Between the late-night offerings of Comedy Central, HBO, TBS, and the major networks, there’s plenty of political satire for US viewers to choose from. But Saturday Night Live wants to add one more option to the mix.
Saturday Night Live‘s spinoff series, Weekend Update, premieres at 9 pm EST on Thursday, August 10th on NBC. The weekly 30-minute primetime show is an offshoot of SNL‘s longest-running recurring sketch, in which cast members serve as news anchors to mock the events of the week.
The “Weekend Update” sketch first premiered in 1975 with Chevy Chase as its original anchor, and has been a mainstay of SNL ever since. In an interview 32 years after its debut, Chase claimed that the creation of “Weekend Update” and its subsequent success made shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report possible, provoking some backlash.
But Chase’s argument carries weight. The basic structure of “Weekend Update”—with its suited anchors telling jokes from desks, its over-the-shoulder graphic boxes, and its recurring cast of parody guests—is built into the DNA of shows like The Daily Show or Last Week Tonight. The late-night political humor of Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Samantha Bee, and Bill Maher all rely on comedic traditions forged by “Weekend Update,” and by SNL‘s other political sketches.
If the decision to further dilute the political comedy environment with yet another show seems a risky move for Saturday Night Live, Weekend Update can also be seen as an attempt to reclaim its rightful role as the king of American news satire. And its four-decade long devotion to the subject isn’t the only motivation behind launching a spinoff. SNL‘s ratings last season increased more than 30 percent from the the season prior, in no small part due to the show’s relentless—and well-received—attention to political parody and impressions. With so much praise for its portrayal of the 2016 election and Trump administration, it’s no wonder SNL is willing to take a shot breaking into a slightly earlier programming slot.
So if you enjoy topical humor presented by well-dressed comedians across multiple platforms, congratulations: We’ve entered a Golden Age. And you have SNL and “Weekend Update” to thank for that.