The Opening of SNL Was Dead Among Viewers


The premiere of “Saturday Night Live” was received poorly by fans.

The “Saturday Night Live” (SNL) season 45 premiere, which aired on Sept. 28, received its lowest season opener ratings since 2014. The episode was hosted by Woody Harrelson, an American actor and playwright known for his role in the sitcom “Cheers,” and featured musical guest, Billie Eilish, who is most recently known for her 2018 album “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO.”

According to Nielsen’s 56-metered markets, the episode averaged a rating of 4.1 out of 10 among households collected from live and same-day data. Nielson’s 25-metered market also  revealed that the episode averaged a 1.6 out of 10 among the coveted 18 to 49 year old advertiser demographic. Compared to the 2018 season premiere, Saturday’s episode experienced a 15% decrease in overall viewership and a sizable 30% drop among viewers aged 18 to 49.

However, this episode received ratings on par with last season’s finale, which was also given a 4.1 out of 10 from the metered markets. In addition, it seems that this episode’s statistics were in sync with premiere weeks Household Using Television (HUT) data, which suggests viewership dropped 7% among households and 12 % among adults aged 18 to 49 during the week of Sept. 23 through Sept. 29 compared to the fall 2018 statistics.

Perhaps the season premiere received such low ratings because the host, Woody Harrelson, did not seem to be the star of many sketches and thus did not get a chance to showcase the comedic talent that brought him fame in the first place. Unfortunately, “Saturday Night Live” seems to have sidelined him, even though they brought him back on set for a fourth time and gave him the honor of hosting the season premiere.

Throughout the episode, Harrelson plays father figures, such as Joe Biden, a football coach and a disinterested dad, and although I believe he played these roles well, the audience did not get the opportunity to see him explore other personas. In my opinion, the most avant garde role Harrelson played was the farmer Hank in the “Apple Picking Ad” where he was able to drive the comedy more than “SNL” cast members, Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon.

Although Harrelson was sidelined most of the episode, his monologue in the beginning of the show perfectly showcased his humor and charm. In an effort to show the audience that he makes no mistakes in his newly improved fashion sense and speech, he repeatedly corrects himself after stumbling and making comments which he realizes may be offensive.

I found humor in the overly considerate nature of his comments and thought he did a great job mocking political correctness without bigotry. To round out his monologue, Harrelson ends the skit by ripping off his tuxedo and revealing silk pajamas underneath, making fun of his not-so-improved fashion sense. I thought this touch at the end lightheartedly mocked the host’s imperfection in fashion and speech, tying the skit together nicely.

This episode also effectively employs the use of repetition. In the “Inside the Beltway” skit for example, Harrelson as pundit Walter Dale constantly repeats the phrase “this feels like a turning point,” while Kenan Thomspon as Quincy Maddox brings out the humor in this statement by constantly responding with “ain’t nothin’ gonna happen” to counter Dale’s assumption that the government is going to hold Trump accountable for his actions.

This episode also employs the use of repetition in the “DNC Town Hall” sketch, where Harrelson as Joe Biden repeats various punchlines and frequently uses creepy “Uncle Joe” gestures and tones.

Although I enjoyed how the skit showcased each 2020 democratic presidential election candidate and thought the cast did a good job accurately portraying their personas, the skit was ten minutes long and thus likely lost the audience’s attention.

While the episode employed repetition well and featured a great opening monologue, some skits such as “Roadside Museum” or “World’s Biggest Cheeto Museum” were disappointing. It seems that the producers tried to think out of the box for this sketch, but it was a little too out of the box for viewers like me.

Although it does stand out and was memorable, I felt like I was waiting for a punchline that would bring the skit to life. In my opinion, the sketch’s biggest flaw is that is did not have a joke running throughout that tied it together.

Overall, I think the low ratings were harsh for the season 45 premiere, but “SNL” has certainly created better content in the past.

However, this episode was highly political and thus may have rubbed some viewers the wrong way, especially since the upcoming 2020 election is bringing the polarized state of our country to a head, as people begin to reflect on the Trump years and think about who they want to lead our country for the next four years.