The New York Times called it “joyless” and “unfunny” (paywall). The Washington Post said it was an “anemic and halfhearted dud.” AV Club gave it a rare F grade. Television critics were in agreement that the Donald Trump-hosted episode of Saturday Night Live was a total failure.
The show’s godawfulness was so obvious to anyone who watched it that several people—including TV reviewers, the denizens of social media, and, of course, Trump supporters—are floating the idea that SNL sabotaged Trump.
These conspiracy theorists are ignoring two very important things. The first is that this trainwreck is more likely to help Trump than it is to hurt him. The episode delivered SNL‘s best ratings in years, putting Trump’s mug in millions of homes without him having to share the screen with his Republican competitors. It’s hard to see how any of this can possibly damage his chances at winning the nomination. If this was sabotage, it totally backfired.
The second thing to remember is that this episode was basically par for the SNL course. Both the show’s quality and its ratings have slipped dramatically in recent years. The show has experienced slumps before, but this one seems longer than usual. The episode wasn’t bad because NBC wanted to stick it to Donald Trump. The episode was bad because SNL, right now, is bad.
But Trump didn’t do the show any favors, either.
His delivery Saturday night—especially during the borderline unwatchable “laser harp” sketch—was wooden and uninspired. While Trump never looks happy to be anywhere, he clearly didn’t want to be on stage. That might work during vapid presidential debates, but it doesn’t work during a comedy show.
It’s easy for those who support Trump to make excuses for his performance as host. It was a rare time when the businessman-turned-politician wasn’t in full control—despite his every intention.
Even still, there are some who believe the conspiracy runs even deeper.