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10 ways to fix ‘Saturday Night Live’

For starters, NBC's weekend staple can raise its game by not using hot young hosts who are there mainly to plug failed movies, booking hipper musical guests and easing back on Kristin Wiig overload.
/ Source: Entertainment Weekly

Hot young hosts there mainly to plug failed movies? An utter dearth of great pop-culture parody? No more! See our sure-fire ways to help NBC's weekend staple raise its game.

Enough with the parade of sexy young startlets! Buzzed-about twentysomethings with current projects to promote don't always make the best “SNL” hosts. Instead of a tepid Megan Fox or an abysmal January Jones, why not try Jane Lynch, who's massively popular on “Glee,” or Mo'Nique, star of sleeper hit “Precious?” Throw Nathan Fillion in there for some geek cred. It'd be less work for the writing staff, too, because these people are...(gasp) actually funny!

Leave the policy dissections to ‘The Daily Show’: ‘SNL’ needs to go wacky and use its imagination in covering politics. The great political sketches in “SNL’s” history have rarely been biting commentary; instead, they've been goofy send-ups (Clinton, anyone?), silly prat-falls (Ford, duh), and over-the-top parodies (Bush, Bush, Gore, and — flashback time! — Ross Perot). Let “The Daily Show” take jabs at Fox News and CNN and bring SNL's political focus back toward energetic absurdity.

There is, in fact, such a thing as too much Kristen Wiig. We've enjoyed Gilly, Penelope, Suze Orman, Target lady, closeted field reporter, and many of Wiig's other characters over the years, but even her biggest fans must be hitting a wall of fatigue. How can we appreciate the woman if she never leaves the screen? Not every sketch needs to center around a neurotic character with a verbal or facial tic. “Sorry.”

Give us more frequent and more sharply focused pop-culture parodies. Spoofs of popular shows and movies — those are the things that ought to be “SNL’s” bread and butter. It a way to tease and be part of the specific cultural moment, plus it's funnier than yet another Target Lady trainwreck. Exhibit A: That wicked “Twilight” spoof starring Taylor Swift!

A multiplatinum CD shouldn't be a requirement for musical guests. We miss the days of having to Google the artists we'd never heard of until just before they started rocking the “SNL” stage. Be a tastemaker, not a follower! The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Regina Spektor: Yeah. U2: Nah. Consider up-and-coming indie acts like Florence and the Machine instead of having the Black Eyed Peas perform three songs. Bonus: You won't have to fight with “Live With Regis & Kelly” to book the bulk of your bands.

Set Seth Meyers free! The “Weekend Update” anchor and head writer has, in recent stand-up acts and late-night appearances, offered up would-be “SNL” lines that were too racy or strange to air. Guess what? They're hilarious. (“According to a new study, college students put on six to nine pounds during their freshman year because of dramatic increases in beer-drinking and decreases in physical activity ... which means the rest of your ‘freshman 15’ is probably a baby.”) When “Update”' gets aggressive, it's Meyers at his best. Unleash it! Let that jerk flag fly!

Not every black female character can be played by Kenan Thompson. Ugh, do we even have to explain this one? We'd say the show's writers could have the guest host play, oh, Beyoncé or Michelle Obama, but only three black women have hosted the show in the last 10 years. Anyone spotting a ridiculous problem here?

More surprise guests during ‘Weekend Update,’ please! Any time Amy Poehler can find time to leave her important post at the “Parks and Recreation” Dept. to drop in on her old co-host Seth Meyers, it's a hit — and “SNL” should pencil in honorary cast member Justin Timberlake whenever possible, too. We loved when “Star Trek” stars Leonard Nimoy, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto popped by to convince longtime hardcore fans that it was OK to go and see the reboot. More surprise guests = a livelier show.

Easy does it on the ’90s nostalgia. It's sort of funny sometimes, but surely there's a funnier bit than a Natalie Merchant impression, or a riff on Beauty and the Beast. Topical humor is “SNL’s” trademark; leave the “hey, do you guys remember this?” jokes to “Family Guy.”

Whatever happened to your great commercials? The days of Schmitts Gay, Woomba, and Bad Idea/Mom Jeans seem long gone. We would argue for one new commercial per episode, but the ones this season (Bunny Business?!) have been so not funny, we confused them with real commercials. Make some more. And make them good.