Friday, March 23rd, 2012

What You're Missing By Watching SNL on Hulu

While recapping Saturday Night Live episodes for the past year or so, it has come to my attention that Hulu — the primary source for SNL viewers who watch episodes online (an increasing number of people under 30, it turns out) — typically leaves out a sketch or two when it uploads an episode. The reasons usually concern music licensing. NBC has to pay a large amount of money to get the rights to use a copyrighted song in a sketch, and that amount increases significantly if that sketch will be posted online (NBC’s website and sites like Hulu, which has a contract with NBC). So any part of the show that would complicate negotiations with record labels should it be posted online is removed from the version of the episode on Hulu.

Normally this isn’t too big a problem. It’s just one sketch per episode, after all — well worth getting the rest of the episode for free the day after it airs. We also try our best in our recaps to track down versions of the missing sketches on sites like YouTube before NBC forces the uploaders to take them down. And in the past, these sketches haven’t been particularly memorable.

Except very recently, that is. Over the past two seasons, frequently the best sketches of the night happen to feature a licensed song that keeps them offline. And considering a large number of Splitsider readers watch SNL on Hulu, I feel obligated to share with you some of what you’re missing out on. Hopefully that’ll encourage you to watch SNL as it’s meant to be experienced: on television, live, and at a low enough volume so your neighbors don’t wake up and catch you watching their TV.

Jimmy Fallon Monologue. Perhaps one of the most fun moments of this season was Jimmy Fallon’s opening monologue from last December, in which Fallon pulled out a guitar and sang a version of the Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” running around back stage and dancing with the whole cast on stage. Watch the video here.

Best of Both Worlds. I’ve never been a huge fan of this recurring sketch featuring Andy Samberg’s Hugh Jackman, who hosts a talk show focused on his “TWO SIDES” of macho action hero and Broadway star. But there have been some memorable moments – namely, some particularly violent twist endings – that the sketches’ samples of Broadway numbers have kept offline. Watch the video here.

Bro Stories. Perhaps my favorite recurring sketch from the past few years, you might remember this piece in which a group of men sit around a table drinking beers, singing along to a classic hit, and sharing warm memories with each other… with each story having a weird, dark twist at the end. The concept first appeared when Rainn Wilson hosted in 2007 (Kenny Loggins’ “Danny’s Song”) and most recently when Ed Helms hosted last season (Cat Stevens’ “Wild World”). With the song at the heart of this sketch, it’s not likely we’ll ever see these anywhere online.

Les Jeunes De Paris. Taran Killam made his big break on the show with a sketch in which French teens dance frantically and make random visual references to French culture. It’s a number that never makes much sense but is a ton of fun regardless. I assume Hulu didn’t post the first two instances of this sketch because they contained Europop tracks, but luckily NBC posted the most recent one on its website.

Cosby Obama. Another sketch from the Maya Rudolph episode fell victim to music licensing rules. Hulu didn’t cut the entire sketch, however – just the funny ending, in which the Obama family parodied the famous Ray Charles’ “Night Time Is the Right Time” moment from The Cosby Show, also featuring Amy Poehler making a cameo as Hilary Clinton.

Downton Abbey on Spike. After disliking it at first, I came around to this parody, in which a shallow Spike TV announcer tries to make sense of the tidy PBS period drama Downton Abbey. In this case, it appears the sketch was removed due to its use of actual footage from the show. Watch the video here.

Cry Music. Emma Stone and Nasim Pedrad play coworkers who confess their mutual obsession with Adele’s “Someone Like You” as the perfect sob song. SNL perfectly captured a cultural trend before it had been beaten to death by human interest pieces on cable news and public radio. Watch the video here.

Coolio Orchestra. This 10-to-1 sketch from last weekend’s episode featured Jonah Hill rapping the lyrics to Coolio’s “I’ll C U When U Get There.” If not consistently hilarious, it was such a fun way to end the show. Watch the video here.

