Saturday Night Live, aka SNL, makes history by not only beating all other shows in broadcast TV’s most cherished audience demographic – – people 18-49 – – but it accomplishes this rare feat n its 46th Season.
As much a testament to its remarkable staying power with youthful audiences and trend-setting, as it is a condemnation of the rest of broadcast TV’s utter disconnection with younger viewers, SNL’s victory should also stand as broadcasting’s day of reckoning.
SNL at nearly 47 years old, boasts utter relevancy and timeliness, underlining how terribly irrelevant the rest of broadcast TV has become.
Fans of SNL point to this season’s exceptional ensemble, tremendous writing, fantastic Weekend Update (hosted by Michael Che and Colin Jost) and unexpected, eventful hosting (such as Elon Musk, Space X and Tesla-fueled billionaire) to help explain why the stalwart variety show keeps performing so well.
Veteran shows rarely remain relevant with younger audiences, especially a series well into its 46th year on the air.
SNL is the birthplace of some of Hollywood’s biggest comedy stars, with the original cast of stand-outs setting the standard: Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase. As years the years wore on to build into decades, future legends continued to populate the show, such as Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, Mike Meyers, Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Tina Fey – – to name a very, very few.
The number of film franchises SNL has spun off is far too lengthy to inventory here, but Lorne Michaels, the show’s creator and long-time Executive Producer, can rightfully assume the throne as the King of American Comedy, despite his Canadian roots.
When the show premiered on October 11, 1975, it promoted its cast as the “Not Ready For Prime-time Players” – – suggesting that the cast was either too raw, too unprofessional or too uncontrollable – – to ever play successfully by prime-time TV’s overly safe, overly sanitized and thus overly boring, rules.
Turns out in 2021, not only is SNL “ready” for prime-time, it finally and deservedly, dominates the key demo watching it, despite airing live in New York on Saturday nights at 11:30 PM, and live at 8:30 PM, on the West Coast.
What will network executives conclude when learning how well SNL has performed with their most desired demographic?
Hopefully we’ll see edgier, less formulaic decision-making come about as a result.
Network TV has never been more derivative, safe and unremarkable.
Seemingly frozen in place by endless spin-offs of procedurals and remakes of nostalgic, and poorly re-imagined TV titles, broadcast TV seems unabashedly and unapologetically stagnant, completely lacking ambition or originality.
Lorne Michaels already produces not only SNL, The Tonight Show and The Late Show, but many other cable and streaming comedies as well. He’s won 19 Emmy Awards, been nominated 91 times and has set the record as being the most awarded producer in the history of the television medium.
In a world where broadcast TV is largely ignored as audiences seek out fresher and more “binge-worthy” content on cable and streaming, it’s somewhat understandable why network chiefs would rely on the “tried and true” of meat-and-potatoes comfort food like Dick Wolf (Law & Order, Chicago, FBI, etc.) and Greg Berlanti (every DC-based and YA-targetted show on television), versus turning to more challenging creators like Issa Rae (Insecure), Dave Burd (Dave) or Scott Frank (The Queen’s Gambit.)
When it comes to network TV, is going with the “same old, same old” really the best way forward?
By sticking with SNL, the answer, in a way, appears to be yes.
But SNL constantly reinvents itself, and the audience rewards it for remaining smart, timely and “cool.”
Would you use those same adjectives – – smart, timely and cool – – to describe any other show on network TV?
As the giant media companies pivot to streaming, and prioritize their “premium content” for those platforms, versus their “over the air” broadcast channels (like ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and THE CW) network TV seems destined to not only remain unseen by younger viewers, but likely sooner than later, rendered utterly obsolete.
Maybe some desperate-but-still-trying network chief will reach out to the 76 year old producer and ask, “Lorne, how can you save us? We’re no longer ready for Prime Time!”