Years of “Saturday Night Dead” headlines proved premature.
The media routinely pounced on the NBC program whenever a new cast failed to ignite our interest, or the ratings suffered a temporary dip.
“SNL” always rose from the dead, often stronger than ever.
A recent episode tied for a series rating low despite the presence of returning cast member Bill Hader. It’s not just a matter of small ratings. “SNL” no longer moves the cultural needle the way shows like “The Walking Dead,” “The Daily Show” or even “Duck Dynasty” does.
The following five reasons show why “SNL” may be an institution, but it’s one whose pop culture time has come … and gone.
- No More A-Listers in the Pipeline: “SNL” once cranked out comedy superstars with regularity. Bill Murray. Chevy Chase. Eddie Murphy. Mike Myers. Adam Sandler. Will Ferrell. The latest crop of “SNL” alums don’t have a fraction of that group’s mainstream appeal. Tina Fey, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg aren’t superstars. Not even close. Each has a certain appeal and should find steady work for the next decade. They can’t carry a movie or a franchise like their predecessors.
- Your Bias Is Showing: In the 1990s Phil Hartman’s Bill Clinton was reason enough to tune in every week. The same held true for Dana Carvey’s President Bush. Will Ferrell’s take on Dubya proved equally memorable, its cutting humor served up with boyish charm. That bipartisan tradition evaporated when President Barack Obama came into office. At first, Fred Armisen offered up a tentative Obama portrait, a sheepish attempt to keep politics in the mix. Later, Jay Pharoah delivered a more nuanced impression, but the writers refused to play along. Like the rest of the comedy world, “SNL” made the decision to protect, not tweak, the president’s image. Audiences took notice. They no longer consider the show the signature source for political humor.
- YouTube Killed the Sketch Stars: Why wait until Saturday night to see cutting-edge comedy when it’s delivered to your laptop 24/7 via YouTube? In the age of viral videos, “SNL” suddenly has very stiff competition. And take away “Dick in a Box,” and Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” regularly trumps “SNL” in the funny video department.
- The Dreaded Final Skits of the Night: Even during the show’s heyday each episode ran on creative fumes as 1 a.m. approached. Years ago, we kept watching due to loyalty and a lack of options. Now, we can crank up almost any program thanks to TiVo, Video on Demand services and streaming channels. Suffering through 20 minutes of stiff sketch comedy isn’t palatable.
- It’s no Longer Counter-Culture Comedy: When was the last time “SNL” was as outrageous as, say, Adam Carolla? The podcast king cuts across the pop culture grain with his rants, daring to step outside the politically correct boundaries. “SNL” may traffic in the occasional penis joke, but its sensibilities are in lockstep with virtually every other comic institution. Can you imagine an “SNL” sketch mocking big government or striking fast food workers?