Monday, January 2nd, 2012

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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  • Jason Farr@facebook

    The best for me was Fallon's. And in a very close second I'd say it was McCarthy's. I love Emma Stone and anything she does and Segel's was great too. I was most surprised by Katy Perry. Didn't expect to like that episode at all and I did.

  • Roger F. Lussier@facebook

    The Buscemi episode had a really great 10-1 though (the christmas ornaments) definitely thought Stiller's was the weakest overall (especially with consideration for the fact that stiller, unlike faris and buscemi had sketch comedy experience, all i can imagine was he wasn't as interested as other hosts must've been in hanging out around the writers room.)

  • Elle@twitter

    I feel like Kristen Wiig is a pretty polarizing cast member, but both she and Jason Sudeikis will be missed next year if they do decide to leave. Surprise Lady's name is Sue, by the way.

  • iamjustryingtolive

    wasn't Wyndemere in the back end of last season? It was funny, but i think it may not qualify for a this season midseason thing. The sketches that stick in my mind as being the best (no order): hidden valley ranch, adele song, coach bert, kemper pedic bed, seinfeld detective, and drunk uncle. I wish Weekend Update would do more jokes and less characters. I love Seth Meyer's delivery.

    • http://eavoss.com Erik Voss

      @iamjustryingtolive I reviewed all of last season's episodes too, and Wyndemere was definitely new to this season. Not just the character, but the whole sketch, just cracked me up. The other ones you mentioned would definitely round out my top 10. And I'd agree about giving Seth more jokes in Weeked Update if the characters weren't so damn funny. Most of the time, that is.

  • isntanywhere

    I was just watching old SNL episodes and I saw this: http://www.hulu.com/watch/271273/saturday-night-live-monologue-alec-baldwin

    Kind of funny that Jimmy Fallon actually did host in 2011?

  • Francis Rizzo III@twitter

    It would be nice to less of a dependence on talk shows and game shows. They have become a major crutch.