A SNaiL's Pace

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So this season of SNL has been okay. And that's saying something, for a show that's been cited as dead in the water for the last few years. Of course, the first half of the year was super super strong in the political department but weak in the actual fun sketch department, while the second half has faltered a bit with the total elimination of good, recognizable female leads (other than Kristen!) and so-so hosts.

A big problem on the show has been its strong reliance on the females who have really carried the show over the last few years - Tina, Mya, Amy, Kristen, I'm looking at you. With Kristen as the last woman standing (and possibly one of the best, she's got a ton of recurring characters they are continually mining) the show is kind of at a standstill as they overexpose Kristen and try to deal with the other girls they've recently added. But is it fair to rely on the ladies, especially on a show that has primarily turned out mega-male stars? Definitely not. But I feel the time has come to do an analysis of each current cast member to see their value to the show, and prospects outside of it:

Fred Armisen
Value To The Show: He's excellent at Obama, and the fact Obama has such a huge pop culture role will keep him around. Especially since no one else can actually play Obama at this time. He's also pretty good at playing roles where facial and vocal expressions are important (as per this weekend's "I AM YOUR MOTHER" skit and the previous weekend's Grease "I got chills..." presentation folder skit). And he's got a unique look that is very translatable to different ethnicities and ages.
Success Rate Outside The Show: Very limited so far. He hasn't had any notable guest spots in the bit roles he's done. I'd say he needs several more years on SNL to have any shot out there.
Show Trademarks: Aside from Obama, there's the generally funny Nicholas Fehn from Weekend Update (although it's outdone by Kristen Wiig's travel advice chick), and bit roles - like playing menopausal what's her name in The View, and Liberachi in the Vincent Price sketches, and one half of the gay couple from New Jersey.
Bottom Line: I feel like Fred is underrated on the show, but he needs to bring more to get any sort of career off SNL. May end up as another Darrell Hammond type, although he doesn't share DH's passion for politico skewering.

Will Forte
Value To The Show: A big problem with SNL at the moment is the guys are all very interchangeable / forgettable - particularly with Will, Jason, and Bill. Will of course has the wildly popular McGruber saga that has only gotten better / more innane with time, and he's the token guy to play creepy / nerdy pedophilic types, but not much else. McGruber is a big departure from the usual role he plays actually.
Success Rate: He's done almost nothing outside of SNL, which probably doesn't bode well for him. That being said, McGruber has a pretty big following or Pepsi wouldn't have optioned it for their latest campaign. But McGruber the movie? No way, the hilarity comes from the stupidly short spots in tight confined 'control room' spaces.
Trademarks: McGruber of course, and the slightly aggravating Tim Calhoun on Weekend Update.
Bottom Line: Too forgettable to branch out or make a strong impact on the show.

Bill Hader
Value To The Show:
Similarly to Will, Bill is pretty interchangeable - to the point where I often get those two and Jason mixed up when thinking back to past sketches. His trademark skit - the Vinny Venedici show - is my least favourite, I almost always fast forward over it. That being said, I somewhat enjoy the Vincent Price sketches.
Success Rate: While he may not be a shining star on SNL, Bill has done an excellent job of establishing himself in bit roles outside the show: namely Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Adventureland to name a few. I'm hoping he recognizes that's what he does best - playing the sundance kid to someone's butch cassidy central plotline - because he's great in these scene-stealing roles.
Trademarks: Mostly Vinny Venedici and Vincent Price, plus the other half of the gay couple from New Jersey. Also, Bill, Will, and Jason have their "song memories" sketches but they aren't specific characters in those.
Bottom Line: Lacks the star power to really make a name for himself, but definitely has the charisma and intelligence to pick smart, snappy supporting roles in movies. Don't become a Rainn Wilson and try to be a leading role, it won't work Bill!

Darrell Hammond
Value To The Show: Can morph into almost any political or news pundit, also does a solid job of playing the older, grumpy characters. Plus, he's just a classic part of the show and a remnant of the 90s golden era. That being said, he's drastically underused now that politics season is over, which may lead some to think he's out of touch with the pop culture core of the show.
Success Rate: Darrell has always seemed content to let the show carry his career along - he's never been one to jump into the real acting world, at least not in any notable way. Once he leaves SNL, I think he recognizes he may fade into obscurity.
Trademarks: Donald Trump, John McCain, Bill Clinton, Sean Connery, Chris Matthews - Hammond is the master of impersonating, but doesn't bring his own recurring characters to the show.
The Bottom Line: Underused...but maybe for a reason. Definitely the best impersonater they have on staff, it's almost freakish.

