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WIDESCREEN: Fake news can’t afford to take the summer off

Saturday Night Live is spinning off Weekend Update for a limited run before Labour Day.
Weekend Update anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che will be featured in Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update Summer Edition, which starts a four-episode run on Aug. 10 on NBC. (WILL HEATH / NBC))

Anyone who wishes the weekend would roll around sooner is going to get some help.

For most of August, at least, NBC is going to insist that it starts Thursday night, borrowing a schedule usually reserved for arts majors.

Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update Summer Edition starts a four-episode order on Thursday, Aug. 10 at 10 p.m. on NBC and at 11:30 p.m. on Global in the Maritimes. Details are a little sketchy, but what is known is that the half-hour shows will feature regular Weekend Update anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che spoofing the news of the week, with some fellow SNL cast members expected to contribute.

In other words, staffers looking to melt the notoriously icy demeanour of late-night shot caller Lorne Michaels are cutting their holidays short.

Who could blame them? Thanks to the incendiary political situation in the United States over the last couple of years, SNL is hot again. The 42-year-old variety franchise recently tied with HBO’s Westworld for the most Emmy nominations for last season, with each series snagging 22.

The argument can be made that the resurgence of Saturday Night Live is largely due to a fresh focus on current affairs. Other than the “failing” New York Times and Washington Post, no part of the media has enjoyed a bigger Trump Bump. According to show business bible Variety, 2016-17 was SNL’s highest-rated season in 23 years.

A lot of those numbers were no doubt generated by buzz-worthy recurring guest spots featuring Alec Baldwin playing the president and Melissa McCarthy channeling former press secretary Sean Spicer. Not coincidentally, both actors were nominated for their often-inspired work.

(By the way, I think there’s still a chance someone might make a cameo as former communications director, Wolf of Wall Street hair stand-in and Sopranos dialect coach Anthony Scaramucci, and I’m nominating SNL alumnus Jimmy Fallon.)

Of course, the people who provide the words are important, too. Thirty names are cited in the show’s Emmy nomination for writing for a variety series; I can’t wait to hear the orchestra drown out their thank-yous during the September ceremony.

Presumably, those writers have been itching to start pounding their keyboards. The show’s fake news anchor desk hasn’t been staffed since the season finale in May, and even people who aren’t news junkies have probably heard that a fair bit’s been going on down south.

Maybe a tight weekly digest is the best way to cope with the fire hose of faux pas coming out of the White House. Topical weeknight comedy shows hosted by Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert are often outdated by the time they air, and that’s only a few hours after they’re recorded.

If nothing else, putting together some Weekend Updates should be a better waste of summer than last year’s NBC experiment. The Michaels-produced Maya & Marty was one of those “good on paper” ideas, but the execution didn’t meet the expectations of a variety program featuring Maya Rudolph and Martin Short.

Ultimately, it’s tough to lure many viewers for anything on weeknights during the dog days of the season. I’m confident Weekend Update Summer Edition can count on at least one at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.


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