Turner skit in question for many SNL writers and producers.  

These accusations concern me. SNL has always been a ground-breaking force in comedy, not a copycat.

To quote Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler’s “Weekend Update” bit, “Really!?!” Two episodes in, and there are already plagiarism accusations!?! 

While SNL will undoubtedly move past these accusations like it has previously, we viewers deserve better. 

SNL has influenced so many comedians in the past, which is why its present and future are just as important. Comedians like Jimmy Fallon found their comedic abilities watching SNL growing up. 

It needs to show a younger audience what comedy is and what it can be, like it did for previous generations.

With so much material in the news, such as Joe Biden’s recent controversial comments and the White House security scandals, the writing’s focus this season has seemed misguided. SNL is supposed to provide viewers with funny takes on topical issues, and these skits fell flat.

Last week’s episode with host and former cast member Bill Hader showed improvement over the past two episodes but was not completely improved. Yes, it’s funny and exciting when a former cast member returns to do old, beloved skits, but the show shouldn’t rely solely on former cast members and sketches for humor. 

First-time host Chris Pratt is certainly a talented actor, but his episode fell flat due to weak writing. And Hader’s episode set a record for the lowest viewed SNL episode in history. It’s clear viewers aren’t pleased with the show’s quality, and something needs to change.

Many shows barely last a season on television, let alone 40. When what is widely considered the most successful comedy show ever faces plagiarism accusations, I believe something needs reworking.

Ian Gary, a member of the Groundlings sketch comedy group suggested that the writers be fired for stealing material. Is that the right solution? I don’t know. 

The creative forces at SNL are certainly smart, talented people capable of making great television, but they can do better than they have been. As someone who absorbs SNL trivia and behind-the-scenes details, I know that the process is fast-paced and strenuous. 

Making a comedy show in a week has been part of what makes SNL so fascinating. I hope that the show’s writers rework their ideas and make the rest of the season as great as previous ones. 

Hopefully the writers are only going through a transitional period, and SNL will improve to its former quality. 

Until then, live from New York — it’s disappointment.

Camron is a junior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected].