Why SNL's Success Couldn't Be Replicated Today, According To Lorne Michaels

Saturday Night Live NBC

With 44 seasons under its belt and #45 on the way, Saturday Night Live has had one hell of a run. Its continued relevance, headline-grabbing sketches, and surges in popularity are attributes many shows would kill to have, especially the 45 seasons part. But it's not likely that a new series will pop up soon and ape SNL's specific successes.

At least, that's what Lorne Michaels thinks, as he recently stated SNL's spoils couldn't be replicated today, and for a multitude of reasons. Here's his justification for believing in the sketch series is so singular in nature:

You couldn’t do this show now. Mostly because of budget…. The depth of costumes, design, film, all of those plus the talent office and all of the people working with each other… you can’t start that now because we’re in an age of narrowcasting.

Saturday Night Live has been around for a long time, and was created in an era where television was different, to put it lightly. As Lorne Michaels said, many shows now are subject to "narrowcasting," where programs are tailed to specific audience demographics rather than the general public at large.

Michaels explained during his keynote address at a Cannes Lions advertising event in France (via Deadline) that when SNL launched in 1975, the goal was always to be attractive to audiences around the whole country. (Well, those that would be allowed to stay up late to watch it, obviously.)

According to Lorne Michaels, they made a point in the early years to speak to audiences in the coastal cities, middle America, and both sides of the political aisle. In his eyes, one particular thing Saturday Night Live emphasized has been creating political sketches that "have influence in the red states," as opposed to creating sketches that continue to spoon-feed those who already agree with the show's more liberal-leaning comedy.

Lorne Michaels admitted there have been a couple times where Saturday Night Live has hit rough patches (and was even "technically cancelled" in his words), but even when recent years' ratings weren't as good as they have been, SNL still has the benefit of cultural permanence in today's television world. Michaels said that unofficial achievement wasn't something he fully realized until the 40th anniversary episode (which featured Eddie Murphy) that aired a few years back.

As well, Michaels came to grasp that SNL will someday continue without him at the helm. Will the NBC sketch show survive without its captain? Audiences will see when the time comes, although Lorne Michaels did explain another key Saturday Night Live component that indicates the answer is "almost definitely."

Alec Baldwin Might Not Be Done Playing Donald Trump After All

While Lorne Michaels grows old, the cast is frequently rotating and being shaped by the youngest and most-talented comedians of the current generation. It's through the cast and the writing teams that SNL stays fresh and generational, which may very well serve to keep it on the air for several more decades, at least if the permanence Michaels spoke to continues to stick with it.

Season 45 of Saturday Night Live is headed to NBC this fall, and it's possible one of the program's most-beloved cast members is on the way out. Read more about that, and stick with CinemaBlend for all the latest news regarding television and movies.

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.