Published 12:34 PM EDT Sep 18, 2018
From its hosts and performers to – serendipitously – its winners, "Saturday Night Live" was overwhelmingly represented at the 2018 Emmy Awards.
Unfortunately for the viewers who sat through all three hours of NBC's self-congratulatory slog, the Emmys' parade of "SNL" talent wasn't enough to save the awards show – and provided an unfortunate reminder that the glory days of the once-vaunted variety show have long since passed.
Preliminary ratings for the 70th Primetime Emmys, in 56 top markets, fell 10% from last year, to another all-time low, amid a sharp downward trend for all awards shows.
A quick rundown of the Emmys' total "SNL" takeover: Boss Lorne Michaels produced the show, tapping head writers Michael Che and Colin Jost to reprise their "Weekend Update" routine as the Emmys' hosts. Kate McKinnon and Kenan Thompson opened the show's song-and-dance number and Tina Fey, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Will Ferrell and Andy Samberg all spoke during the ceremony, with Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph appearing in the show's recurring comedy segment. "SNL" also cleaned up nicely at the awards, winning the best variety show and seeing former talents John Mulaney and Bill Hader win writing and acting trophies.
The show was prefaced Monday with the announcement of Adam Driver and Kanye West as the "SNL" host and musical guest for the show's Season 44 premiere on Sept. 29, treating the Emmys as an extended promo for the new episode. And while it's almost a prerequisite for the Emmys to frequently plug whatever network is airing the ceremony that year, the barrage of "SNL" talent was striking – perhaps, because their material was so unfortunate.
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From their earliest days hosting "Weekend Update," Jost and Che have been criticized for their sleepy segments, and their opening Emmys monologue didn't show any improvement, with the two cracking mostly tired jokes about diversity and #MeToo with even less magnetism than normal. Things only got worse with Armisen and Rudolph's near-unwatchable segments, and while the duo have received some positive buzz for their new Amazon series "Forever," their collective comedy greatness was nowhere to be seen during Monday's show.
While Morgan fumbled his way through a Millie Bobbie Brown joke and Jones tried her best to keep up with RuPaul's drag-name zingers, Fey – always a reliable awards-show player – was relegated to introducing the in memoriam segment. And though Thompson is a perennial "SNL" MVP, his puzzling appearance as the night's final presenter, an honor bestowed on Oprah Winfrey at last year's Emmys, reeked more than a little of Studio 8H nepotism.
Tack on TV legend Betty White's Lorne Michaels flattery during her appearance – "You topped yourself tonight, Lorne," she said to applause – and the producer's own acceptance speech for "SNL," in which he praised NBC's ongoing survival, and the whole show was as self-congratulatory an affair as we've seen in the Emmys. It was almost comical when a commercial for "SNL" aired during a break in the show, featuring many of the faces viewers had already seen during the telecast, plus a clip of Alec Baldwin's increasingly stale take on President Donald Trump, a performance awards show viewers were mercilessly spared.
With Baldwin's Trump impression nearing its two-year anniversary, it's hard not to imagine that NBC would want to leverage the Emmys to drum up excitement for the new "SNL" season. And yet, the show seemed like less the comedy triumph its writers and producer likely hoped it would be, and more like a misguided scheme by Jack Donaghy – a much funnier Baldwin character from a far superior NBC show, the late, great "30 Rock" – to maximize the network's corporate synergy at any cost. As elaborate as the Emmys' "SNL" takeover may have been, its team failed at their most basic mission: to make it funny.