You won’t be able to put down SNL40, the new 40th anniversary app from Saturday Night Live. It’s a rabbit hole of humor, which is nirvana for SNL fans of all stripes and generations. SNL40 taps into 800 episodes, thousands of skits and uses semantic, tag-based data to parse the whole thing down, letting you dig and dig some more.
The app launches for iOS and Android on Thursday, a few days ahead of the star-studded anniversary special on NBC. But it’s more than a mere compendium of the best of 40 years of the groundbreaking late-night comedy skit show. SNL40 taps into 800 episodes, thousands of skits and uses semantic, tag-based data to parse the whole thing down, letting you dig and dig some more. The app will also continuously update with new clips and original content with each week’s new episode.
SNL 40’s spare yet elegant design pulls you in from the very first screen, which features a live carousel of clips. Upon opening the app, you’ll be asked which SNL era you love the most and if you’d rather watch music videos or commercial parodies. The clips the app shows you, then, is based on your answers along with NBC’s own selection of “popular” clips (based on research that NBC wouldn’t detail).
Each clip is accompanied by a wealth of information (if you tap the “i” button, for “information”), including the episode it appeared in; each cast member in the scene; which characters they’re playing; and whether the characters are recurring. And then there’s the information you didn’t even know you were looking for, like the exact moment a cast member broke character and started laughing, or where the sketch was situated. But I was itching for a little bit more behind-the-scenes trivia.
Explore is organized by seasons. If you swipe through a ribbon below the search bar, you’ll find all 40; below is a grid of cast members for each season. You’ll likely discover a few surprising trivia nuggets here. Did you know Laurie Metcalf and Gilbert Gottfried were castmates in Season 6, or that former In Living Color cast member Damon Wayons starred in Season 11? Do you remember all the siblings of original cast members in Season 5 (Brian Doyle Murray, brother of Bill, and Peter Akroyd, brother of Dan)?
The other issue with the app, and my main disappointment, is the lack of musical acts. Many are missing, which is due to music licensing constraints. I did a quick search for a few of the performances I remember — Talking Heads, David Bowie and DEVO — but no luck. This is a real shame, as music is such an integral part of the show. I hope the music labels wise up and give NBC and SNL full access moving forward.
You can connect the app to your Facebook account and share your favorite clips, but for now, there’s no Twitter support (an odd omission, considering the active live-tweeting audiences during performances). The app also lacks any kind of gamification or badges — not that you’ll miss them. While it offers no opportunities for in-app purchases, I imagine SNL will hold the door open for those in the future.) Read more…