In a season of “Saturday Night Live” that has featured walking stink-bomb January Jones (in one sketch literally; in the whole show, figuratively); “I just got famous for my abs last year” Taylor Lautner; and breakout actress Gabourey Sidibe, who flubbed almost every line during her appearance three weeks ago, the days of blockbuster stars like Tom Hanks and George Clooney hosting seem far behind us. Is “SNL” losing its cache?
Not exactly, say some experts. “[Executive producer] Lorne Michaels is very conscious of where ‘SNL’ sits in our culture and what its role is: to be either a mirror to the culture or ahead a bit,” says Adam Hanft, founder of marketing and branding firm Hanft Projects. “He’s trying to find the right balance and go through another cycle of reinvention.”
Building up a stable of talented, less experienced actors — like two-time host Jon Hamm, who only became a household name when “Mad Men” premiered in 2007 — may be Michaels’ thinking; he’s cultivating the Alec Baldwins of tomorrow. Baldwin himself is hosting the final installment this weekend, making this his record 15th appearance on the show. But staying cutting edge is a priority, considering that the show’s fan base is increasingly built from Internet-based viewership, which skews younger.
“What has driven their ratings resurgence over the past couple years has been the popularity of their bits on the Internet,” says Josh Spector, vice president of content at Comedy.com. That those clips will be played over and over again is also a cause for bigger stars to be squeamish about signing up for the honor.
“Hosting ‘SNL’ is a very unique gig and very difficult to do, especially for a lot of A-list stars who are used to doing 20 takes until they get it right,” says Spector. “I did a Google search for ‘January Jones bad “SNL”’ and there’s 152,000 results. That adds a pressure that I don’t think was there [before].”