Shortly after finishing Sunday’s ‘SNL’ Scorecard—in which I griped that the show’s response to the Ferguson and Staten Island grand jury decisions seemed tepid—I noticed a sketch that was “cut for time” that popped up on the ‘SNL’ YouTube page called “Morning Show.”
Set in St. Louis, the sketch starts with Beck Bennett as a news anchor for “News 4” (which is the CBS affiliate in St. Louis) relaying a serious presentation of current events, right before he hands it off to two morning show hosts (played by Kenan Thompson and Cecily Strong) who have an obnoxious show with an obnoxious theme song called ‘Rise and Smile.’ (The theme song contains the line, “from Chesterfield to Ferguson.” Chesterfield is a fairly wealthy (mostly white) community on the western side of St. Louis County. You already know Ferguson.)
First, there’s no way this sketch should have been cut, but that’s a pretty obvious position to take. At first I wondered if there were problems with St. Louis’ NBC affiliate, KSDK. Again, in this sketch, they decided to use St. Louis’ CBS affiliate, which is kind of an odd choice. And until recently, KSDK ran ‘SNL’ on a five-minute delay, not starting the show until 10:35 p.m. local time. (When I lived in St. Louis, KSDK would often have problems with the delay, jumping accidentally to the live feed, then back again to the delay.) But, on KSDK’s website right now, they have this clip embedded. Sure, it’s noted that the sketch is “causing controversy online” (other than the controversy of not airing on the live show, I haven’t seen a lot of controversy), but, there it is!
It seemed to play OK to the studio audience. There were a lot of awkward moments (and a lot of “ohhhhhs”), especially when James Franco’s chef character reveals that his last name is Wilson and calls himself “the victim,” but the sketch also got a lot of laughs, albeit mostly awkward ones. My best guess: Lorne Michaels kind of had this one earmarked for the Internet from the get-go (hold that thought). Now, that’s not really how he operates, but I suspect that this sketch would have had to absolutely kill at dress for him to put it on the live show ... and it did not kill for the studio audience. “Cut for time” doesn’t even make sense, because ‘Morning Show’ was never going to be the last sketch of the night (‘Porn Stars’ has aired in the “10 to 1” slot every time it’s been on the show, as it was this past week). ‘Morning Show’ is a sketch made for the Internet, not a live studio audience.
From recent interviews, I get the impression that Michaels is overly concerned about the show looking elitist. Jim Downey (who basically wrote every great political sketch that you love) used to be the voice of “the other side” (he is often identified as a Republican). Downey left ‘SNL’ two years ago and I get the sense that leaves Lorne Michaels without “the other side” constantly in his ear, so he has to self-regulate. If Downey were still on ‘SNL’ and liked this ‘Morning Show’ sketch, it would have aired. Now, it just seems that Michaels is more and more erring on the side of caution ... at least when it comes to the live show.
But, Michaels is still shrewd. This sketch has been available online since early on Sunday morning. More people will wind up seeing ‘Morning Show’ now that’s it’s gone viral on the Internet than, say, the ‘Porn Stars’ sketch that aired at 12:55 a.m. on Sunday morning. And I suspect Michaels is well aware of this fact.
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and GQ. He is the senior editor of ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.