The talk of Twitter today is that this weekend's SNL episode, hosted by Bill Hader, saw the lowest ratings in the show's history.
Bill Hader! Stefon himself couldn't even even save the show, whose ratings have been plummeting since last season. While SNL will always be the best thing on at 11:30 pm on Saturdays, and I will likely always be a fan, there’s no getting around that the drop in ratings these last few years has dovetailed with a precipitous drop in quality. Critics have declared recent seasons to be yet another rough patch in the shows consistently-inconsistent offerings, and though no one’s talking about cancellation yet (and I hope they never do), the show certainly has some room for improvement at its current juncture.
I may be no official expert, but I have been a devoted viewer since I saw my first episode at the tender age of 13 (the musical guest was Beck, as memory serves) and in this capacity, I offer up five things SNL can do to help right its currently listing ship:
1. Give Sasheer Zamata a shot. I'll admit, I was a little skeptical of her hiring—it seemed like a slapdash decision made to quell the growing internet fury over the show's lack of a female African-American player, and thus felt as if they were hiring her to fill a quota, not based on her talent. That said, I was so ready to love her at the beginning I just . . . haven't been very impressed by most of her appearances. However, I have to wonder if that's because she's been relegated to only piddling—dare I say token—parts so far. The biggest roles she's ever handed down are the obvious: Michelle Obama. Rihanna. Olivia Pope. Would it be too much to ask that she be given a bit that lets us see who she really is as a performer? I know it’s not usually done for featured players, but, since she was brought in by popular demand, I feel like this is a special case. Let’s give the people what they want and let Sasheer really shine.
2. Cut down on the young blond dudes. Colin, Kyle, Taran . . . Paul? Whenever I try to recount current male cast members, I end up confusing current performers with ones who haven't appeared on the show since 2012. In the wake of the exodus of fan-favorite players around the end of the last decade, there’s been a steady stream of fair-haired, fair-skinned fellows added to the roster. Some are fired, some leave mid-season of their own volition, but whenever one young blond dude leaves, he’s more often than not replaced by . . . another young blond dude. You don’t need five guys to play Justin Bieber (Kate McKinnon usually does that, anyway), and true diversity means more than just black and white.
3. Che to the Update desk, please. Colin Jost is certainly nice to look at (Che ain’t so bad either, though I’m a sucker for a Don Draper slick-back), but oh my God, I don't know how we ever lived without Michael Che behind that desk. Having cut his chops on The Daily Show, Che is more than capable of handling Update all by himself. And he should—Che and Jost’s chemistry is nearly nonexistent, and Che’s incongruously chipper delivery of grotesque news stories makes Jost’s attempted deadpan seem robotic in comparison.
4. Vet your musical acts. By the first musical act I am usually asleep or have snuck into the kitchen for some ice cream, because I’ve come to expect that the musical guest isn’t even worth watching. I'll admit I was impressed by Hozier this weekend, despite having low expectations based on his near-anonymity in the States. But for the last who-knows-how-long, the musical guests have solely comprised so-famous-they’re-boring top 40 artists. Let’s get some up-and-comers with solid indie cred in the lineup for the coming weeks—never underestimate the fervent power of indie fans.
5. Let the ladies take the reins every once in a while. SNL doesn’t, in its current state, have a huge problem with gender equality, and in fact has long been a launching pad for legendary female comedians. Still, it does seem like, since the end of the Fey/Poehler/Wiig/Rudolph/Dratch era, there’s been a prevailing attitude that any attempt to showcase their female cast members would be an affront to their legacy.
However, for my money, the best thing to happen in the last 12 months was “Twin Bed”:
(Good luck getting that out of your head, BTW.)
The ladies of SNL still got it. Let them use it.