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Manage your expectations when watching Saturday Night Live

- September 16th, 2012

seth macfarlane and seth meyers

I don’t expect Saturday Night Live to be good.

I guess that’s the difference between me and other people.

SNL is a live TV show, pre-taped bits notwithstanding. I expect it to be largely bad, with flashes of brilliance. That’s what it always has been, which will be shocking news to those who watch only “best of” DVDs, or seek out selected clips on the internet.

A lot of the comedy on SNL should be experimental, and as such, much of it probably will miss the mark. It’s when the show doesn’t try that it really deserves to be criticized. It should be swinging for the fences, which often means a high strikeout percentage, but the home runs stay in our memories forever.

Which brings us to the debut of the 38th season of SNL, which occurred this past weekend on NBC and Global. With Seth MacFarlane serving as host, were there any home runs?

Well, SNL is at its best when it’s daring, and the most daring moment came during Weekend Update. Anchorman Seth Meyers referenced the film Innocence of Muslims, which has caused violent and deadly protests in the Middle East.

With a picture of a riot in the background, Meyers said, “This week the new film Innocence of Muslims was released, and so far, the reviews are not great. You guys know YouTube has a comments section, right?”

There were some nervous, uncomfortable murmurs from the live audience. But those almost always are a good sign, if you ask me.

The ballyhooed new blood never got flowing. With the likes of Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg and Abby Elliott gone this season, rookies Aidy Bryant, Tim Robinson, Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon virtually were invisible.

High points included Vanessa Bayer’s Honey Boo Boo, MacFarlane’s Ryan Lochte (pictured above left, with Meyers at right) and a cameo appearance by Korean rapper Psy, who probably got the biggest cheer of the night.

The musical guest was Frank Ocean, who was wearing a hockey-style sweater that looked as if it had been purchased in a casino gift shop. John Mayer played guitar for Ocean.

Significantly as the U.S. plods toward a presidential election, all the moaning that people used to do about Fred Armisen’s Barack Obama impersonation finally can stop. Cast member Jay Pharoah is the new Obama, with Jason Sudeikis back as Mitt Romney.

You knew SNL would have to reference the infamous Clint Eastwood performance talking to a chair at the Republican National Convention, and it did so with a pre-taped bit. Bill Hader played Eastwood in an ad promoting Eastwood’s tour with the chair, with the tag line, “No script, no set tour dates, no predetermined theatres.”

Hey, didn’t Charlie Sheen do that already?

Overall, the return of SNL can be described as steady. It was an okay start, provided your expectations are properly aligned.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

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3 comments

  1. chaz | September 17, 2012 at 9:49 am

    I seem to remember you trashing Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg and Abby Elliott when they were around.

  2. HGA | September 21, 2012 at 7:58 am

    Once the “news” is done, it’s time for bed!

  3. Michael | October 2, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    This is terrible, terrible writing. Count to ten before putting up a post criticizing others.

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