Saturday Night Live: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

By , Columnist

Saturday Night Live is like that old Energizer bunny. It just keeps going and going and going. The show recently completed its 36th season and, with a little help from guests Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga, garnered its highest ratings for an SNL season finale in 11 years.  And though it's often been criticized, lambasted, and sneered at, it is at the very least entertaining and, on a very good night, brilliant. 

SNL has kept its format unchanged, which could be part of the reason for the show's continued success. The old adage "if it ain't broke don't fix it" could well be showrunner Lorne Michaels' credo. Cast upheavals aside, the show is not really a whole lot different from when it started all those years ago. 

A new season does bring the usual personnel changes: a faction of the old guard leave, while fresh new faces come aboard. Those with seniority graduate to become part of the main repertory group, while the new kids are the "featured" players. If an SNL comic's character becomes popular, it will, for better or worse, forever be associated with them. Think Mike Myers' Wayne's World, Will Ferrell's Alex Trebek, Gilda Radner's Rosanne Rosanadanna, Dana Carvey's The Church Lady, and you'll get the idea.  

The latest round of SNL repertory players boasts some outstanding comics who will eventually leave the show, following wherever their formidable talents lead them. Fred Armisen, as well as being able to play any role that's handed him - from old man politician to punk rock drummer - does a mean Obama impression. Bill Hader has made being creepy-funny into an art form, including Stefon, a skinny, fey, rave kid who is forever touting the latest and greatest clubs in town.

But it is Kristin Wiig with her vast array Kristen Wiig.jpgof hilarious and unique characters who takes the top prize for being one of the most talented comics ever to grace the SNL stage. Her ridiculous yet sublime creations include The Target Lady, a cashier who is overly enamored with her customers' purchases; Gilly, a mischievous, somewhat obnoxious schoolgirl; and Penelope, a woman whose sole purpose in life is to be better than everyone at everything.   

She would have jibed perfectly with the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players. Wiig and Gilda Radner, with their knack for dialects and characterizations, would have made a powerhouse duo. SNL is lucky to still have Wiig on board. But how long will she stay? Her Bridesmaids film is a hit and it's only a matter of time before Wiig takes a cue from Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, et al to seek out more lucrative outlets for her talents. Catch her on the show while you can. 

If you haven't watched SNL recently, give it a look. You might be surprised by how well its age-old format has stood the test of time.

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Mindy Peterman is a freelance writer whose focus is on television, movies and pop culture. She has written over one hundred articles for the award winning website and has conducted interviews with producer Peter Asher, psychic-medium John Edward, Greg Grunberg and Bob Guiney from Band…

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