Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Fading Era of Women on Saturday Night Live

The most visible failure on behalf of SNL this past decade was keeping the wrong girl from the 2008-2009 season.

Why was it so important?
One of the really strong things about SNL this decade has been the women. In fact, it's the only solid argument about Saturday Night Live that you can make that the present is better than the past. You can't say that in any other decade of Saturday Night Live had women who outstaged their male counterparts, wowed the critics, and could become box office commodities and TV show leads then the 2000's.

To be more specific, I'm referring to Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig. No offense to Rachel Dratch who was in the mix at the same time: You were serviceable and nothing was wrong with you, but in terms of star power, talent and respect that they attained while they were on the show, those are the four most successful women in the history of the show:
-Lorne Michaels once said in an interview that Kristen Wiig is one of the three most capable performers (guy or girl) he's ever had on Saturday Night Live. She has her detractors and some people think she overuses certain impressions but before fans felt that she was too much, they loved her more, they universally agreed that she was talented and she generated tremendous buzz whether you loved or hated her. She has also had a role in practically every comedy movie of the last 3 years.

-Maya Rudolph was beloved while on the show and highly recognizable to people outside the world of Saturday Night Live. She's later appeared with high-calliber directors such as Sam Mendes ("Away We Go") and Rob Altman ("Prairie Home Companion")

-Tina Fey routinely makes lists of the funniest people in America and her stock has only gone up. Her acting and writing in the hit film "Mean Girls" raised her profile in a positive way, 30 Rock became one of the most rewarded shows on television, and then to top it off, she single-handedly resurrects Saturday Night Live's popularity through a series of guest roles as Sarah Palin in 2008. Ironically, the total amount of sketches that Tina Fey was in during her time on SNL (she was a Weekend Update anchor from her first episode to her last) probably would rank among the lowest in the history of the show's cast members.

-Amy Poehler is a household name and was so before she left the show. She is now the star of the follow-up to the Office. To build a comic show on NBC around a female, particularly one with as much pressure to succeed as Greg Daniel's follow-up of The Office pretty much says it all. That woman has to be a big deal. Her talent is also unquestionable: She's entirely fearless on stage.

In case you're thinking Julia Louis-Dreyffus could rival any of these four, it was Seinfeld and her recent Emmys that made her popular and not Saturday Night Live.

Now here's the important thing: During every era of Saturday Night Live, people have always complained that it wasn't as good as the past, but at least the argument can be made that the woman are stronger than they've ever been and that keeps the critical brand of the show alive.

In choosing the right successor to these women, they hired Casey Wilson, then Michaela Watkins and Abbey Elliott. Wilson was serviceable, Elliott drew a little bit of praise with an Angelina Jolie impression, but Watkins clearly was the star. Her impressions and characters were hits right away. And that was only half a season.

It made virtually no sense to fire Michaela after so soon a time and keep her unproven counterpart. I think the pressure to find new girls to replace the female stars has been so strong that they've been a little trigger happy out of an urgency to find that strong women right away. Before this year, SNL has bought in five new females as Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig were departing and over that time they only brought in one male.

The following season, neither of the two new girls nor Abbey made as much of an impact as Michaela. It could be that even he knows that neither of the girls are as talented as he hoped but the problem is that firing both of them shows that he admits the girls he replaced Michaela with weren't any good either and that the era of good women is over. So he has to keep one of them: He picks the one who created a couple good characters and went with it hoping that she'd grow into the role.

I'm not saying that Nassim is necessarily bad I am saying that her survival from last season to this season wasn't entirely based on her.

Also, I'm beginning to see Abbey Elliott's kind of raw. She might have her moments but she seems inexperienced and doesn't really nail her roles with the same precision as someone who's been doing this for a while. When I read the other day that she was only 23, I felt like that sounded about right.

Please support me as a writer by donating, subscribing, or clicking on this link (and clicking all around within that link) that pays me www.examiner.com/x-3877-dc-film-industry-examiner

No comments: