Television

Saturday Night Live’s Descent into Madness

Saturday Nigt Live - Scamper

When SNL began in 1975, a collection of extraordinarily talented improv performers were gathered together by Lorne Michaels.

The intention was to create a ratings boon during a financially underdeveloped time slot. The concept was that it would be a sketch comedy show with musical guests. It was sold as TV’s live variety show.

The show’s popularity has waxed and waned over the years. Seasons of bad writing and scandals have nearly brought an end to the program several times. Tina Fey’s rendition of Sarah Palin reinvigorated a show on the brink of doom. There was a clear undercurrent of personal politics but they were still careful about turning the show into a blatant form of propaganda. This season marks a definitive change in policy.

The skits rely primarily on crude sexual humor and political promotions. The age of the target audience has been reduced by a decade.

This week’s post-election episode which aired November 12th, was so specifically targeted that the show may be in real jeopardy soon. The opening was maudlin and cloying.

They undoubtedly thought it quite clever to simultaneously offer a tribute to song writer Leonard Cohen and the Democratic Party both of whom died last week, albeit one literally and the other figuratively. Unfortunately, their audience probably missed that artsy touch.

The statement made by that self-indulgent partisan display would have been better relegated to a local establishment on poetry night. It was unworthy of a late night comedy with an international syndication.

To follow it up with the once popular David Chappell who smoked incessantly in an enclosed venue was an odd choice. Particularly when the intended audience was obviously adamantly anti-smoking. The surprise came when he insisted upon subjecting the unquestionably uncomfortable viewers to the use of the much reviled N word, no less than 25 times in the first 30 min. Maybe he was trying to reclaim the word. Although, that sort of thing might have played better at the Apollo.

The performance by A Tribe Called Quest was over the top. The gigantic wall hanging of Treyvon Martin being “crooned” to, was extreme. Combined with the lyrics about forcing people out of the country who weren’t white, straight and Christian, the entire encounter was meant to be divisive.

Saturday Night Live may soon find itself suffering the same fate as so many of the politicians who misunderstood the audience. In order to remain on air, the show needs to offer broad appeal. They are veering way off the mark.

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