I’ve stolen this image from The Elder because I want to make a few brief comments on the most recent episode of Saturday Night Live. While it was certainly a pairing which served well for my elder brother, and myself, in terms of our tastes, let’s consider this for a second.
The episode itself remained mired in the general shithole that has been created in recent years. The Nooni/Nuny sketch has never, ever been funny, and the addition of new actors will never change that fact (It’s SNL’s Peripheral Vision Man, if we wish to get all meta about it). The cold open about Anna Nicole Smith was a one-note Weekend Update joke stretched into a painfully long segment with no personality or purpose. Weekend Update, as per usual, had its occasional solid joke before getting lost in boring “guests” and jokes that were never funny even in their wildest dreams.
The only sketches that really got off the ground were the ones which seemed most suited to Rainn Wilson. The Peeping Tom sketch was great purely because of Wilson’s ability to make creepy facial expressions. While perhaps not expanding far enough past its initial concept, at least White Possum Croak was somewhat relevant. And, while no Dick in a Box, the Digital Short was a lesson in absurdism that was a welcome break from the drudgery of live comedy.
But, really, why do people watch Saturday Night Live? Part of me remembers a day when people hosting Saturday Night Live would be there to support their upcoming movie, and this would be a launching pad of sorts for them. There is no question this is true: Arcade Fire will likely see a slight uptake in album sales come March 5th (Neon Bible Woo!), and Wilson’s small indie film might make a few extra bucks. Earlier this year The Shins launched with unprecedented success in the States after performing on SNL; clearly, it has some clout.
But, maybe it was just me, but it really felt that Rainn Wilson and The Arcade Fire were helping SNL more than it was helping them. There were likely more Office fans tuning into SNL tonight than there will be SNL fans switching off Ugly Betty to give this here Office show a chance. The monologue was designed purely as an in-joke to these fans, and one that I found quite humorous indeed. The treatment of the Arcade Fire as indie gods doesn’t really do the band any good, but it helps build SNL’s cred with the blogs that much more.
Gone are the days when SNL is a launching pad for artists, or actors, or TV shows. Instead, at this point it appears that SNL is instead looking for opportunities to boost its own profile and save its own cultural relevance. While YouTube has allowed for the Digital Shorts to gain widespread viewership, how many of these people are tuning into NBC on Saturday nights instead of just waiting until it’s on YouTube the next day? YouTube is beneficial to SNL’s mindshare, perhaps, but I don’t think it goes beyond “OMG Justin and some guy” for most people, and I doubt people take an hour and a half out of their Saturday nights to take in the new week’s episode.
All of that aside, Wilson did a fine job and I was very happy with the song selection from the Arcade Fire. While songs were a little Win heavy so is the album, and Intervention and Keep the Car Running are pretty much my favourite songs I’ve heard from the album. Both songs had a sense of energy, a sense of build, and while I somewhat wish they had gone a bit more nuts with the performance I can’t help but be pleased with how it all went.
It’s funny…when you cut out 90% of the sketches and 75% of Weekend Update, you’re left with a pretty darn good 1/2 hour show. Maybe that’s an idea for the future?
Anyways, The Elder has more detailed thoughts on the Arcade Fire performances, as well as some YouTube links that he’s constantly rotating. Here’s their performance on Keep the Car Running; head over to McNutt Against the Music for Intervention.