Question: I don't imagine Saturday Night Live is on your radar, but I'm still a big fan of the show and rarely miss it. (Thank heaven for my DVR, which allows me to record the show and zip past the lamer sketches and lousy musical guests.) The last couple of years I've noticed a trend that's starting to irk me, and I'll use last week's show with Brian Williams as an example. He was a terrific host. The first two sketches he appeared in were hilarious (as a firefighter with a spot-on "New Yawk" accent and an underwhelmed Publishers Clearing House winner), but the rest of the night he only played "himself." Admittedly, he got off a great one-liner in the sketch about the Democratic debate: "The media's decided we just like Hillary better," or words to that effect. But I've noticed that almost every week now, the guest host is reduced to playing him- or herself in a preponderance of the sketches. Perhaps this technique works when the host is a nonperformer (say, Al Gore or Derek Jeter), but when the guest is a talented actor or a surprisingly funny nonactor (like Williams or Peyton Manning, who was great), why are the writers so lazy that they can't come up with five sketches with five different parts for the host to play? Let's not even go into the overdependence on recurring characters; I will be thrilled when "Bronx Beat," "Deep House Dish" and Kristin Wiig's competitive girl ("I have 10 best friends") are retired. I'd love to get your take on SNL these days, if you're still watching.
Answer: Some interesting thoughts here, and I don't really disagree with any of it. I watch SNL more often than not, primarily because it's live TV, and you never know what may happen, even though we're often disappointed. I rarely watch it in real time, because the sketches in the current incarnation can be almost as painful as sitting through many (though not all) of the musical guests' sets. Zipping through the duds on the DVR makes life much easier. It's true that the material often lets the guest host down, but SNL has always relied on recurring characters and franchises even in its golden periods, so that doesn't bother me. I just wish there were more memorable characters to look forward to with this cast. (The one that makes me cringe most these days is the MacGyver parody, "MacGruber.")