For 38 years, the actors and writers on Saturday Night Live have been tirelessly producing comedy sketches for people whose only weekend companions are strangers viewed from the distance between the couch and the TV, and, for some of those years, making said individuals laugh. However, in recent months, criticism of the show hasn’t focused as much on its lack of au courant humor as it has its lack of diversity, particularly its lack of black female cast members. In the NBC show’s nearly four decades on television, only four black women have made the show’s cast, and, ever since Maya Rudolph‘s departure in 2007, the current number is zero.
With news that the show had narrowed down their search for a new cast member to three comedians — all female, and all women of color — the show’s producer Lorne Michaels and his fellow executives are clearly catering to public pressure, although changing the look of the cast won’t save the showfrom its larger, and potentially fatal, issues. In recent years, cast member retention seems to be dwindling, with many of the show’s newer hires moving on to careers in film, TV, or, in some cases, obscurity. Unlike in the show’s heyday, fewer sketches are gaining traction and becoming touchstones of culture in their own right, leading to fewer films made from the show’s material — 2010’s MacGruber earned just over $9 million at the box office, as compared to ’90s hits A Night at the Roxbury and Superstar, both of which made triple that amount.
While above-average writers and actors used to make the cut for the show, it’s clear that with nearly 40 seasons under their belt, they’re running out of material when sketches like “Top Dog Chef” are making it to air. So, while adding a few new cast members may freshen up the batch a little for a new season (and keep Kenan Thompson from ever having to wear a dress again), it doesn’t address the fact that SNL clearly doesn’t have wind left in its sails.
Let us remember it fondly in old pictures, like a dead friend that we used to love — don’t let the show die in indignity with hosts like Adam Levine and sketches about junior proms.
It’s been a good run, now let the old boy out to pasture.
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