Here’s Why You Can’t Watch Entire ‘SNL’ Episodes on Peacock
You plunked down your hard-earned cash to subscribe to Peacock because as a bonafide comedy nerd, you want access to every episode of Saturday Night Live in existence — all 49 seasons worth! You settle in to watch, say, the great Robin Williams hosting the show in 1988, only to find that the episode you paid for is only thirty-six minutes long! Sure, the absence of commercials should make it shorter than the usual ninety, but there’s a lot missing here! What gives?
Not surprisingly, neither NBC nor Peacock is rushing out press releases telling you why you’re getting less SNL for your comedy buck than you might have been expecting. But the answers are right there in front of us.
Robin Williams’ musical guest on that 1988 episode was James Taylor, but you wouldn’t know it from the Peacock version. Most of the early seasons of SNL on Peacock don’t feature the musical guests, a casualty of the very concept of digital streaming rights not existing until the 21st century. While recent seasons of SNL feature the music numbers, those rights are now written into the contracts from the get-go. Imagine trying to go back and secure streaming rights for decades' worth of bands and singers — yikes! Easier to just stick to the comedy.
And More Music Rights
Back when Adam Sandler and Chris Farley made their original commercial parody for Schmitts Gay, it featured a Van Halen song as the backing track. The bit became a classic, but not so much that Lorne Michaels wanted to pay Van Halen until the end of time. The version that’s now on YouTube features a soundalike track — clearly not Van Halen and just as clearly meant to suggest that vibe.
With little dialogue over the popular music, it’s an easy fix. But for other sketches that feature popular music, especially ones with dialogue mixed into the soundtrack, it’s easier to just scrap them to the cutting-room floor.
When Dana Carvey returned to host during Season 26, he brought back some of his most popular characters. That included the one he often talks about on his Fly On the Wall podcast — Ching Chang, the Chinese storekeeper who can’t bear to part with his beloved chickens even though they’re ostensibly for sale. Carvey understands that everything about Ching Chang, starting with the name, is pretty cringe by 2023 standards. In 2000, however, the show was still on board with a sketch featuring Ching Chang refusing to sell Tracy Morgan a chicken for fear that he’d fry it. (Yikes, how many stereotypes could SNL cram into one sketch?) The Peacock version of that episode is only 44 minutes long — with no musical guests and no Ching Chang. It’s not hard to figure out why.