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Trash-talking ‘SNL’ has always been part of the game

Miles Teller hosted the 48th season premiere of "Saturday Night Live."Will Heath/NBC

Here we go again. “Saturday Night Live” is back, and along with it all the trash-talking and moaning and outrage. Because the show isn’t as good as it used to be, the show needs better writers, the show has sold out, the show has gotten too political, the show isn’t political enough, the show needs a better cast, the show needs a smaller cast, the show has too many game-show parodies, the show uses too many star cameos, the show needs to come to me for advice.

It’s time to accept that all the Sunday-morning quarterbacking and grousing is part of the phenomenon that is “Saturday Night Live.” It’s part of the definition of the show. Think of “SNL” as interactive in a way, so that it’s as much about the audience clangor once the sketches hit the air as it is about the sketches themselves. We never did unequivocally like the show — even in the supposed heyday of the first cast, there were yawns and yawps — and we never will. It’s just the way it is and has been for 47 years.


The 48th season premiere last Saturday with host Miles Teller is a case in point. It was, as always, highly uneven. It left me feeling surprised, as always, that this particular group of sketches — the finance bros who can’t flirt? — was the best the writing staff could come up with. It made me glad, as always, that I was watching the sketches after the initial live airing, so I could take in the entire episode in, like, 45 minutes.

But here’s the thing: The cold open was, to me, a savvy and smart piece of meta-comedy. As Teller and Andrew Dismukes did incisive play-by-play commentary on the Trump sketch-within-the-sketch, they reflected what so many critics say about the show. I thought it was a classic.


No, one extraordinary sketch doesn’t redeem the entire show, but it does reward us for spending the time watching. The gamble does pay off occasionally, as does watching cast members grow from peripheral newbies into stars.

It’s all about the fishing, the looking and waiting to catch the gems. That’s what “SNL” is and will most likely always be.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.