Saturday Night Live—An Overview of Season 40

Splitsider has recently released data for the cast members on SNL with the most to least airtime. Here are the rankings for the 40th season, spare Weekend Update hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che:

1) Taran Killam
2) Cecily Strong
3) Kate McKinnon
4) Kenan Thompson
5) Bobby Moynihan
6) Beck Bennett (featured)
7) Vanessa Bayer
8) Kyle Mooney (featured)
9) Aidy Bryant
10) Jay Pharoah
11) Sasheer Zamata (featured)
12) Pete Davidson (featured)
13) Leslie Jones (featured)

First off, what does everyone think about these screen-time rankings? I think what is most notable is Beck Bennett having more airtime than three regular players. Despite still having the "featured player" tag, it is evident that Beck and Kyle are simply underpaid regulars. Also interesting to me is how close in percentage Cecily (10.52%), Kate (10.22%) and Kenan (10.02%) were—all could have easily switched places with one another depending on how the formula was calculated. Now, let's take a look into what's working and what isn't:

Weekend Update:

Weekend Update is the segment of SNL which I simply find painful to watch. Head writer Colin Jost and writer Michael Che both seem very uncomfortable in their roles, resulting in deliveries that come off as very stiff and well, not too funny. Weekend Update has now become a segment where cast members display themselves just as much as Jost and Che display the fake news. In fact, Weekend Update is the place where freshmen cast members Pete Davidson and Leslie Jones thrive as themselves—both have had much background in standup coming into SNL, but little to no sketch work experience, and it shows. However, when Bobby Moynihan's Riblet reads the fake news better than the two real anchors (which is not the joke SNL intended but the one people interpreted), you know it's time for a change.

Bennett/Mooney v. The Lonely Island

Do I find the Bennett/Mooney sketches humorous? Sure I do. Throughout their tenure on SNL they have used these videos to satirize reality shows, 90s sitcoms, YouTube documentaries, and much more. Unfortunately the SNL producers and I seemingly have different tastes, as their sketches have been cut more often than not this season. Kyle Mooney's Bruce Chandling, who had a couple stints on Weekend Update last season, has been the subject of not one, but two cut-for-time sketches this season. Many have noted that Lorne Michaels probably hired them to be the next Lonely Island—as in, make weird digital shorts that go viral the next day. Of course, The Lonely Island is another case where myself and the producers simply don't agree upon what's funny and what isn't, as their sketches seemingly always made the show. Many said that Kyle Mooney was supposed to be the next Andy Samberg, so is SNL fine that he isn't but rather a utility sketch man? 

Then there is Beck Bennett. The two of them clearly came as a package, being from the same Good Neighbor comedy group background (the third member is now also a writer). My best guess is that their fates will always be the same for such a reason. Bennett is arguably SNL's #1 utility man this season, with his only recurring character, Mr. Patterson (a.k.a. "Baby Boss") being MIA since the fall. SNL will be in a very tough situation if they decide theye have had enough of Mooney, as it would all but require them needing to find a replacement for Bennett as well (who in my opinion is very underrated compared to who are considered to be the "top" players.

The Diversity Crisis 

Oh, diversity issues, you never cease to amaze me what you may bring. The television network ABC picked up not one, but FOUR shows last season with at least a good portion of the cast and crew being non-whites. This has brought us two very successful shows, a third one which shows potential, and a fourth which, well, had no chance on Fridays. Of course, this was nothing compared to SNL's crisis. In fall 2013, when asked about the lack of diversity in the cast, eldest member Kenan Thompson was misquoted as saying that "black women aren't funny". What he meant, of course, was that the producers simply had yet to find a talented comedienne who would put an end to the Whoopi impressions he so wanted to retire. As a result, their efforts to even out the cast a little have been full-throttle.

They started with the high-profile hiring of Sasheer Zamata, who is yet to find her strengths. Her stand-up routine behind the Weekend Update desk failed by the measures of many, and she is nearly invisible in some episodes. It is safe to say that they continued this effort in the off-season, with Michael Che and Leslie Jones joining the cast in place of Brooks Wheelan, Noel Wells, Mike O'Brien, and John Milhiser (if you remember two of them, good for you! Their time on the screen was negligible last season). 

Despite the numbers of how many minorities are on the cast, you have to face the numbers: Jay Pharoah, Leslie Jones, and Sasheer Zamata are three of the bottom four cast members in air time. Pharoah is well-known for his spot-on impressions, Jones is well-known for her loudness, and Zamata is well-known for being the one hired out of panic. My guess is the first two stay for another season, but the latter is given a ticket back home.

How Long Will They Stay?

There are so many cast members where quite frankly, I have no clue how long SNL will end up keeping them. But few are a few broad notes:

-Had SNL intended to keep Vanessa Bayer that much longer, they would have let her keep her Hillary Clinton impression gig.

-With the gig given to the breakout star Kate McKinnon, who was nominated for an Emmy last year, it is safe to say that want her for the long run. I don't expect her to stay for ten years if Hillary ends up with two terms, but I think it's safe to say that McKinnon will be there even after Bayer leaves.

-With Jay Pharoah failing to bring an actual character to the live show, all he has are his impressions. He is by far the best impressionist SNL has seen in a long time (if not ever), and it amazes me how they let Fred Armisen continue his sub-par impression of Obama even after Pharoah joined the cast. My guess is that he has one season left for the purposes of playing Obama. If they want to save money, they will have him come back solely for Obama in fall 2016 a la Tina Fey's Sarah Palin and now Darrell Hammond's Bill Clinton, because without Obama, Jay Pharoah would have a tremendously hard time finding screen time in 2017, and with declining ratings SNL just may not be inclined to pay him as much as a regular player in those circumstances.

-As mentioned earlier, Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett will leave together. Don't ask me when that is. Despite this, I will indeed give them slightly different statuses, just because I'm always wrong.

-Mike O'Brien deserved better. His sense of humor made it hard for him to get assimilated into last year's oversized cast, but perfect for the Weekend Update desk. He should have been known this year as "that guy from Weekend Update who sometimes makes weird videos". If SNL goes radical for Season 41, they will do just that, as his shorts have become some of the most famous sketches of the season. It is very ironic how he has been more successful this season than last season, considering he isn't even part of the cast anymore.

-Kenan Thompson just. won't. leave. And I'm completely fine with that.

Placing the Odds

Certain to Return

Vanessa Bayer
Beck Bennett
Aidy Bryant
Taran Killam
Kate McKinnon
Bobby Moynihan
Cecily Strong
Kenan Thompson

Likely to Return

Pete Davidson
Leslie Jones
Colin Jost (the guy's head writer, they won't move him from the desk)
Kyle Mooney
Jay Pharoah

Likely to Leave

Michael Che
Sasheer Zamata

Who do you think will leave? How do you think this season of SNL was? Comment away!

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