Seth Meyers
Value To The Show: I have a major crush on Seth Meyers - and I feel like he always joined SNL with the goal of being part of Weekend Update / possibly part of the core writing staff. He's great on WU, although maybe not as charismatic as past solo hosts of the segment - he generally works better / well when interacting with a guest or a co-host. That being said, I always look forward to WU now that he's hosting it! I do wish he'd make a few more dips into the regular sketches - his take on David Beckham was priceless a few years ago!
Success Rate: Unlike some of his co-hosts / successors on WU (Tina, Amy), Seth never really established himself on the show. As a result, it may be harder for him to bring a unique brand of comedy to the movie / tv world beyond his wisecracking wit on WU. He's had the odd amusing guest appearance which are moreso of note becuase you'll find yourself going "Is that Seth Meyers?" rather than dwelling on his comedic prowess a la Bill Hader.
Trademark: Being the host of Weekend Update, and not much else.
The Bottom Line: The Weekend Update crown will be Seth's as long as he wants it, but beyond that? Not sure.

Andy Samberg
Value To The Show: Lorne Michaels sagely recognizes that Andy's viral popularity - i.e. Digital Shorts - are a huge boost for the show, thus, he lets Andy focus on those. Other than that, Andy mostly just plays the occasional teen/kid role, although his recent portrayal of Rohm what's-his-name has been good.
Success Rate: I feel like Andy's rise has been a bit too meteoric for his own good - he really only contributes digital shorts to the show, and otherwise plays filler characters, particularly in episodes with young hosts. Hot Rod & Space Chimps were both weak efforts. That being said, his return to Lonely Island / viral video success has been welcome / on point with his career path to this point.
Trademarks: Digital shorts, and within those, Laser Cats.
The Bottom Line: Although lauded as quite popular, I'm not sure Andy's career will hold up 90-minute feature roles. He's more of a 4-minute youtube video kind of guy.

Jason Sudeikis
Value To The Show:
Oh Jason. He's probably my least fave character on the show as his "I talk loud", frat boy kind of pigheaded nonchalance isn't funny for very long. Neither is his shit-eating grin. BUT I do acknowledge he fills a void the rest of the more mild-mannered cast members probably couldn't fill. In fact, Jason is nearly always the role of the "director" in commercials, music videos, whatever. He has no recurring characters other than the painfully irritating Joe Biden that seems more of a caricature of Jason's own personality. Sigh.
Success Rate: I can see Jason having a Bill Hader type career in bit parts, but Bill is just a lot more likeable than Jason...
Trademarks: Loud, annoying jock types or Joe Biden (um, same difference)
Bottom Line: A forgettable part of the cast, moreso than his interchangeble counterparts (Bill and Will)

Kenan Thompson
Value To The Show:
Token black guy (which is weird - where's the diversity?!?!), although his body type makes it harm for him to be as fluid in impersonations as his successors. Very campy OTT type of humour that can either be super funny, or super...unrealistic, and thus jarring. The more subtle actors often outshine him. He does have a few funny recurring roles though - including his bit part in Kristen Wiig's "Gilly" sketches.
Success Rate: Kenan's got a background in TV already, so he does do a fair bit of guesting, but nothing of note, and no bit parts in movies that are notable enough to mention.
Trademarks: Talking loud, saying WHAT? as loudly as possible, and at times, using some amusing intonations to rock some ebonics up in herr. Also he has a few fun recurring characters, although not as frequently touched upon as others, including his Deep House Dish starring role, Virginica (where is she???), and Jean K. Jean - the always amusing Def Jam french comedian that appears on WU.
The Bottom Line: His OTT comedy is a bit out of sync with his counterparts, and may account for why he's somewhat underused on the show / hasn't really established himself despite being around for awhile. Also, lots of fans of the show don't like him.

