Given the ratings bonanza that the election of President Donald Trump has brought “Saturday Night Live,” it’s not at all surprising the producers have gone to the well again and again. However, the writers seem to be working from a place of obligation, rather than inspiration.
The cold open of the latest “SNL” episode showed a group of voters in Kentucky gathered for a visit from the president, who was naturally portrayed by actor Alec Baldwin — he’s yet to keep his promise of dropping the act. In the bit, concerned citizens are asking questions about their lives — and Baldwin’s Trump dismissively says that whichever program was of importance would soon be cut.
There was just one mention of the recent Syrian conflict: Baldwin’s Trump notes how effective the Syria issue was for distracting people from any Russian conspiracy theories about the election. “What a difference 59 tomahawk missiles can make!” says the character.
Segments like these make one thing crystal clear: The show contained practically no criticism of Barack Obama for the eight years of his presidency. There was no shading, no frame of reference; there was certainly no real attention paid to Obama’s own Middle East policies.
Even in throwaway lines, one picks up on items that would embarrass more insightful content providers. When one voter grilled Baldwin’s Trump about needing work, the “president” answered that there are only two kinds of jobs, “coal and Goldman Sachs!” The crowd erupted with applause at this line. The Trump/coal gag has been drilled into the ground this season — but the second item also shows the vacuous thinking. Barack Obama was so in bed with Sachs the firm practically funded his 2008 campaign.
The Bill O’Reilly harassment scandal was naturally the subject of another segment. The bit allowed Baldwin, also playing the Fox News host, to interview himself as Donald Trump on tape. The lone notable comment was a mention of the president’s defense of O’Reilly while having his own harassment issues. Nothing really biting emerged; this was merely a chance to take potshots at two prominent conservative figures — and to be able to claim afterwards that they did so.
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The politically charged weekend update portion of the show was a half-hearted effort. Very little heavy lifting was done on major issues. The Senate’s approval of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court was given only a brief mention and a one-line joke.
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Meanwhile, a lengthy “guest” segment spent ponderous amounts of time on a statue built for a European soccer star.
This may be an indication how “SNL” writers are beginning to run on fumes in regard to the current administration. After weeks off the air, the show came back with very little to offer.
The one enjoyable portion was a musical video in which rappers ironically celebrated the socio-political Facebook postings of a lone guy named Scott. This segment mocked the self-important but ultimately ineffective ramblings of people on social media.
The unintended humor was that this montage could just as easily have been describing the content from the program itself.