The 48th season of Saturday Night Live premieres tomorrow, and this one should be its last. The show has never felt more out of touch — a stale, punch-pulling iteration marked by a dim vision of what comedy can achieve in a politically and socially divisive moment. This is a target-rich environment, but SNL seems firmly of the opinion that taking shots against our current feckless leadership class is verboten. At a time when online comedy is exploding and hilarious sketches and specials abound on YouTube, SNL operates as if they have no competition.
This offseason saw the show’s biggest staff turnover in almost thirty years. This might have been an opportunity: if Saturday Night Live wanted to be relevant, the talent is obviously out there. Turn on Ryan Long, Gilly and Keeves, I Think You Should Leave, or even random YouTube improv comedy, and you’ll see it. Instead, we have a cast of people who show none of the signs of the edginess necessary to bring SNL back from irrelevance.
But don’t worry — at least one of them uses they/them pronouns.
SNL vet Rob Schneider recently made headlines when he told Glenn Beck that he knew the show was over when there was no joke at the end of the post-2016 election sketch — if you can even call it that — where Kate McKinnon sings Jeff Beck’s “Hallelujah” as Hillary Clinton.
“I hate to crap on my old show,” Schneider said. “I literally prayed, ‘Please have a joke at the end. Don’t do this. Please don’t go down there.’ And there was no joke at the end, and I went, ‘It’s over. It’s over. It’s not going to come back.’”
As markers go, it’s a fitting end to a show that once mocked our leaders rather than praised them. Even recurrent star Kenan Thompson, the longest tenured cast member, is now suggesting the show could end at the 50 season mark.
A half-century is plenty. As much as the SNL model has proven relevant over the years, its greatness seems long past. As it fades away from the cultural zeitgeist, it should be put out of its misery before it becomes even more of an embarrassment.