Former SNL cast member calls his season the worst in the show's history

Behind the scenes with Saturday Night Live � 2008 Presidential Election
Behind the scenes with Saturday Night Live � 2008 Presidential Election / Charles Ommanney/GettyImages

Saturday Night Live is preparing to start its 50th season come the fall. It's an impressive feat for any show, let alone a sketch comedy series. So with that longevity, it's no surprise that some seasons were weaker than others. But one former SNL cast member went so far as to call his lone season maybe the worst in Saturday Night Live history.

Actor Anthony Michael Hall joined David Spade and Dana Carvey on the Fly on the Wall podcast. He reflected on his unexpected Saturday Night Live tenure at 17 years old. Lorne Michaels cast Hall after the actor had a successful run of movies, such as Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Weird Science.

But Michaels decision to bring in established names like Hall, Robert Downey, Jr., and Randy Quaid for season 11 ultimately backfired. The 1985-1986 season was largely a dud, and Hall would be the first to admit it.

"You know, truthfully, the '85-'86 season was one of the worst, if not maybe the in the 50 years of the show," he said on Fly on the Wall. He admitted that just being on the show was enough of a thrill despite never having a breakout character or memorable sketch.

Why was Saturday Night Live so bad in 1985?

By all accounts, season 11 should have been a bounce back year for Saturday Night Live. Creator Lorne Michaels returned as showrunner after five years away from the show.

Yet for someone with an unparalleled eye for comedic talent, Michaels completely misfired with his approach to casting the season. Harry Shearer, Jim Belushi, Billy Crystal, Mary Gross, Christopher Guest, Rich Hall, Gary Kroeger, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Martin Short and Pamela Stephenson all left the previous season. Michaels chose to replace these comedy icons with actors not exactly known for getting laughs.

The result was a frustrating season in which the writers failed to mesh with the cast. Ratings dipped and Saturday Night Live faced cancellation rumors throughout the year. Michaels hoped the likes of Hall and Downey would attract a younger audience.

Instead, almost nobody watched the season because the material and cast couldn't live up to expectations. Hall, Downey, Quaid, Joan Cusack, and Terry Sweeney were all fired following the season's end.

Michaels clearly felt the same away about the 1985-1986 as Hall. Season 12 opened with Madonna reading a statement acknowleding the poor casting and writing of the previous season. According to the bit, Hall's season was nothing more than "a horrible, horrible dream."

The class that replaced Hall included Fly on the Wall co-host Dana Carvey. Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, Victoria Jackson, and Kevin Nealon also joined SNL that year as Michaels got back to what works at SNL: hiring comedians.