A Strange ‘Saturday Night Live,’ Courtesy of Omicron

Saturday Night LiveThe last episode before Christmas is usually a festive event, and this year was supposed to be even more festive than usual. As the final show of 2021, it would have marked the end of a whole year of continuous programming, after the advent of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 led to the cancellation of episodes and remote graphics. Actor Paul Rudd is set to join the Five-Timers Club, the union of celebrities who have hosted the show at least five times. The A-list stars, by tradition, would have stopped by Studio 8H to greet him.

Except, the epidemic is not over yet. Just hours before the show kicks off, amid the emergence of the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus, the show announce It is “out of great caution” that there will be no live audience and the episode will be handled by a limited cast and crew. Then the guest musician Charli XCX chest A statement that it will not perform. Viewers wondered if the show went on at all, how different would it be?

As it turns out, very. Tom Hanks — who was due to appear as one of the guest stars on the Five-Timers Club sketch — made the show, assuring in a reliable reassuring tone that the cast and crew had been brought home, save for a handful of people. The sketches that the writers planned for the week cannot be done without the full set, nor can they be rewritten or reconfigured in time with the rest of the staff. Instead, the episode will operate in semi-cancelled limbo: Rod will still give a monologue of sorts, receive his smoking jacket for being a five-timer, and interact with a pre-recorded clip of Steve Martin and Martin Short. Tina Fey, originally set in the Five-Timers Club sketch, will replace Colin Jost at Night as co-anchor on “Weekend Update” with Michael Che, delivering jokes without any of the sketches or the usual set. It will feature pre-recorded graphics among older Christmas-themed favorites chosen by Fey, Hanks, Rudd and Kenan Thompson, the only cast member except Che who remains at Studio 8H.

Due to the exposed camera crew and band, the show seemed relaxed and intimate at times, like staying in class for too long after the last bell of the day. Yet more often than not, the rigid form—with each drawing made by an actor hurriedly reading a written introduction—resulted in an unsettling, even terrifying atmosphere. There was no laughter at the reception of the jokes in the pre-recorded drawings. During the Weekend Update, Thompson, Hanks and Rudd sat in the audience providing feedback, but their enthusiastic applause couldn’t distract from the rows of empty seats. It was a dark and strange night in SNL Date. Even Hanks and Rod’s joint charm couldn’t overcome the gloom of having to put on an erratic show.

However, last night’s phony episode might be the one I’ll remember best from this year’s set – not in terms of singles graphics, despite Eddie Bryant’s pronunciation of bigchildRing From “HomeGoods” you will stay with me. Instead, I found it fascinating to watch, as the night wore on, the way the professionalism of the performers dissolved into an exercise in smiling and enduring the emptiness of the room they were in. Weekend Update” because they laugh between jokes. Rudd, as a game as he had to go on to “host,” seemed drained by the time he introduced an old sketch that featured him as an adult fan on One Direction, which had nothing to do with tonight’s Christmas theme. Happy—the traditional final part, where the cast gather on stage to hug and wave goodbye—saw the five awkwardly negotiating whether to bump into each other and then walk off the stage long before the credits end.

In other words, reality leaked to Studio 8H this weekend. As great as Rudd and the crew tried to be, the truth is that facing a new threat in a nearly two-year pandemic has dealt a psychological blow unlike anything that came before. in 2020, SNL Shows can be canceled, moving on to doing a series of episodes “at home,” and then implementing strict security protocols. But now, with a variant contagious enough to cause a surge in infections among vaccinators? The roadmap is less clear even for an institution that has dealt with many crises before.

SNL And he’ll be back soon, and the perfect storm of issues that led to a night when no one uttered words Live from New York It is not likely to happen again. But this does not mean that the episode should be forgotten as a one-time. It provided a time capsule, packed into a minute moment of the pandemic déjà vu in New York, when Broadway shows are canceled and long queues wrap around speed test sites once again. On stage, the cast captured the angst of the moment, too: They were professional, but looked wary and vulnerable, having had to throw out just about everything they’d worked on over the past week.

The year 2020 looked dreadful; Late 2021 feels dissonant. was here SNL It showed the strangest episode in history and explained its epidemic causes transparently, while the commercials that aired during its run encouraged viewers to return to theaters and celebrate the holidays with family and friends. People question whether their plans should be reconsidered as the White House battles vaccine hesitation by recruiting the Capella group Pentatonix to perform A trivial idea of ​​reinforcers. There’s probably a joke in all of this somewhere, and the five-pointed star is above SNL Last night I tried to find it. In the attempt, I saw acceptance: Yes, yes, the show should go on. But it is exhausting.

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