One of the big topic of conversations among TV-watchers this fall: Why do the major networks keep refusing to cancel their crummy, unwatched new shows? Either there’s nothing in the pipeline to replace these duds, or we’re reached a stage where studios and producers are thinking more about Netflix, Hulu et al. than winning a Nielsen night. Since nobody knows what might eventually become prime binge-watching fodder, why scrap a series after only three weeks? So as long as the sets are already built and the actors are under contract, why not not go ahead and crank out 12 episodes?
Meanwhile, what is scoring big on TV lately? Live events — like political debates or, say, the appearance of a certain divisive demagogue on a venerable late-night comedy program. In our weekly round-up of television’s most-talked-about moments, we can’t avoid The Trump Affair. And after a week that saw another round of Amazon pilots vying to become the next streaming sensation (vote One Mississippi!), we’re expressing some gratitude for a Netflix original that’s one of the best things this wild new digital frontier has yet yielded.
5. Trump tanks on SNL (NBC)
The current Saturday Night Live cast is talented and versatile, and the show has done well in the past whenever it’s dropped real-life politicians into a sketch (as with Hillary Clinton a few weeks ago). But whatever your political leanings, it was a bad precedent for SNL to give an entire episode over to any person actively campaigning for the presidency — let alone to one who’s made such inflammatory statements about immigrants and women.
Even though Donald Trump himself only ended up getting around 12 creepily stiff minutes of screen-time last week (or about half of the typical host), the decision to make most of the sketches about Trump was consistently squirm-inducing. The actors looked uncomfortable, as though they were afraid to be too enthusiastic lest that be seen as an endorsement — but also leery of turning on their host. (The lone exception: Michael Che, who’s “Weekend Update” jabs at The Donald made him seem like the only one actively acknowledging the idiocy of this whole stunt.)
The episode hit its nadir in an intentionally bad sketch that had Trump “live-tweeting” insults at its participants, in what may have been a meta attempt to explain why everyone on SNL was playing along — but instead read as unfunny and degrading. So why does this debacle make the Top 5 list? Because it was a memorable TV event, undeniably. And, boffo ratings aside, it went so badly for all concerned that it’s unlikely to be repeated any time soon. Plus, this episode clears the way for what should be a stellar Saturday Night Live next week, featuring all the good jokes apparently cut out of the Trump show.