If you've watched your fair share of Law & Order: SVU episodes, then I'm sure you've heard them talk about the "fruit from a poison tree" concept. In that instance, it's when evidence or testimony (the "fruit") isn't admissible if it's been obtained through illegal means (the "poison tree") because it's been tainted and no longer reliable ("poisoned"). It's fitting to go with an NBC series to offer a little background since it's now the network that wants us ignoring that oozing, rotting tree over there and enjoy that juicy apple! In this case, it was the matter of how Saturday Night Live would tackle the controversy surrounding NBC's decision to book a town hall with Donald Trump and schedule it at the same time as Joe Biden's town hall over on ABC. And let me just say, SNL did not disappoint- and that's what was so disappointing. Thankfully, there's Michael Che.
I won't rehash my thoughts on all the number of ways NBC's decision was a bad move, both short-term and long-term (you can recap that here). Instead, let me just rattle off some quick thoughts on why NBC and Lorne Michaels's SNL did itself no favors with what came across as more of a "Monday morning quarterback"/"cover your ass" move. First up, you have Jim Carrey kicking off the first 3-1/2 minutes with a Biden portrayal that ended up doing this week what it's avoided doing up to this point: make me feel like I'm watching Carrey and not Biden. I was almost expecting him to start having Biden speak out of his butt and throwin' out, "Smokin!".
Worse than that, it played up stereotypes Trump's campaign has been saying about Biden for weeks- but weren't evident during the actual town hall. It felt like the Biden side of the sketch was about attacking the candidate, in the broadest way possible (and unoriginal, since the internet owned "Mr. Rogers" days earlier). When the sketch shifted to NBC/Trump, Alec Baldwin's portrayal continued to be an amplification of what we've seen from Trump in the past- but nothing was "invented" about Trump's town hall performance. And while Biden's side felt like attacks on him, the Trump side of the sketch felt the need to spread the love- from the "handsome" lady to the nodding woman in the background. We even had Maya Rudolph's Kamala Harris appear in what was a truly pointless appearance- even Rudolph came across like she didn't know why she was in this sketch. Hell, if nothing else/ Rudolph deserved better.
Savannah Guthrie did an incredible job following up on Trump's comments and pressing him on non-answers, nonsensical answers, and outright lies. And that's where NBC wants us to enjoy the "fruit" and forget about the poisoned tree: by taking credit for Guthrie's performance as if they knew ahead of time that it would go that way- and why the only thing missing from Kate McKinnon's Guthrie was a cape, a sidekick (George Stephanopoulos?), and the Peacock signal. We're asked to forget that the entire town hall shouldn't have happened in the first place, but there are two big reasons to call bullshit on that.
Considering the lousy job past moderators have done, there's nothing on that end for NBC to roll the dice on. Also, Guthrie is a quality interviewer but nothing stands out as of late that would make anyone think they'd get what they got that night. So if it wasn't a money-grab on the network's part, then what's the other answer? That NBC went into the town hall agreement with Trump with the full intention of cutting him off at the knees? Once again, that doesn't serve anyone but Trump: his followers just become more deeply entrenched against the media, those who hate Trump aren't learning anything new, and NBC has flushed its news division's reputation further down the toilet for showing its "FOX News"-like partisan backside so blatantly.
Thankfully, NBC still has one reliable "news division" to offer a little "tough love" perspective. SNL "Weekend Update" anchors Colin Jost and Che were on fire this weekend, with a "rat-a-tat-tat" of great eye-wincing jokes and commentary- but what about that town hall? Surely, they wouldn't bite the hand that was feeding them live from new on that Saturday night, right? Oh yes, with Che doing in less than a minute what the first 13 minutes of the show couldn't do: slap the network's hand hard for a stupid, greedy decision. With a background image of Trump, disgraced ex-Today host Matt Lauer, and imprisoned actor/comedian Bill Cosby on display and the words "…we have a type" let out into the Karmasphere, Che, Jost, and the team from "Weekend Update" reminded The Powers The Be that their decision has roots that lead back to a much bigger, more poisonous tree- and helped NBC get a bit of its dignity back.