In an interview last week about his upcoming hosting duties on Saturday Night Live, Jeremy Renner talked about how he felt during rehearsals for the show: "During some of the read-throughs Wednesday, I was reading [sketches] for the first time, and I had to stop, like, 'What are you guys smoking?'" quickly adding, "It's tremendous. Where do they come up with this stuff? They're geniuses." After watching this past weekend's Saturday Night Live, let me say that his statement is an insult to illegal narcotic consumers everywhere. I've met a few drug users in my time and I would wager any amount of money that any one of them could have written and executed a more creative and entertaining 90-minute program than this stream of toothless and pointless garbage. Given the talented young performers currently gracing the cast, this show should be able to put together one or two amusing segments per episode, but there is no imagination behind a majority of the sketches that are written. It surprised me to discover in the aforementioned interview with Jeremy Renner that SNL actually conducts read-throughs with the host and cast during the week, because the skits feel like they were thrown together at the last minute.
Meanwhile, all of the performers gaze off into the distance during every sketch so that they can read the cue-cards, since they evidently haven't bothered to remember any of their lines. Perhaps this sloppy practice has always been an issue, but it has become most noticeable over the past decade. The loose and live nature of SNL has always been one of its selling points on a night without any competition, but the obvious reading and failure to ever look at their scene partners comes off as unprofessional and breaks the fourth wall in a very negative way. Another cheap-laugh tactic is to have an actor or actors start to laugh during a scene, because the material is so terrible that the only way they can get the crowd to laugh is to invoke a reflex laugh. This used to be the domain of Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Santz, but Fred Armisen brought it back this week during the recurring sketch called "The Californians," which long ago wore out its welcome. Featuring characters talking about freeways in a Californian accent, the sketch was amusing the first time, mostly due to Bill Hader's performance, but it has subsequently become less and less funny and more and more obnoxious each time. In case he didn't notice when SNL gave the President Obama gig to an actual black guy, Armisen has run his course on the show and it's time for him to leave. He contributes nothing of note these days and now has resorted to laughing during sketches more often to give the illusion that people still find him funny. Get lost, Fred, and take The Californians with you.
The only remotely amusing part of this week's show was the Avengers parody, in which Renner reprised his film role as ace archer Hawkeye, and even that wasn't particularly inventive. Basically, it was a rehash of the joke that every superhero fan probably said or heard this summer about a superpowered supersoldier, a billionaire in a robot suit, a cosmic god, and a big green monster needing help from... a guy with a bow and arrow? Ever the creative types, the SNL writers added the wrinkle that Hawkeye's quiver only held eleven arrows and he had used all of them. Aside from that sketch, I can honestly say I did not enjoy anything else on the show this week in the least. Next week is a repeat of the episode hosted by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, so the writers and performers have two weeks to prepare a somewhat entertaining edition of the show and erase the stench of this rotten pile of excrement they called Saturday Night Live.
Recommendation: fire the writing staff and start fresh. I know I'm not the first to suggest it, but 68-year-old producer Lorne Michaels needs to step aside and hand the reigns over to someone younger with their finger on the pulse of modern pop culture and cutting-edge comedy. Until that happens, SNL will remain a shadow of its former self. The show has always had its up and downs, but the lows seem to be happening with more frequency over the last few years. SNL hasn't been relevant since the 2008 Presidential Elections, and it won't be again as long as Lorne Michaels is still in charge. Right now, it's the Tonight Show With Jay Leno of the weekend.
FINAL GRADE: F