Kristen Wiig
Value To The Show: Undoubted star of the show. My boyfriend and I used to play a game with Amy Poehler to see how many times they used her per episode (almost every sketch). Kristen now takes that honour (and it's still almost every sketch). Very versatile, although best known for playing socially awkward women with great facial, body, and vocal expression.
Success Rate: Much like Bill Hader, Kristen has had some GREAT scene-stealing roles outside of SNL, including Knocked Up and Adventureland. Although she can be construed as a bit one note (always socially awkward) her ability to translate that character into everything from a shrewed television exec (Knocked Up) to a homely Target employee to a boastful one-upping diva (Penelope!), Wiig always delivers.
Trademarks: Agh so many! Judy or whatever her name the travel 'expert' on WU, also Amy's aunt the movie reviewer (may be in dead in the water now). One-upping Penelope. Target lady. The chick that LOVES surprises. Jamie Lee Curtis doing Activia commercials. Kathie Lee Gifford. Elizabeth on the View. Gilly, the troublemaking awkward child. There are many others I'm sure...
The Bottom Line: I'm unsure as to Wiig's long-term future. She's done some great supporting roles and cameos outside of the show, and she's clearly one of the current stars, but I feel like she'd do better in an ensemble situation (like Tina or Amy) rather than try to branch out on her own like say, Molly Shannon.

Abby Elliot
Value To The Show: Er...she's insanely young. I just looked it up, she's younger than me - she's only 21. Seriously? I mean I guess it gives her the potential for longevity. Plus she's prettier than most of the girls they've had on the show, which should make her a good candidate for celebrity impersonations. So far she's been mostly filler though, other than (excessively) portraying Angelina Jolie on WU.
Success Rate: Indeterminable at this point, but of the 3 newbie girls, she's the most likable I think.
Trademarks: Baby-obsessed Angelina Jolie has made at least 3 or 4 appearances since Abby started in November.
Bottom Line: Even for a featured performer, she's quite underused. I'm not sure she is really able to giv'r like Amy and Kristen have over the last few years, she seems more content to play cutesy roles for now. Can they please get her to impersonate Britney Spears? She looks freakishly like her at times.

Bobby Moynihan
Value To The Show: Captures the young, chubby, awkward character half-decently, and stands out from the general look / usability of the other actors current employed. Can be a bit annoying / much at times though, and occasionally treads on Will Forte's nerd corner a bit too closely.
Success Rate: I don't see him being versatile / likable enough to really do much beyond the show. There's something very juvenile / cutesy about his roles so far that has kind of been done (better) with Adam Sandler (a la Billy Madison).
Trademarks: Playing bratty, whiny children, Mark Payne - the wiggah bartender, and er, that's about it.
Bottom Line: Kind of a white Kenan actually.

Michaela Watkins
Value To The Show:
So far she's poised to be the next Mya Rudolph (they play the same Muppet), but she lacks Mya's ability to play things totally straight and deadpan. She can be a bit on the hammy side and hasn't shown much prowess for timing yet, but I'll give her time. Angie Tempura, her celeb blogger person on WU, is half-decent and a departure from everything else she's been given so far, but nothing special.
Success Rate: She's probably been given the least opportunity so far to really shine, plus she's already a bit on the old side (37) to really establish a name for herself. I feel she's filler - on the show and beyond.
Trademarks: Hoda Kotb has made 3 appearances already with Kristen Wiig (as Kathie Lee) on The Today show. Plus Angie Tempura. The former is not really funny, the latter I have mixed feelings about.
The Bottom Line: All filler, not so killer.

Casey Wilson
Value To The Show: I feel like Casey had more potential when she was the only featured female on the show a season or two ago - she was used more frequently and was making progress in establishing herself. Now that Abby and Michaela have shown up, I feel they're being shoved down our throats a bit and Casey has been left to the wayside. She's okay at playing kind of hammy, dramatic, drag-queen types but her impersonations are pretty blase.
Success Rate: She's been smart in getting some production credits to her name (unfortunately with 'Bride Wars' rather than a successful vehicle like "Mean Girls") but given the recent downplay of her existence on SNL I'm not confident Casey will go anywhere with her face / fronting. She has potential to play the quirky best friend type in chick flicks.
Trademarks: Er, her operatic vocal trills would be the best I can think of.
Bottom Line: Forgotten and forgettable as of late.

So there you have it. SNL needs to sort out their females so Kristen isn't carrying the show, find a few more ethnically (or age, or body type, or looks) diverse cast members to add to the mix, and focus on developing some more recurring characters for some of the more veteran cast members that are still floundering.

Till later,

Britt's On

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