Image from 'Saturday Night Live'




Week two of NBC’s sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live was a great improvement over the season premiere episode—and avoided the political partisanship that marred that earlier effort.

After a very uninspired season premiere episode a week ago. NBC’s Saturday Night Live was much improved this weekend. Most of the sketches were at least mildly amusing, especially one depicting jury selection in the current O. J. Simpson trial that exemplified the appealingly zany turn the show’s humor had taken in the past few years.

And although Weekend Update was still supportive of Democrats’ political positions, it wasn’t as persistent about it as the previous installment. A repeat appearance in this segment by Fred Armisen as a discombobulated political comedian was a highlight.

The opening sketch, in which Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain is asked to approve several commercials, is hilarious, and the target is not McCain himself but instead the ludicrously deceptive nature of many political ads.

One sketch stood out as particularly impressive, skewering elites in the way SNL had begun to do more often in the past couple of years. Coming right after Weekend Update and a commercial break, the sketch began with a dynamite premise: a New York Times editor (played by host James Franco) addressing a group of fifty or so reporters being recruited to go to Alaska and dig up muck to throw at the state’s governor, Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

The comic thrust of the piece comes as the reporters respond to the editor’s description of conditions in Alaska, revealing the vast gulf between their privileged Manhattan existence and the lives of ordinary people.

That’s a very loaded premise indeed, simultaneously acknowledging the essential unfairness and elitist and ideologically motivated nature of the press’s treatment of Gov. Palin. In addition, it’s spot-on in calling the New York Times in particular to task for this effort. For Saturday Night Live to acknowledge and indeed call attention to the Times’s political bias is a moment of serious cultural significance.

It’s a terrifically funny sketch and a huge slap in the face for the New York Times, which richly deserves it.