Donald Trump’s controversial appearance on Saturday Night Live brought in substantial ratings, but disappointed critics.
The braodcast drew a 6.6 rating in metered markets, the highest since Jan. 7, 2012 when Charles Barkley was the host. In the 25 markets with local people meters, the show averaged a 2.7 rating among adults 18-49, the biggest since Feb. 1, 2014, when Melissa McCarthy hosted.
Having Trump host the show—he’d hosted it previously—was controversial both because he’s running for president, which provoked a debate about whether other candidates should get equal times, and because of some of the remarks he’s made on the campaign trail that have been criticized as racist.
But in both debates and in appearances on news shows, Trump has been generating high ratings, so NBC had him on, even though it had only recently settled a lawsuit with the businessman over the Miss Universe pageant, which Trump and NBCUniversal co-owned. Trump has also stepped down as host of NBC’s The Apprentice because of his political activity.
Trump said he wanted to be on the late night institution to show he could take a joke, but critics said the show lacked laughs.
Indeed if trump wanted to show he could take a joke, “SNL hardly threw any his way,” said New York Times television critic James Poniewozik.
“Mr. Trump probably left S.N.L. with another such victory. The episode is not likely to hurt him among any voting group. He can take credit for the high ratings — adding that he delivered for a network that recently had cut ties with him over his comments about Mexican immigrants — and lay any criticism on the writing staff,” Poniewozik said. "And what did S.N.L. and producer Lorne Michaels get? The ratings, but then again, any new viewers tuned in to see a joyless, nearly unfunny show, which ended in a curtain call with Mr. Trump and the cast that played like a hostage video.”
Writing for Time magazine, Daniel D’Addario said: “The show was at odds with itself in a manner that made truly bad TV.” He added that “Trump’s presence had a depressing effect on any potential comedy."
And Verne Gay ofNewsday concluded: “Well, that was a snooze. Also strange. And a little bit sad. Otherwise, no fireworks, no hecklers, no sizzle, no razzle, no dazzle, no . . . laughs either, or not many. Saturday Night Live sure picked an unusual occasion to turn out a dud.”