In many ways, last season of “Saturday Night Live” was meant to be the big one. It was the 40th anniversary, a chance for many of the show’s former cast members to come back and celebrate what is a legendary part of television.
Now, we are into season 41. There is a natural tendency to expect a little bit of a decline. Were some of the shows in the first part of this season flawed? Sure, but the great news is that with one exception, we don’t think that there were any real clunker shows … even though there were not many that we would consider to be legendary, either.
What worked – The first three shows of the season with Miley Cyrus, Amy Schumer, and Tracy Morgan were all much better than the average start to an “SNL” season, with the latter bringing us arguably the most-discussed performance of the season so far in Larry David’s take on Bernie Sanders. There was fun stuff throughout here, and we saw more of that in the great Elizabeth Banks show or the very-funny first half of the Chris Hemsworth show. Maybe Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were disappointing in the midseason finale, but that is probably just because we hold them to a different standard. Compared to everyone else, they were very funny.
Among the big winners in this first half were Kate McKinnon, Taran Killam, and of course frequent scene-stealer Bobby Moynihan. We also have to give some credit to Jay Pharoah for getting progressively better and better with his Ben Carson impersonation, and Killam’s Donald Trump at least rivals Darrell Hammond.
What didn’t – The entire Trump-hosted show was absolutely atrocious and a waste of everyone’s time. Meanwhile, Sasheer Zamata and Kyle Mooney still don’t have enough to do, the second half of the Hemsworth and Ryan Gosling shows were pretty poor, and we cannot really say looking back that there were too many iconic, new characters introduced. Heck, we’re still missing some old characters. Where was Riblet or Jebidiah Atkinson? We’re still waiting for Vanessa Bayer to reprise her brilliant Daisy Rose from last season; maybe she has a new one in her aspiring young journalist, but it is too early to tell.
Overall – A solid but unspectacular first half of the year. We really enjoyed watching most of it, but couldn’t name too many stellar sketches off of the top of our head beyond “Meet My Second Wife,” anything with Bernie Sanders, or a few “Weekend Update” segments. Grade: B-.
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