The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

My quest to learn the musical instrument struck a chord much greater than the beautiful sound of a perfect stroke.
I decided to learn the guitar, but I walked away learning more about life
Bella Edmondson, Staff Editor • June 19, 2024
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SNL’s shortened ‘Weekend Update Thursday’ edition strikes ratings gold

The votes are in and “SNL Weekend Update Thursday” has won the battle for ratings.

“Weekend Update Thursday” is a 30 minute version of the normally 90 minute long variety show, “Saturday Night Live.” SNL’s regular format consists of several satirical sketches or videos made with the help of a celebrity host, two or three performances from a musical guest, and “Weekend Update,” SNL’s longest running recurring sketch.

“Weekend Update” is modeled after an average newscast, but instead presents gag news items based on current events as well as occasional editorials, commentaries or other performances by cast members or guests. Many credit “Weekend Update” with inventing the fake-news format that numerous successful shows have adopted, such as Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

So when SNL producer Lorne Michaels and NBC had the idea of presenting three 30 minute episodes of SNL that would consist almost solely of “Weekend Update” on the three Thursdays leading up to the 2008 presidential election, they weren’t just taking a shot in the dark.

“SNL Weekend Update Thursday” features a politically themed opening sketch, often using a surprise guest, like “30 Rock’s” Tina Fey as Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin or Will Ferrell’s return as George W. Bush. The show then presents its “Weekend Update” segment featuring SNL cast members Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers as the anchors. Much of the show’s success is due to the sharp wit and bubbling chemistry between the two anchors. Meyers is also SNL’s current head writer, so the banter is top-notch.

“Saturday Night Live” has struggled in recent years, never managing to score the ratings that NBC wants. SNL hasn’t earned those ratings because it simply hasn’t been a quality show in recent years. Unless a great host is on, such as Christopher Walken or Tom Hanks, the show is predictable and largely unfunny. Every week it offers the same thing: a cold open that gets old quickly, an awkward monologue from a nervous guest host, one or two good sketches, and an insufferable remainder of the program. But “SNL Weekend Update Thursday” changed the game.

“Weekend Update Thursday” takes the best parts of SNL and condenses them to 30 minutes, leaving us with only the essentials: one good sketch that serves as the cold open and the main event, “Weekend Update.” Ratings have been extremely good, thanks to having a great time slot during “Must See TV” and being able to satirize the most interesting presidential race in history. The first episode of “Weekend Update Thursday,” which aired on Oct. 9, garnered 10.9 million viewers. The next episode stayed strong, earning 8.8 million viewers.

Those ratings are better than what the normal Saturday edition of SNL gets, which begs the question: Why not reduce SNL to a 30 or 60 minute format? Keep the celebrity host and musical guest if you must, but shortening the show’s running time would cut down on the amount of sketches the writers have to come up with. It stands to reason that we would start seeing better quality sketches, like the ones we’ve been seeing on “Weekend Update Thursday.”

Whether changes are made or not, it will be interesting to see if “Saturday Night Live” keeps the momentum and publicity it has gained thanks to “Weekend Update Thursdays” or fades into the background of weekend television yet again.

Tonight, instead of “Weekend Update Thursday,” NBC will be airing the season premiere of Tina Fey’s “30 Rock.” But SNL will present one last blowout special on Monday, Nov. 3, the eve of Election Day, at 8:30 p.m. “Saturday Night Live Presidential Bash 2008” will feature new material in addition to a look back at some of SNL’s political satire from older seasons of the show.

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