After Justin Bieber hosted SNL last season, I concluded that SNL will never quite be the alternative comedy show we'd like it to be. There's no denying the show would be much funnier if producers only booked the heroes of comedy nerds to host the show, as it did last season with Louis CK and last week with Tina Fey. I've made the case several times that the show would be far better if only former cast members hosted — indeed, SNL has enough star alumni to fill a few seasons' worth of episodes.
But SNL isn't that show. The ongoing inclusion of performances by a musical guest in every episode tells us that SNL will always be a classic, network late-night variety show, where ratings and cultural relevancy remain top priorities.
So despite the ire of fans, a couple of times each season, we will have to deal with whatever pop culture sensation currently controls the zeitgeist. Sometimes, this mainstream pandering ends up being a good thing, as it was with Jon Hamm or Justin Timberlake. More often than not, however, we're stuck with a performer who, frankly, has no place on SNL: Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Donald Trump, and now, for a second time, Miley Cyrus. To the writers' credit, they shot for the moon with some pretty ambitious ideas — a post-apocalyptic flashback cold open and cheerleaders getting abducted by aliens, and the cast members (namely Taran Killam and Vanessa Bayer) gave some of the best performances of their careers. But the early sketches had so many moving parts — and so much Miley — that the show felt rushed, with little breathing room for the cast and no time for jokes to land. That might be an unfair criticism for a show that is hastily thrown together last minute, but SNL normally pulls off the feat with a finesse that was noticeably absent this week.
If you didn't enjoy this episode — and I'm sure there were many of you — you shouldn't blame the writers, who got the most out of their hot button host while managing to address some big news events, or the cast members, who have stepped up remarkably so far this season. Nor should you blame Miley Cyrus, who improved on her hosting stint in 2011, left it all on stage, and happily poked fun at herself — even if it played right into her strategy to dominate every aspect of pop culture. Some of the blame can go to SNL's booking producers, who should recognize that the show is popular enough that it doesn't need to play within the toxic publicity machine that buoys stars like Cyrus and Bieber. READ MORE