Commercial Break Peeks. Another thing Hulu-watchers miss are the peek-ins during the commercial breaks, in which we get to see the crew set up for the next sketch or shots of the band playing. Every once in a while there will be a glimpse of something interesting during these peeks. Last week there was an entire sketch set up that was mysteriously never aired, an image made even more strange by the sight of band trombonist Steve Turre playing a conch shell (thanks commenter Francis Rizzo for uploading the video). And in the Ben Stiller episode last fall, Jason Sudeikis remained in his Hank Williams Jr. costume from an earlier sketch and joined the band to play us out to commercial.

These and many more, folks. Do what you can to watch SNL on TV, then use Hulu to share it with your friends. Rely solely on Hulu, and you’ll miss half the fun.

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

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  • http://jonaspolsky.tumblr.com/ Jonas Polsky

    I think some of the sketch cutting has other considerations, either show length or quality control. In the Betty White episode for example, three or four sketches from the airing were absent from the Hulu post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=742699266 Lennie Mac

    This has affected some of the episodes from the "classic" era, too. One of my favorite recurring characters was Kevin Nealon's "Frank Gannon, Politically Incorrect Private Investigator." He appeared only a couple of times. I was dismayed to find that these have now been deleted from the Hulu episodes. In this case the removal of the content seems to have nothing to do with music licensing, but with the elimination of anything that could potentially offend one or two people, even when (as in this case) it is precisely a satire of offensive people. This self-censorship very much in keeping with the bland-ification of SNL in the last fifteen years or so.

  • http://twitter.com/joseramonmarmtz Jose Ramon Marquez

    Maybe Hulu cuts a lot of sketches on SNL, but SNL being aired on cable networks from other countries like Sony Entertainment TV from Latin America or the Comedy Channel from Australia is even more cut, the reason is because NBC reduces the show length from 1:30 hrs. to 1 hour for their distribution in international markets (I don't know why) and that means that NBC cuts around three or four sketches, several jokes from Weekend Update and one of the musical performances of the musical guest… so yes, we miss a lot, so that's why I have to use some tricks to watch SNL on Hulu despite the blocking to international markets.

  • nae

    Anne Hathaway's impersonation of Katie Holmes was cut from this weeks episode. I only just found out, two days later.

  • johnson

    nobody outside the US has ever heard of or seen americas funniest show SNL

  • johnson

    i should also say americas finniest and most original show. screw you huluuuu

  • TMZ2

    Too bad because seeing SNL the way it aired is the way it should be. I don't know about cut-ins though because they don't often matter. However, I am sure musical performances are all gone. I am trying to figure this all out. That is how I landed here, because I heard about this elsewhere and was curious to learn more on what was cut. I can't recall what show it was but it was either from 1989 or 1990 or maybe 1991 where they had a long cold opening and it continued into the monologue. As I recall it the cast was pretending there was no show or something. It was real hilarious, but it only aired in repeat on NBC when they used to air re-runs after the original episode in 2006. The 1 hour cut up version that ran once on Comedy Central and on E! skipped it all and began with the intro then went to the sketches. Now that was brutal.

  • allegre.raul

    I bet something like this happened to the Schmidt's Gay beer commercial a long time ago with Farley and Sandler. Originally it had Van Halen music in the background and it made the skit. Then at some point they went back and changed it and put some generic background music in the skit instead. The skit lost its funniness.

  • TMZ2

    Well I finally paid for Hulu plus and SNL cut out a lot in some shows, changed the order of some other shows and left out some sketches that Comedy Central or E! and VH-1 used to run on their repeats. If ll has to do with music, then that is too bad, but every episode from 1975 to 1981 is in full with musical performances. The rest is cut and no musical performances. The last five most recent are the only ones with music in them, aside from the 75-81 shows, but after the time period to see it free expires then no more music is left on it. I've been trying to see the shows I missed, used to like and wanted to see again. It is too bad the shows were cut up but thanks to JT's SNL archive site I can at least know what was omitted.