With every popular TV show, it is inevitable that the producers sell out for ratings rather than focusing on content. The real question is whether the show will be able to bring back good content once they see the subpar product they’ve started inflicting on their viewership. Saturday Night Live is an example of one such show. Historically, SNL has been a great draw for audiences due to the late night airings and spot-on sketch comedy. In the last few years, however, both the content and the ratings of the show have started slipping.
While the ratings for the show have been slowly, yet gradually increasing since 2010, it seems the reason for this is big names rather than big laughs. Stars like Jennifer Lawrence, Justin Bieber, and Anne Hathaway (or, in other words, stars that aren’t funny) have been asked to host SNL. The result is increased viewership with decreased comedy. According to TVbythenumbers.com, a popular ratings website, the recent Tina Fey episode attracted the largest adult audience for a debut in three years. Unfortunately, the episode was sorely lacking in humor despite hopeful promos with Fey and Kenan Thompson. In practice, the jokes fell flat and the sketches seemed a little sloppy from a slightly confusing cold open about Obamacare to various sketches centering Fey banking on being Tina Fey.
Unlike stars like Fey, Justin Timberlake alone seems to be able to rake in mass viewership while living up to the SNL reputation of the past as being fresh, funny, and one of a kind. His March 9 episode brought in 8.4 million viewers compared to the 6.5 million that turned up for Fey’s season premier. The writing of the show is still witty and humorous, but SNL needs to stop selling big names for the sake of big names and start finding the magic combination that Timberlake represents of being both very attractive as a host and being legitimately funny.
In the most recent episode, Miley Cyrus hosted. While not serving as the main source of the humor, she did an excellent job of driving the show forward. Because of this, the jokes on the episode were actually much better than they have been lately. Instead of catering to Cyrus and being about what she could do, they wrote the sketches to include Cyrus and let other people take the spotlight for the comedy. Cyrus was also very willing to make fun of herself, which gave a fresh perspective on the singer and actress and helped the episode live up to the standard of the promos and made the opening monologue quite enjoyable. Twitter blew up in support of Cyrus’ hosting, including one tweet from @MTVUK, “See @MileyCyrus poking fun at her #VMAs performance here mtvne.ws/lbSLwy Do you like celebs who don’t take themselves too seriously?”
Some of the best moments in SNL have included jokes on politics and pop culture, and the writers are beginning to realize that this is where their true comedy lies. In the past viewers saw Fey giving a spot-on impersonation of Sarah Palin and in the latest episode saw Cyrus poke fun at Michelle Bachmann and Hilary Clinton very successfully. The talent has always been consistent and now the writing is finally getting back on track, as well. Luckily for the loyal SNL fans out there, the deficit of humor looks to be just a slump the show is going through, and Saturday Night Live should be back on the rise.