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First of all, I apologize on behalf of NBC that most of you will wake up to DVRs that only include an hour of Saturday Night Live instead of the usual 90 minutes.
The good news is, at least you’re missing Miley Cyrus’ second outing as host. OK, I shouldn’t be so harsh before the episode even begins. Miley might be a great host but given SNL’s track record with these kinds of gimmick guests (*cough* Bieber *cough*), I’m skeptical. Her first episode wasn’t bad, but very Miley-centered. And given her recent headlines, I’m worried we’re going to be seeing one long twerking joke.
Like last week, I’ll be writing the recaps “live,” meaning I’ll watch the sketch and immediately write a short blurb reviewing and recapping it. For each segment, I’ll rate it on a scale of 0-5 stars. At the end of the piece, I’ll share some quick overall thoughts and the best/worst sketch of the night.
VMA Flashback: * *
Wait, is Tina Fey back? Nope, that’s newcomer Noel Wells as a hobo who, along with Kenan Thompson, are reflecting on the day America fell apart. Why you ask? It wasn’t the government shutdown, silly, it was Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance! While this is very expected territory for Cyrus’ SNL show, at least they got it over with in the beginning. The VMA jokes were predictable, as was Taran Killam’s bit as Robin Thicke and even the inclusion of Vanessa Bayer playing the more innocent Hannah Montana era Miley. Except for a great cameo by Bobby Moynihan, this skit felt like an obligatory nod to an event that had already been spoofed to death, with the writers failing to come up with a new or particularly funny angle. Well, that’s not true. At least I learned that Miley’s constant tongue wagging is due to “tiny strokes.”
Opening Monologue: * ½
Wow, what a short and dull monologue! Did they loose a bunch of cue cards or something? Anyway, there was no real concept to the monologue except for a few expectable jokes about twerking (“Now that white people are doing it it seems kinda lame!”) and more VMA material. The monologue also included a strange joke about Hannah Montana’s death that came from nowhere and never got a punchline. Once again, Moynihan (kind of) saves the day in a shot that is both hilarious and a bit nightmare inducing.
Fifty Shades Casting: * * ½
Every so often SNL likes to trot out these “audition tape” skits as they’re just a great excuse for the cast to unleash some of their best impressions. This outing, while it had its moment, was only so-so. Most of the impressions were quite good (Hoffman, Aziz and Tilda, yes, Stone, Chenoweth and Parker, no) but the whole thing just seemed light on laughs. And why did Bryant’s Rebel Wilson have no lines? She didn’t even talk and I’d bet it was a better impression that Miley’s. I think this sketch also made me a little bitter because it reminded me of Christoph Waltz’s time as host, which is one of last year’s best episodes. I’d rather be watching DJesus Uncrossed.
Girlfriends Talk Show: * * ½
I didn’t expect to see the Girlfriends Talk Show sketch again. It was not my favorite reoccurring skit from last year, but, hey, it’s not The Californians, so I’m all for it. I just love Aidy Bryant’s enthusiasm here and that mix of desperation and vulnerability she brings to Morgan (aka “Night Crier”). Strong is good here, although I can’t help but feel like she’s channeling her Ex-Porn Star character a little too much. Miley joins in as Kiera’s new friend from Hip Hop Club, Lil Tiny. The most I can say is that she seems game and puts her all into some pretty mediocre material.
We Did Stop (The Government): * ½
I learned two things from this preproduced skit: In the ’13-’14 season, Taran Killam is God; and the writers don’t really know what to do with Miley except toothlessly mock her wild-child image. Here they rewrite her “hit” song “We Can’t Stop” as an ode to the government shutdown sung by John Boehner and Michelle Bachman. It could have been funny based on that premise but it didn’t really go anywhere besides repeating the video’s bizarre visuals and showing Killam in some very tight shorts. No thanks.
Piers Morgan: * *
Seriously did the rest of the male cast get the flu except for Killam? This sketch reads like a bunch of discarded Hillary Clinton skit ideas that got combined to form one directionless, mix-and-match one. Arianna Huffington (a reliably funny character in the hands of Nasim Pedrad) is on the Piers Morgan show to discuss the cancelled Hillary Clinton biopics. But what we didn’t know is that other networks have Clinton-themed programming too. What follows is a bunch of short scenes where we get the former first lady as a Breaking Bad like anti-hero and starring in a Fox News propaganda film. The jokes just feel stale and uninspired. The only thing I can guess is that Lorne wanted to try out a few actress to play Hillary for the foreseeable future. My bet is on McKinnon (or at least not Miley whose Clinton wore a 2016 sports bra).
