I'd had the idea to write a review after the first episode. My chronic laziness flared up. Meant to do it after the first few episodes. Again, severe laziness attack. So now, with only a few days until the second half of the season starts, it's time.
So SNL has run halfway through another season. The show gained six cast members, and Cecily gained about thirty pounds. I jest- she's serious dropped about five pounds a week since the first show. I couldn't lose weight that fast if I stopped eating altogether. She has literally worked her ass off.
For starters, I must acknowledge my own prediction of Beck Bennett being added to the cast. The tabloids started reporting that about a week after I said so, which makes me think they actually watch this wiki and consider it a possible news source. Just to be clear, I'm not an insider; I have no affiliation with NBC. I just know talent when I see it. So, NBC: if Lorne decides to retire, you know where to find me. I promise to do better than Jean.
I have to point out that this season got off to a very weak start, thanks to their hosting choice. The hosts always contribute a lot of writing, and good hosts make for a great episode. Kevin Hart's episode is a great example. I hate to be the one to have to point this out, but Tina Fey is not a good choice as host. Her tenure as head writer was by far the least-funny period in the history of the show. And keep in mind, this is coming from someone who has watched the Doumanian episodes. If they want her to host, they can make it work- every episode isn't going to be a gem, after all. But not the first of a season, and definitely not the first with a slew of new cast members. It was bad. Really, really bad. I could tell from the outset that it wasn't the fault of the new featureds, so I didn't start thinking they'd picked bad people. I knew it was the writing, and was simply irritated that I wasn't going to get a good look at the new people right out of the gate.
On to the new people. For the most part, I like the new featured players. They've been a bit under-utilized; we barely saw Beck and John for the first couple of months, and since then, Brooks and Kyle have almost disappeared. The reason is pretty simple: they have a big cast this year, making it hard to feature everybody. Most of them are very funny, and I think SNL is better for having them. There is one I'm not impressed with, and that's Mike O'Brien. I just don't find him particularly funny. The best thing I've seen out of him was his 'bugs' segment, but that was only "okay". I have to compare this to another cast decision- the demotion of Tim Robinson. Tim went to the writers' room, while Mike was promoted from writer to featured. Wrong move; Tim is funnier. If I were producing the show, the start of the 2014 episodes would mean sending Mike back to the minors and bringing Tim back to the majors.
That takes me to an issue that has cropped up since the season started, and that was Kenan Thompson's very public complaints about the lack of a black female on the cast. (Jay Pharoah has talked about it a bit as well, but it wasn't as clear that he was criticizing the leadership of the show. Kenan left little room for doubt.) This was brought up on the Kerry Washington episode, and led to the hiring of Sasheer Zamata, who we'll see on the first new episode. Some of the reports out there say her mid-season hiring is to replace Seth Meyers; I doubt it. They hired six new people to replace four departures at the end of 38; I think Seth's future vacancy was already planned for. Rather, I'm reminded of a new modification to an old saying- the squeaky wheel gets replaced. The firing of Nora Dunn comes to mind right away. I don't think Kenan's public criticism of the show is going to sit well with Michaels or the folks at NBC, and I think Sasheer is being brought in to replace him; I don't think he's coming back for 2014. I would fully expect it to be kept quiet, so I'm not taking the lack of news as an indication that he'll be there on Saturday. (Kenan just performed with Cecily earlier this month, but that may have been scheduled a while ago.)
Let me put a caveat in with that prediction. As was the case with the end of season six, there are contracts to be paid off when someone is forced out. (It led to Gail and Denny sticking around for one more episode.) Ergo, even if Lorne is cheesed off, the budget may not allow for a mid-season firing. If he's back on Saturday, don't be surprised if he's gone when the season wraps. (And in addition, it's become clarified that Seth didn't leave at the break, but is going to run his SNL tenure right to the wire. Maybe they'll keep Kenan until Seth's last show. If that's the case, don't be surprised if you barely see him onscreen between now and then.)
Lastly, I was concerned before the season started that they might push Vanessa out, because we barely saw her toward the end of the season. Still not sure what was going on there. (It makes me wonder why we've barely seen Nasim this season.) As soon as Miley strapped on that foam finger and grabbed her ankles, though, I knew Vanessa was coming back. And I'm glad for that, because she's my favorite on the show. (I don't mind admitting it's because she a) is the best-looking, IMO, and b) grew up about twenty miles away from where I've lived all my life. Northeast Ohio pride.) And on a side note- there was a sketch on the Miley episodes in which Miley's character hit on Vanessa, and during the goodbyes, they were holding hands. I don't know if anything happened between them backstage, but I'm just going to assume it did, because that would be the hottest thing ever. I think Miley's hot, and I liked watching her twerk. There, I said it. I don't care what you think of me.
That's all I have to say on the subject. We'll see where things go.
Addendum 10:36, February 15, 2014 (UTC)
I'd predicted Colin Jost would join before the season, so I actually called that one, too. Just had my timing off. With Colin joining as featured and repertory player Seth leaving, we may see a person or two get promoted from featured to repertory. It's very possible no one will move, but if anyone does, my prediction is Beck and Kyle.
I want to write my opinion of Sasheer, but I'll wait a couple weeks so I can gauge and write about Colin at the same time.
Addendum 08:22, March 2, 2014 (UTC)
The short version: Colin and Sasheer are both great additions to the cast.
I wasn't to worried about the show's writing slipping with Seth leaving, because I knew that Colin was responsible for the Miley-GOP music video sketch. I figured, if he came up with that, his writing skill had to be very good, and the March 1 episode didn't disappoint. He was very good on Weekend Update; I always preferred a more deadpan style (a la Chevy Chase or Charles Rocket) to a more loose feel, and Colin does that extremely well. (I'm not growing so fond of Cecily at the desk; she's great in sketches, but I don't care for her news-reading style. But props to her for almost always being in the very next sketch.)
Sasheer's best point is her acting. Many people get what I call "Samberg Syndrome". Named after Andy Samberg, it refers to cast members who never take their eyes off the cue cards. (It gets very obvious when the person is supposed to be carrying on a conversation, and they aren't looking at the other person.) Sasheer is very good at reading ahead and then looking somewhere other than those cure cards; her performances are very natural. She's better than more than half of the current cast, at least. It left me mystified about something- Kenan's TVGuide interview from earlier in the year contained this quote:
Thompson blames the lack of quality black female comedians. "It's just a tough part of the business," Thompson says. "Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready."
Okay, so... where the hell have they been looking? She's been at UCB since 2009, but through all the people they've hired in the past few years, she was passed over. They've hired a number of white cast members who don't act as well, but we're supposed to believe the lack of cast diversity was a lack of decent black actresses? Bullshit.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Re: the Jean Doumanian episodes... while I joke, in reality, they aren't nearly as bad as people make them out to be. Not quite as good as season five before it, or seven the following year, but not that bad. I do think they're better, on average, than seasons eight and nine, and on par with the later 80s and earlier 90s, which tended to be very hit-and-miss. (The first episode of season 15, for example, was positively horrendous.) I believe the original dislike came from people missing the original cast, and it's perpetuated by people who haven't actually seen any of the episodes.