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SNL Midseason Update

Now that we’re half way through Season 37 of Saturday Night Live, it seems appropriate to look at the past half-season and talk about it. I’ll do a comprehensive breakdown at the end of the season, but in there meantime here are some highlights after 10 episodes:

-The cast member with the greatest percentage of screen time this season (taking into account major roles in sketches as opposed to smaller, walk-on roles) is Kristen Wiig, with 12.79% of the total roles (followed by Bill Hader with 10.73% and Jason Sudeikis with 10.04%). The cast member with the smallest percentage of screen time this season is Jay Pharoah with 3.71% (followed by Paul Brittain at 4.13% and Abby Elliott at 4.68%).

-Of the 10 episodes this season, six of them have opened with a GOP parody sketch, five of which starred Sudeikis as Mitt Romney.

-The highest viewed episode was last weekend’s episode hosted by Jimmy Fallon/Michael Buble, with a 2.5 rating and 7.3 million viewers, matching last season’s high, when Justin Timberlake/Lady Gaga hosted.

-The regular cast has had relatively few new prominent characters this season. There have been only 10: neglected daughter Raquel (Nasim Pedrad), event planner Nan Washingtom (Wiig), boyish aristocrat Lord Wyndemere (Brittain), the kids from J-Pop America Fun Time Now (Taran Killam, Vanessa Bayer), Jewish Willy Wonka (Andy Samberg), crazy laugh Colonel Nasty (Hader), Drunk Uncle (Bobby Moynihan), Finnish host Kalle (Wiig), flirting expert Rebecca Larue (Wiig), and one-man show Tommy Palmese (Fred Armisen). Of these, only the J-Pop kids have been reprised thus far.

-Recurring sketches/characters have dominated, and for the most part, they’ve been successful. Ones that have appeared this season: Stefon, Judy Grimes, Lawrence Welk, Garth and Kat, Surprise Lady, Shanna, Under-Underground Records, the Devil, Anthony Crispino, Herb Welch, Secret Word, The Manuel Ortiz Show, Ghadafi’s Friends, Les Jeunes de Paris, The Vogelchecks, Dateline, The Miley Cyrus Show, Sex Ed Vincent, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Sully and Denise, Nic Cage, Today Show, the backstage mirror, and the 1920s party couple.

-For reference purposes, I created a list of criteria that determine whether or not a recurring sketch will be successful.

-We’re still waiting on a big hit in the Digital Short department. The best of them has been Seducing Women Through Chess, which was more of a “funny sketch” than the big production viral hit we’re used to seeing.

-The general consensus seems to be that Melissa McCarthy was the strongest host, most notably for taking that infamous face shot of ranch dressing. That said, Jimmy Fallon, Alec Baldwin, Jason Segel, and Emma Stone also hosted great episodes. Ben Stiller hosted, in my opinion, the weakest episode. (The Huffington Post currently ranks Jimmy Fallon’s as the season’s best and Anna Faris’ as the season’s worst.)

-While most of the cold opens have been misses, nearly all of the 10-to-1 sketches have been hits. My favorites included Technology Hump, One Magical Night, Ornaments, and The Blue Jean Committee.

-My top 5 favorite sketches this season:

  1. Taste Test
  2. Kemper Pedic Bed
  3. Wyndemere
  4. Rebecca Larue
  5. Coach Bert

Overall, I think it’s been a pretty damn strong season thus far. With only three minor hiccups (Ben Stiller, Anna Faris, and Steve Buscemi), you have to admire the show’s consistency. And despite the dominance of recurring characters and GOP cold opens, there have been a number of brilliant original concepts shining through. It has been my pleasure to watch and recap SNL every week, and I look forward to the new year.

Have a great holiday, and I’ll see you when the show comes back this week with Charles Barkley!

Erik Voss is a writer and performer living in Los Angeles. He performs with his improv team Natural 20 at the iO West Theater.

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