When I was in elementary school, I would lie awake on Saturday nights fighting sleep, waiting for the moment when I could safely tiptoe out of my room without waking my parents. At precisely 11:23, I would begin to creep down the hall to station myself in front of the whispering TV. It was time for “Saturday Night Live,” and I wouldn’t miss it for anything.
Perhaps because of what has admittedly been a nearly religious devotion to Studio 54, there’s never been a moment when I’ve considered SNL unfunny. But I will admit that in the past few years, the show has been missing the element of surprise.
Sketches were reliably funny, but didn’t feel new or boundary-pushing. This past Saturday night, however, the premiere of season 42 exploded onto the small screen. The show was sharp, witty, and — for the first time in years — a little dangerous.
In fact, Saturday’s show was practically electric — like someone had injected a shot of pure adrenaline into the heart of the writers’ room.
The road to what seems to be a now-flawless formula has been a rocky one. In recent seasons, the cast members have often been criticized by longtime viewers for not being as funny as beloved past performers.
While no performance will ever match the euphoria of watching a pubescent Jimmy Fallon break character, the current cast is set to give him and other beloved SNL alums a run for their money.
This season’s roster is a perfect amalgamation of promising new blood and seasoned heavy hitters like Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, both of whom returned to the show after the rousing success of ”Ghostbusters.”
And not since the days of the early 2000s girl gang — Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Amy Poehler and Ana Gasteyer — has SNL had a cast of women as strong as their current lineup.
As a viewer, it’s an incredibly exciting moment to watch the show. When the formula of writers, performers and material works perfectly, SNL doesn’t just comment on pop culture — it creates it.
For instance, if I were to ask someone to quote George W. Bush, chances are they would mention something about “strategery.” But Bush never actually made that flub — that term was coined by Will Ferrell in his 2000 portrayal of the former president.
And despite Gerald Ford being remembered as notoriously clumsy, he only fell once on camera. In reality, it was Chevy Chase who tripped over objects on SNL’s oval office set every week in 1975.
The cultural impact doesn’t just stop at politics: The phrase “more cowbell” from an episode hosted by Christopher Walken in 2000 was so highly referenced that it has its own Wikipedia page. And Alec Baldwin’s 1998 “Schweddy Balls” sketch is still quoted so often that it inspired a 2011 Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream flavor.
This new season has the same promise of cultural greatness hanging in the air. With a seemingly perfect formula and a flawless first episode under their belt, this season of Saturday Night Live might just be the start of a new renaissance for the show.
After 42 years with as many seasons, 147 cast members and 808 episodes, SNL is not only surviving, but thriving.
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