While the 2016 Presidential Election may be a living Hell for all of us level-headed folks out here… there are a few that are enjoying it. The primary beneficiaries just so happen to be your Aunt sharing political opinions on Facebook, and Saturday Night Live… in that order.
If Lorne Michaels was asked what the ideal event to inspire content would be even then he couldn’t conjure up something as perfect as Trump vs. Hillary. Although Trump is already responsible for the highest ratings since January 2002, when he was the host back in November. The ratings for SNL as a whole have been on a swift decline for the better 4 decades.
The average premiere rating since the 08/09 season kicked off has been 5.04 with a share of the available TV viewing audience of 12.5. This means that 5.04% of households with a TV set tuned in and 12.5% of people watching TV at that time we’re watching SNL. These numbers, as lackluster as they may be, are still misleading.
That 08/09 premiere was the highest rated since 2002 (edging out Donald Trump’s 2016 appearance’s rating of 6.6 with a 7.4 of its own). If you take out that well-received episode the averages fall to 4.7 and 11.7 respectively.
And coincidentally the last great episode of SNL also featured a certain presidential candidate:
The viewing landscape has changed quite considerably since 2008 however. John Oliver now provides a more intellectual and fact based approach to issues facing the country while the slew of late night shows have a platform on a nightly basis that encroaches more closely upon SNL’s style.
Tonight SNL has its chance to reenter the realm, or some semblance of it, of “Must See TV” due to the “gift” that is this dumpster fire of a presidential race. They’re preparing for battle and they’ve called in their big guns. Alec Baldwin has been enlisted to play their new Donald Trump (as suggested by Tina Fey) and has been paired with comedy’s newest infatuation, Kate McKinnon, as Hillary Clinton. Toss in the Weeknd fresh off his release of new singles ‘Starboy’ and ‘False Alarm’ and Hollywood’s current “it” girl, Margot Robbie, as host and things are certainly starting to look promising. Also sprinkled into the new cast are former writer Mikey Day, Second City Chicago alum Alex Moffat and actress and impressionist Melissa Villaseñor
The components are there for the biggest premiere of this century, but the delivery has to executed in a way that seems to have eluded them over the past 8 years. There’s seemingly three likely outcomes for tonight’s debut and the prospects for the entire season.
- Ratings take their usual jump to welcome in a new season then decline until the finale looms near, as has been the case each year in recent memory.
- Ratings spike and the cast delivers, propelling Saturday Night Live back into the forefront of political commentary and making it must watch week to week.
- Ratings spike and the cast fails to hit the mark and the biggest opportunity they’ve had since Obama/McCain slips through their fingers and effectively kills the season before it even gets off the ground.
Saturday Night Live will never be can’t miss TV again, the way we consume media has left room for very few shows to hold that distinction. We’ve moved into an arena where we want to watch shows when we want and if they don’t captivate us they often won’t get another chance because there’s something else waiting to steal our attention.
However, this current election has the ability to make SNL the closest thing to “can’t miss” – at least for a few months. Tonight sets the tone and they only get one shot to either return to prominence or just accelerate their progression away from relevancy.
Godspeed SNL, godspeed