My friends, there was a time when SNL dominated pop culture. It wasn’t a legacy institution or a remnant in a culture that was less centralised and more disposable, like it is now. I’m referring to the wonderful early 1990s. The networks were powerful at the time, and prestige films based their Oscar campaigns on the late-night circuit. In its heyday, appearing on SNL was a definite way to boost your chances of winning, like Best Actor. It was a clever technique to get well-liked and make some fun of yourself, and it was high visibility.
These days, you don’t see that as frequently. The types of movies that appeal to general audiences and those that take home Oscars are too far apart from one another. SNL, meanwhile, appears largely willing to follow trends (instead of dictate them). Yet, hey! Early in the 1990s, Brendan Gleeson also began to make movie appearances. He has been a cherished character performer for three decades. The Banshees of Inisherin, which is receiving buzz for awards this year, reunites him with Martin McDonagh and Colin Farrell, who last hosted Saturday Night Live in 2004. Mad-Eye Moody will be hosting SNL this year.
SNL is still redefining itself under Gleeson’s leadership, trying to decide how innovative and daring it really wants to be. Can it challenge its own format and change the way it sounds? Or was the tone of last week’s frigid open a half-measure? (Promos like these imply that this season may bring about some new vitality.)
Victoria Jackson, a former cast member, and I recently spoke. She joined a few holdover cast members during her first year in the cast, and the two groups together developed a new tone for the show—in fact, a second golden age. This was a significant period for the programme, similar to the present. Victoria thought: “Both new and seasoned cast members, in my opinion, are merely vying for attention. They are attempting to produce something outstanding that will surpass the contributions of their fellow cast members. Competition exists. Michael Longfellow, a new cast member, made an impression [last week] with his witty, sharp Update appearance. He’s famous.”