Weekend Update: * * * *
Cecily Strong feels much more at home at the Update Desk this week and the whole segment just seems on fire! A high percentage of the jokes land and a two-person version of “Winners & Losers” had some great political material. But the highlight of this update where three guests. First we had Kate McKinnon as Pat Lynhart, a Connecticut mother by day and Lester Crest, a Grand Theft Auto character who “eats cocaine for breakfast” by night. McKinnon’s manic energy was great here (although, is it just me or did this character remind me of her Jody Foster impression?). Next was Jay Pharaoh as NFL’s Shannon Sharpe. Now I’m not the target demo for this bit as I don’t know anything about football and even less about football commentators, so for all I know the real Sharpe does have a lisp and a lizard-like tongue. With no background, I didn’t get as much of a kick out of it as most of the audience seems to, but Pharaoh’s a gifted performer and his enjoyment was infectious. Besides, it was fun to see the always-reliable Pharaoh break just a little. Next, Praise Adonai, was the return of Jacob The Bar Mitzvah Boy who you might remember from my
best skits of last year list. Perhaps it’s my own cultural background, but I just love Jacob despite the fact that every outing being pretty much the same. From Jacob’s cadence, to his corny jokes and Bayer’s delight in portraying him (more breaking!), he is one of my favorite reoccurring SNL characters. I’d usually complain that the whole Update ran a bit long, but I’m feeling giddy from Jacob and not seeing Miley mug for a while, so why bother.
Cheerleading Practice: *
Nothing about this sketch worked from the one joke premise to the surreal alien invasion twist. At least Miley wasn’t playing herself but that’s about all the good things I can say about this skit. My cable cropped out a few minutes of the sketch due to a scheduled test and, to tell you the truth, I don’t think I missed anything. Luckily it came back in time to see the special effects guy check Pedrad’s harness. As Jacob would likely say, oy vey iz mir.
Morning Miami: * * * * ½
I’ve had multiple internships working in local news and can tell you firsthand Morning Miami isn’t too far off. Oh, and it was hysterical too. It took a simple premise and kept pushing it further and further with great off-the-wall jokes reminiscent of the corrections crawl in their Fox & Friends skits. No need to go on and on here, because you should watch Morning Miami for yourself, a sketch that was simple and simply hilarious.
Poetry Teacher: * * ½
I really don’t know what to make of this sketch. Was Bayer’s overzealous poetry teacher funny or just loud and annoying? Did the students’ poetry really work as comedy? Did Miley’s sexually precocious teen character work as a comic creation or was it just creepy and weird? Did the sketch go anywhere? I’m on the fence. I need to watch this one again in the morning. Maybe I’ll love it, maybe not. Tell me what you think in the comments.
Kyle’s Office: * * * ½
Cyrus is playing herself again but I don’t really care because A) the sketch is pretty damn funny and B) I get to go to sleep soon. After a pretty mediocre start last week, Kyle Moody is back and showing he can carry a skit. In this taped piece, Moody is disconcerted about Cyrus’ amorous interest in him. The whole thing is perfectly timed and escalates nicely. It’s not quite “Sad Mouse,” but it’s very, very solid material.
Best Sketch: It’s a toss up between Morning Miami and Update, but I’ll give it to Miami, the best live sketch of the season so far.
Worst Sketch: Cheering Practice
The Musical Guest: Miley Cyrus
Miley’s not a great singer. I don’t think that’s going to shock anyone. Her first song, “Wrecking Ball” is actually not a bad number, although I doubt Miley brings much vocally to the party. Without surreal visuals and plenty of nudity, she’s a pretty average performer. She slowed things down with an acoustic take on “We Can’t Stop.” Sitting on a stool (and wearing a Star Wars - esque head covering) and surrounded by guitarists, she delivers the song fairly well. Although, I must say, funnier than anything she’s done so far tonight is the way she delivers ridiculous lines like “To my home girls here with the big butt shaking it like we at a strip club” in the style of some emotionally honest acoustic jam. That guitar playing swaying to the beat was just priceless too.
Overall Thoughts: When SNL did Miley Cyrus material, the writing was lazy and dull. But when they broke away from twerking jokes, the show really took off. Miley, too, was pretty good, especially when not playing a variation of her over-sexed persona. Overall, a much more solid episode than I expected.
Image Courtesy of NBC Universal