It’s hard to end the year with a bang when it’s been your worst. The stamina, the excitement, and the draw–it just isn’t there. Unfortunately for the cast of Saturday Night Live, not only did the 41st season come to a close without any pop or flair, but rather did it end in the absolute pits.
Last night’s season finale, which saw the homecoming of former fan favorite cast member Fred Armisen to host, saw the lowest viewership of the entire season, Deadline reports. The episode drew a 1.7 rating in the coveted 18-49 adults demographic, which though just a shave off from other low ratings from the season, managed to squeak by as the definitive worst score of the season.
Star power is usually an important factor in drawing out fans to watch episodes of SNL, a factor almost completely unique to the show. After all, breakouts happen all the time with unknown actors in scripted series, but with this 41 year-old skit show, the first and foremost thing that’s going to get people to turn their televisions to NBC at 11:30pm on Saturday nights is knowing who’s going to be on, no matter how funny some of the lesser known hosts can be.
Of course, it is not unusual in the slightest for former cast members to close out the season at SNL, so Fred Armisen did seem like an obvious pick. He, alongside musical guest Courtney Barnett–who was nominated for a Grammy as a new and up-and-coming artist earlier this year–put on what could have been a lights-flashing show-stopper.
Armisen’s monologue, which dipped over the usual seven-minute limit, delved into how the Missourian comedian transformed into the New York comedy star that he is now. The monologue, unlike many this season which had fallen back on cheese-riddled songs or cameos, was pure Armisen. It was weird. But then again, that was what Armisen stood for during his SNL tenure, and even now, on his cult hit Portlandia.
The episode also saw reprisals of some of Armisen’s best-loved characters and behaviors. One skit featured Regina, aka Armisen dressed in a revealing dress, a French black wig, and his skinny, chicken legs (which he brought from home). The closing skit brought back Armisen’s love of pretending to be a serious musician–and of wearing women’s clothes–in a wacky Southern band bit (which you can watch below).
The episode also wasn’t without its cameos, and Armisen did it big. Larry David returned one last time to play Bernie Sanders, who sat at a bar with Hillary Clinton (Kate McKinnon) to mull over the election together before standing up to dance.
There was also the return of the SNL Digital Short, featuring alum Andy Samberg and his group the Lonely Island, performing a bizarre new song. As was the way in the old days.
Finally, Armisen’s pre-taped Dead Poets Society parody has already been heralded the best skit of the season by the likes of Entertainment , and though the topic isn’t exactly timely, a single watch-through quickly brings back feelings of the old, much-watched Saturday Night Live.
And, yet, this was the least-viewed episode of the season, in a season of such a measly viewership that it can be likened to the thin days of the 1980s, right before SNL was nearly cancelled.
This season, Kenan Thompson is retiring, which will give room for new talent to step in. The off-season might call for some other older cast members to step down as well, but whatever happens over the summer, Saturday Night Live might need to figure out what’s stopping people from watching them week after week–before NBC finally decides it’s had enough.