Again, I am willing to forgo judgment on the first show of the season. Still, it's hard to erase the ridiculousness of a sketch about a baby with gas. Reese Witherspoon and Will Ferrell played the parents (using a doll so fake that a bulldog puppy would've been a better choice). This is an entire sketch whose premise is a farting baby. Between sound effects, there were uncomfortable silences, as the players did not know where to go or what to do with the failing (or flailing) sketch. But I promised I would not mention this particular show. (Oops!)
Overall, sketch ideas are consistently weak, while guests are not. Last Saturday's show featured host Drew Barrymore and musical guest Macy Gray.
As far as what the writers offered, here's what we got; a spoof of Crossing Over with Will Ferrell as John Edwards; a bank going-out-of-business sale with Will Ferrell as the bank president who reveals he's gay (it didn't fit in at all); and Chris Kattan as gay Hitler dancing with Ferrell as Neil Diamond.
The sketch ideas are not only lame and poorly written — they drag on forever. Admittedly, there is a bright spot with "Weekend Update," co-anchored by head writer Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon. This always manages to offer some savvy one-liners. As a matter of fact, since its inception, "Weekend Update" has remained a highlight of SNL even if the talent has been uneven. (Chase and Curtin and Dennis Miller were great. Norm MacDonald and Kevin Nealon were duds). But a few minutes of pleasure out of a 90-minute session is just not enough. (Of course many of us are used to just a few minutes of pleasure …)
Still, Saturday Night Live survives year after year with little competition in its timeslot (there's Mad TV, which starts at 11 p.m. ET, but people watch the news and don't bother catching just a half-hour of the show).
Perhaps the writers are being lazy because they've got a lock with the show. Maybe we as viewers are so used to accepting Saturday Night Live for whatever it offers, that we've given up demanding more.
And maybe, and I think this is key, I need to find something else to do on Saturday nights.
Heidi Oringer is director of entertainment programming at ABCNEWS Radio.