The milestone 40th season of NBC’s sketch comedy series “Saturday Night Live” premiered on September 27 with what was very likely the worst premiere in the show’s legendary history.
The episode was hosted by Chris Pratt, one of the biggest stars in the country right now due to his massive summer blockbuster “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but I can’t place any blame whatsoever on Pratt for this bomb of an episode. The writing, led by head writer Colin Jost, is simply atrocious at this point.
The 39th season of ‘SNL’ was one of the weakest the show had in quite some time and everybody from producer Lorne Michaels to critics to fans knew it. This led to Michaels getting rid of multiple cast members, who only lasted one season, and adding a couple of more newbies to the show.
The newbies, along with the two survivors from last season, were the main focus of the show’s premiere and this was to the detriment of the episode.
Let’s start with the returnees from last season: Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett.
Mooney and Bennett were part of a comedy group called Good Neighbor before joining ‘SNL’ last season and seem to be popular among YouTube viewers (especially Mooney who seems to be the brains behind the outfit) for their own brand of anti-comedy where they basically gets laughs from some and leave many others scratching their head in an angry bewilderment due to what amounts to an attempt at irony. Some have hailed Mooney as brilliant and the future of the show. I find his humor incredibly moronic and seemingly to have no point and trying to be weird just for weird sake – like he’s influenced by Andy Kaufman but forgot the funny part.
I’m pulling no punches here when I tell you that I believe Mooney is going to go down in ‘SNL’ history as one of my very least favorite cast members.
I said above that Mooney was trying to be weird simply for weird sake and that’s something that the entire premiere … and it would seem the show is trying to become. It would probably work well among a certain group of people, but I think if the show heads toward this trajectory it’s going to become too cult for the mainstream audience it’s used to. Either that or the nation’s preferred style of comedy is changing right in front of my eyes and I just don’t get it.
The first Weekend Update of the season was interesting, but not really in a good way. Jost returns to the anchor desk after taking over for Seth Meyers midway through last season when Meyers took over the hosting gig at NBC’s “Late Night.” Cecily Strong, who did a pretty good job as co-anchor but you could tell the show was better served with her being a star, has been replaced by Michael Che, a newbie coming over after a short stint with “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
Che seemed nervous early on in his first segment, which hopefully is something that won’t take him long to get over. Hopefully it won’t take long for Jost and Che to develop some kind of chemistry or rapport either because as of now the desk seems way too crowded; I believe this is the first time in the long history of the show that Weekend Update is being co-anchored by two men.
Strong made a return to Update as a guest with her hilarious character ‘Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation with at a Party,’ which was almost the only highlight of the entire premiere and proof that Strong might actually be stronger to the show as an Update guest rather than anchor.
Also during Weekend Update was the debut of 20-year old Pete Davidson, one of the youngest cast members in ‘SNL’ history, who essentially did a stand-up routine on accepting money for performing oral sex on men. The bit did extremely well with both the live and television audience judging by laughter and social media, but was honestly a little offensive in its homophobia despite providing some humor. Some online are already coronating Davidson as “the next big ‘SNL’ star,” which I believe is far too early.
About the only other thing about the ‘SNL’ premiere that I enjoyed was their hard-hitting pieces on the NFL and its recent domestic violence problem. The show opened with a CNN news segment on the NFL’s violence issue which honestly wasn’t anything special especially for the first cold opening of the season, but did a better job later in the episode with a player intros bit with the athletes announcing their crimes instead of their universities. The only issue here is it’s sort of a rip-off of a classic “Key & Peele” sketch with the crimes serving as punchline instead of the eccentric names.
My biggest issue with the show other than its general weirdness and bad writing was they barely used any of their strengths, which is their generally talented veteran cast. I felt like there was a sincere lacking of Kenan Thompson, Bobby Moynihan, Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong, Vanessa Bayer, Jay Pharoah and even Taran Killam in the episode. All of these people are supremely hilarious and can carry sketches or a show on their own, but were barely seen from in favor of a new era. Here’s a tip ‘SNL’ don’t try and push a new era on us when you have a terrific group of people going unused.
‘SNL’ desperately needs to get better and they don’t need to spend a whole lot of time doing it. I’ve got a bad feeling if things stay like they are right now the milestone 40th season of the show is going to be one of its very worst.