Saturday Night Live Has Been a Pop Culture Mainstay

Saturday Night Live or SNL is a late-night live television sketch comedy and variety show in America. It is created by Lorne Michaels and developed by Dick Ebersol. It first premiered on October 11, 1975, on NBC under the original title “NBC’s Saturday Night.”

The comedy sketches of the show, which usually parody contemporary culture and politics, are performed by a large and varying cast of production and newer cast members. Each episode of the show is hosted by a celebrity guest who usually delivers the opening monologue and performs in sketches with the cast as featured performances by a musical guest.

If you are interested to know more about how Saturday Night Live, you’re in the right place. Today, we are going to talk about how Saturday Night Live has been a pop culture mainstay.

History of Saturday Night Live

NBC’s desire to have original programming in the 11:30 PM Saturday timeslot was the reason why Saturday Night Live was created. It’s because from 1965 up to 1975, that timeslot showed reruns of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, which also aired at the same timeslot on weekdays. Carson wanted time off in recording shows to be available for rerun during the week. That’s why he asked NBC to stop airing the reruns of his show on weekends so that he’ll have more time off.

The head of NBC, Herb Schlosser, asked Dick Ebersol to help in developing a new show. With this, Ebersol came up to Lorne Michaels, who pitched the idea of a comedy variety show with different musical guests. The original name that Michaels and Ebersol thought was Saturday Night Live. However, it was unavailable during that time because ABC has a show with Howard Cosell entitled Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell.

The Cosell show ran earlier in prime time and was the sports announcer’s shot at becoming a mainstream talk show host. He’d been associated with ABC Sports and Monday Night Football and somehow convinced ABC that he should get a shot. He did. The debut “Saturday Night Live” with Howard Cosell featured hot pop artists, “The Bay City Rollers,” who, interestingly, were about to have a hit titled, “Saturday Night.”  The ratings for Cosell’s show were OK at first, then trailed off quickly.

In November 1975, Cosell was quoted as saying, “The Saturday night time slot that ABC placed my variety show in has a deathly history. I inherited a cemetery.” By the end of the 1975-1976 season, the show would be canceled.

After the cancellation of Cosell’s show, NBC purchased the name and renamed their show Saturday Night Live at the beginning of the second season.

The name of the show wasn’t the only thing that NBC took from the Howard Cosell’s show, but as well as the cast of three actors, Bill and Brian Doyle Murray, and Christopher Guest, who was known as the Primetime Players. When the three joined the Saturday Night Live family, Lorne Michaels decided to parody Primetime Players and called them “Not Ready for Primetime Players.” The three anchored in the segment Weekend Update during their stay on Saturday Night Live.

Michaels and Ebersol needed more actors for the show. Therefore, they turned to Second City TV. It was a television show that was being aired from the Toronto wing of the Second City comedy troupe. They hired Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner from Second City TV. Aside from them, Garrett Morris, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman, and John Belushi were also hired.

On October 11, 1975, the show premiered. It was broadcasted from Studio 8H in 30 Rockefeller Center. At first, the show’s format was uncertain because the amount of time that was given to sketches, music, and stand-up comedy varied widely. But one sketch that stayed permanently stayed was the Weekend Update written by Chevy Chase.

The first ads for NBC’s “Saturday Night” were few and far between. They usually came from record artists/record labels who promoted upcoming appearances on the program. The first such ad for “Saturday Night” was from Art Garfunkel, who was making an appearance on the program – its second airing – on October 18, 1975. Paul Simon was also in that program.

“Saturday Night” made an immediate star out of sketch cast member Chevy Chase –the first to bolt for bigger and better things such as TV specials and movies. It quickly became a breeding ground for future movie stars such as Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy, among many others. Bolting actors almost became the bane of producer Lorne Michaels – although he wished them well, he really wasn’t happy when one of his stars left for other pastures.

Reception and Awards

In 2002, Saturday Night Live ranked in the 10th spot on TV Guide’s Greatest TV Shows of All Time. In 2007, it was also honored with inclusion on Time magazine’s 100 Best TV Show of All-TIME. In June 2013, the show was placed on the 25th spot on the Writers Guild of America’s 101 Best Written Shows of All Time. SNL is currently the 40th longes-running television show in the United States. It is also a very much urban show that is popular in cities throughout the United States.

Since the show first premiered in 1975, it has received countless awards. Throughout four decades on air, the show received awards, such as 71 Primetime Emmy Awards, 4 Writers Guild of America Awards, and 3 Peabody Awards. It was also inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2000. As of 2017, the show has a total of 231 Primetime Emmy Award nominations. No wonder it has been a pop culture mainstay.