It turns out Seth Meyers was right. Despite some last minute innuendos by Lorne Michaels, Governor Sarah Palin did not appear on Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update Thursday (could they squeeze a few more days into that title?). Instead, the first of three planned prime-time SNL specials featured appearances by former cast members Chris Parnell and Bill Murray.
While it’s always nice to see Mr. Murray, who played an audience member during the opening Presidential Debate skit, the 30-minute show was a microcosm for a lot of SNL‘s recent failings. Again, a major character in a keystone sketch had to be farmed out to a former player. Mr. Michaels fired Chris Parnell, and yet now he seems to be telling us that Mr. Parnell is the only person capable of playing Tom Brokaw? No one in the cast, not even a master impressionist like Bill Hader, could take on that role?
Right now, the only solid political impressions that Saturday Night Live has in its limited coiffeurs are the Clintons–Amy Poehler and Darrell Hammond kill as Hillary and Bill. But nearly every other one is done by a non-cast member (Tina Fey, Chris Parnell, Queen Latifah immediately and obviously spring to mind) or, worse, done badly by a current cast member.
It goes without saying that Fred Armisen’s Barack Obama isn’t good. But we’re more disappointed by Darrell Hammond’s John McCain. From a guy who so embodies Bill Clinton and Donald Trump whenever he plays them, Mr. Hammond’s turn as the Arizona senator feels half-hearted. Outside of doing the weird lisp that John McCain has when he finishes words, Mr. Hammond never really nails anything else. It just feels like we’re watching an old white dude.
Saturday Night Live has been a huge hit this year, and it will continue to be one of the most talked about shows of the year until the election. However, afterward, something might need to be done to restructure its cast. If the main part of your show is going to be political impressions, then you better hire people who can actually do them. Haven’t we learned that outsourcing is a bad idea?