Monday, April 6, 2015

SNL Getting Good Again

Saturday Night Live has gone through another season-and-a-half or so of basically holding itself together out of habit and routine. After a mass exodus of long-time cast members (with a few long-timers hanging in there, spanning the gap), there was the addition of a massive number of new hires, then a gradual shedding of dead wood (some of it good wood). Finally, now that we're heading toward the end of a season, it feels like SNL has gelled again. This weekend's edition felt like a well-oiled machine, with a real identity.

That doesn't mean everything worked, or that it was knee-slappingly funny. It's rarely been that way, despite what you may remember. That's the nature of a live comedy show. But, it does feel like everything was on purpose, like the writing matches the acting, and like they know what they're doing. That's new, with this cast. Even Weekend Update feels "settled" again, with Colin Jost and Michael Che finally feeling less like "the new guys," and more like seasoned players. Now, let's see if they can hold the feeling into season 41. . . Meanwhile, here are some of the better clips from this weekend's Michael Keaton episode.

CNN's programming was skewered, along with current news stories.

They made fun of Scientology (referencing HBO's Going Clear documentary) with a spot-on parody of the "religion's" cheesy inspirational videos.

Taran Killam's "Jebediah Atkinson" colonial media critic character manages to remain unexpectedly funny every time.

And while I'd characterize many of the skits on Keaton's show to be more odd than laugh-out-loud funny, there was a certain polish to the whole proceedings, and Keaton was game for anything, giving the whole episode a professional, cohesive feel it hasn't had in a long time.

One thing I particularly like, is that while the show still has the one obvious male lead (Killam) per usual, the show now feels less like a boy's club, which has been a persistent problem in the past. The women of SNL are now very, very strong, particularly Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, and now, Sasheer Zamata and Leslie Jones. Zamata in particular came out of the box as though she was a seasoned player, and the more they give Jones to do, the more I like her.

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