Is watching ‘Saturday Night Live’ in prime time different? Not so much. – Los Angeles Times

Hosted by alumnus Jimmy Fallon, “Saturday Night Live” went out live coast to coast for the first time Saturday night. Which is to say, it was business as usual back East, where the show has aired live at 11:30 p.m. for 42 years, and unusual out West, where it is shown at the same hour, on tape. Here in the Pacific time zone this week, the curtain rose at 8:30 p.m., smack in the middle of the prime time for which the shows’ original players were said not to be ready.

And though I suppose there are those for whom watching “SNL” before “Dateline” is a novelty worth noting, and some for whom the scheduling offered a chance to catch the show and turn in early— or to go out later— one had to make an effort to remember this was all happening in the actual moment, and then one had to make an effort to care. And for many viewers who record the show or watch in pieces on the Internet, this early-bird special scheduling would have made no difference at all.

Despite the promotional insistence that this was a historic moment, and notwithstanding whatever concrete advantages NBC might gain from this stunt timing – which continues through the end of the season, to May 20 – the experience of watching the show at an earlier hour was fundamentally the same as watching it at 11:30. You are on its time, whatever time it is.

The point of “SNL,” after all, is not that it’s being watched live, but that it’s performed live, without editing or post-production improvement, the way Sid Caesar and Milton Berle did it back in television’s Golden Age. It is the potential for failure that makes it exciting, a potential it has often fulfilled, among its many successes. Perhaps in part because of this, the show is a cultural institution that has also managed to remain, in the popular imagination at least, countercultural. If it has had its ups and downs, from year to year, sketch to sketch, and even line to line, it’s also continued to define and influence succeeding generations of American comedy.

Is watching ‘Saturday Night Live’ in prime time different? Not so much. – Los Angeles Times

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