'SNL' turkey-day special lets viewers give thanks for classic laughs

NBC

By Emily Bodden, Daily Arts Writer
Published December 2, 2013

“Saturday Night Live” has historically compiled special holiday episodes, and this year’s Thanksgiving was no different. With baby-faced Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers — not to mention Luke Wilson in the opening sketch — the Thanksgiving special was something to give thanks for.

"Saturday Night Live" Thanksgiving Special


A-
NBC
Available for Streaming on Hulu


While specials that compile old sketches can induce groans, specials allow producers to unearth past favorites. With a show that boasts as many episodes as “SNL,” it’s easy to get caught up in recent sketch flops and forget all of the successful skits that have come before. But that’s not the case; the Thanksgiving Special surely inspired some viewers to go back and rewatch some of their beloved old seasons.

Without a doubt, the best part is seeing the old cast members in their prime. The older sketches remind viewers why they still watch even when some weeks are subpar at best. Let’s face it, when “Saturday Night Live” is funny, it’s hilarious. These legendary sketches hold value through ideal combinations of cast members and writing. The Thanksgiving Special gives hope to more consistent humor going forward by forcing viewers to remember why they began watching in the first place.

Considering that “SNL” has been airing since 1975, it’s a bit strange that they had to stretch some of the sketches to fill the full two hours. Understandably trying to theme the episode around Thanksgiving, the producers still seemed to struggle to find exactly what they wanted. One of the very last sketches, “The Loud Family,” had nothing to do with Thanksgiving outside of centering around family interactions. The sketches that didn’t touch on the holiday stood out because most others did. The contrast was awkward and not addressed at all by the creators of the special.

With no formal transitions, the special feels thrown together. Little planning seems to have gone into how the clips play off of one another. A lot of potential lies in using the juxtaposition of sketches to contextualize and promote humor. Unfortunately, the producers of the Thanksgiving Special didn’t use this approach to their advantage. The transitions between clips are stark, black screens that are quickly replaced by the start of the next sketch.

Little to no planning seemed to have occurred for the ordering of the sketches, either. Aside from the attempted central theme of Thanksgiving, no cohesion exists between one sketch and the next. With different casts in each sketch, producers could have gone in chronological order or played with an ordering that allowed, and promoted, the continuation of either a type of character or similar situational humor. The disjointedness is distracting from the great material.

“Saturday Night Live” is in the TV big leagues, and this special reminded us why. Years of producing a show each week has resulted in a litany of hilarious sketches. The Thanksgiving Special brought up feelings of nostalgia for casts of the past and made us believe in the potential that the current, as well as future, seasons hold.