A Movieline Report Card of SNL's Recent Half-Season

Whether you think Saturday Night Live's best days lay ahead, ended in 1992, or were over by the time Joe Piscopo came aboard, one thing is for certain: Its best days are not now. Kristin Wiig is forced to resuscitate so many sketches that it seems unfair, and hosts unused to comic material are chosen frequently. Now, Movieline reflects on its SNL coverage and sheds light on the bad, ugly, and slight good of its 35th season.

The Bad

The worst episode of the season starred the usually-prim January Jones. While Julie Miller notes that Jones's stiffness is partly to blame, it's really the writing that biffed worst of all. Other contenders for worst episode of the year include Gerard Butler's appearance, with its interminable riffs on 300, and the debut episode starring Megan Fox, who never once mentioned her new film Jennifer's Body. That's the same show that was highlighted by an F-bomb slip.

The Good

James Franco and Joseph Gordon-Levitt gave us the most inspired hosting of the season thanks to actual comic chops and extreme energy, respectively. Taylor Swift's hosting-and-performing double-duty was also admirable, though she didn't follow our advice.

The Backstage Embarrassment and Redemption

After the sudden Michaela Watkins and Casey Wilson firings and the quick Michaela Watkins doppelganger hirings, the prospect of female amateurs faring well on SNL seemed grim. Recently, SNL has begun to rectify its male-heavy writing staff with the addition of Jessi Klein. She has big shoes to fill.

Kristin Wiig's Reign

While her contribution to the current season can never be underestimated, few remember that the Emmy-nominee gave so much to the history of Weekend Update's afflicted correspondents. Where's Tamara's holiday special?

The Outlook

While I look forward to the Charles Barkley episode (Is there a chance he can namedrop the Super Nintendo classic Barkley Shut Up and Jam?), I can't wait for Sigourney Weaver week. Na'vi naughtiness has yet to be comprehensively explored.


  • HollyG says:

    I beg to differ on the Gerard Butler episode. Besides the 300 schtick, I found Gerard's turn at comedy rather funny!

  • I seriously think there's something wrong with me, because I thought James Franco's episode was the most boring, unfunny one since January Jones'. Seriously, that dude is baked 24/7. Also, I still maintain that Joseph Gordon-Leavitt was hopped up on coke or speed the whole time; his eyes just weren't right. And no mention of Tyler Lautner's adorable performance? The material wasn't all that strong, but I thought he gave a great accounting of himself.

  • busterbluth says:

    Gordon-Levitt's energy level was desperate and off-putting. Definitely not a highlight of this truly awful season.

  • Sarah Jessica Bean says:

    I don't believe any of these episodes were completely well- or poorly-written, and it felt as though there were one or two good sketches each episode. James Franco making out with Will Forte can't be ignored; Joseph Gordon-Levitt's monologue was great; and the potato chip/NASA sketch of the Blake Lively episode was the best thing we've seen all season. And honestly, I wouldn't ignore Andy Samberg's, Jorma Taccone's, and Akiva Scaffer's digital shorts -- not perfect, but almost always entertaining. SNL is lacking ridiculously, and hopefully with some new blood (writing-wise, the new Indian actress is horrific), the show will have a little glow again.

  • Jane says:

    Critics are truly a waste of time. Gerard Butler's appearance certainly kept the in-house audience entertained and full of laughter. It also drew the largest audience of the initial four and received the highest fan rating of those first four as well. You may not care to see him but there are plenty of people who do.
    SNL, as always, has funny sketches and not-so-funny ones all sandwiched together. Any host is only as good as the material they're given and if the writers choose to play it safe with predictable shtick, maybe it's because a large part of their audience enjoys it. SNL has always been a mixed bag but they are no longer the novelty they were in the beginning.
    I just wish critics would get off their duffs and use their respective brilliance to actually produce something. Write those brilliant plays, scripts and sketches you're aching to see and work to get them produced and out to an audience. You might actually learn something useful.

  • PatM says:

    I thought Gerard Butler did a good job on SNL...especially Beauty And The Beast...very funny! Some of the skits were not so good but that was the fault of the writers...not Gerry's comedic ability!

  • Ted Chalfen says:

    But what about the doorbell sketch? You HAVE to mention the doorbell sketch.