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SNL Season 48 Returns Saturday—Does It Suck?

We size up Saturday Night Live season 48 on the eve of its winter premiere episodes.

Saturday Night Live’s season-48 winter premiere (Jan. 21 on NBC and Peacock) brings yet another cast change. Main cast member Cecily Strong’s December departure makes nine cast changes since the long-running sketch comedy show’s 47th season finale last May. How much of a difference has the cast exodus made in the ratings? Does the show suck now?

If our (admittedly casual/unscientific) data crunching is accurate, the answer to the first question is not too much—and the second answer is no. But let’s take a deeper look at both.

A young boy receives an ocular injury thanks to Scrooge (Martin Short) in a scene from Saturday Night Live.

A young boy receives an ocular injury thanks to Scrooge (Martin Short) in a scene from Saturday Night Live.

Season 48 hasn’t been the greatest season ever, but it’s so far only marginally behind Season 47, ratings-wise. Based on data from SHOWBUZZDAILY, Season 47 of SNL had an average (live plus same-day) episode rating of 4.36 by the 2021 holiday break. By season’s end, S47 muscled up to 4.53.

At the 2022 holiday break, SNL Season 48 averaged 4.23 per episode. Using the second-half ratings for S47, we project S48 to finish at 4.47 for the year.

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Saturday Night Live ratings (seasons 47 and 48)

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SNL seasonAvg. Live + Same-Day Ratings/Share
Season 47 (first half)4.36
Season 48 (first half)4.23
Season 47 (full season)4.53
Season 47 (full season, projected)4.47

Ratings data from SHOWBUZZDAILY
* Projected (unscientifically) by CableTV.com

Whether or not S48 finishes stronger than S47 remains to be seen. There have been some brilliant sketches like “BeReal” (from the S48 season premiere), “Potato Hole” (episode six), and “A Christmas Carol” (episode eight)—and let’s not forget the return of Tom Hanks as David S. Pumpkins for Halloween (episode four).

Some of the hosts, however, have been, well, underwhelming. No, Hanks wasn’t one of them. Instead, we’ve had a mixed bag.

Dave Chappelle’s episode-six turn spawned the hilarious “Potato Hole” sketch, but was widely panned for avoiding one controversy (his transphobic comments) and stumbling into another with his comments about Kanye West’s anti-Semitism.

Rapper Jack Harlow hosted (and performed on) the Halloween episode—probably, as evidenced by his sketch appearances, for much-needed acting practice. (BTW, who gets to star in a major film on his first-ever audition? The rapper du jour.)

Despite his considerable acting chops, Brendan Gleeson’s episode (the second) was lukewarm. And we’d have rather seen musical host Lizzo do double-duty instead of Austin Butler’s boring heartthrob act in the ninth episode (he wasn’t bad in Elvis, though).

Pro tip: All 48 seasons of Saturday Night Live stream on the Peacock streaming service.

On the good side, Megan Thee Stallion was a surprisingly good host and performer in the third episode. And, of course, SNL alums Martin Short and Steve Martin crushed it in the eighth episode—especially in the gory “A Christmas Carol” sketch.

And the show, while not an earthquake of a season, doesn’t suck so far.

We still have Kenan Thompson proving in every sketch why he’s the cast’s elder statesman and anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che still hold it down on “Weekend Update.”

The rest of the cast is strong, with repertory players like Heidi Gardner, Mikey Day, Ego Nwodim, and Bowen Yang (we’re still laughing at his queer Krampus character) and featured players like James Austin Johnson (a way better Trump than Alec Baldwin) and the delightfully weird Sarah Sherman.

No standouts have emerged among the new cast members Mollie Keaney, Michael Longfellow, Devon Walker, and Marcello Hernandez. But with 12 episodes to go, they have time to come up. And the first two episodes of Season 48’s second half look promising: Aubrey Plaza (The White Lotus) hosts the 10th episode (with musical guest Sam Smith), and Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever) helms the 11th episode (with Lil Baby performing).

But it’s okay to miss Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Kyle Mooney, and maybe even Pete Davidson. Longing for past SNL stars is part of being a fan.

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