For those Saturday Night Live fans who, as with NASCAR, only watch for the crashes, this weekend’s show should be a real disappointment. That’s because, after two acclaimed actors not particularly known for their live sketch work and one reality star not particularly known for anything whatsoever, SNL is roping in former cast member and current sitcom superstar Jason Sudeikis to ride herd on season 47's overcrowded cast.
Sudeikis, on the show for eight very strong years, is coming back to Studio 8H the hottest he’s ever been, career-wise, with his little show Ted Lasso having functioned as the world’s feel-good refuge from two truly terrible, pandemic-riddled years of pie-eyed binge-streaming.
In the clip-filled promo for the upcoming fourth episode, SNL plucks some of Sudeikis’ fan-favorite characters. (His genial Satan, that track-suited “What Up With That?” dancer that Ted stole his locker room moves from, the suspiciously Cajun Maine Justice TV judge, Sudeikis’ half of Bon Jovi cover band, Jon Bovi).
In so doing, the teaser only serves to remind us that Sudeikis’ strength as an SNL performer was less about celebrity impressions or catchphrase-happy repeaters than it was versatility and the ability to lift up every sketch he appeared in. (That said, his sneakily good Joe Biden could conceivably vie with new featured player James Austin Johnson’s Biden for cold open supremacy.)
A strange phenomenon in the last few years has been how checked out viewers appear to be for one of these alumni homecoming episodes. (All-time all-star Bill Hader’s 2014 hosting gig was the single lowest-rated episode ever, from a live viewer standpoint, bewilderingly.) As much as fans of Saturday Night Live’s ensemble cast concept might cling to the idea that simply putting out good shows will guarantee more eyeballs on TVs, the depressing reality is that stunt casting (like Kim Kardashian’s turn as host a few weeks ago) tends to bump up the lookie-loo numbers more than, say, an Oscar-winning dramatic actor and current Bond villain will.
Still, Jason Sudeikis has vaulted right to the top of the awards, ratings, and universal public affection heaps at this point in his career, so here’s hoping that that carries over into both a ratings spike, and a particularly inspired episode this week.