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I have a prediction to make: In a few years when we look back at the all-time best Saturday Night Live hosts, Melissa McCarthy will be on that list. Like Christopher Walken, John Goodman and Steve Martin, who were all all-stars during their SNL heydays, I believe McCarthy will join Timberlake when it comes to the best 21st century hosts. She’s already hosted three times in three years. McCarthy is a phenomenal comedian with impeccable physical comedy chops and is a skilled sketch writer to boot. Her previous two episodes were highlights of the season and featured some of the best sketches of the past few years, so I’m excited to see how her third outing will pan out.
Plus, tonight is the last show for Seth Meyers, who is leaving SNL after ten years to take over Jimmy Fallon’s Late Nightspot. His tenure at SNL, the second longest in the show’s history, has been filled with a great Weekend Update era that introduced the word to Stefon, Drunk Uncle and other characters that will go down in SNL history. While there’s more to be written about Meyers (perhaps I’ll do so over the break), tonight definitely marks the end of an SNL era.
Like always, I’ll be writing the recaps “live,” meaning I’ll watch a 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.
Super Bowl Halftime Show: ½
I’m just gonna be honest here: I don’t know if I hated this cold open because I’m a big musical theater fan and this skit reduced a wonderful and skillful art form into a parody that seemed aimed at a Broadway that hasn’t been in vogue since the ‘50s or if I just hated this cold open because it was a poorly written, outdated and unfunny excuse for a sketch. The judges are out. The idea of replacing the Super Bowl’s halftime show with Broadway performers has merit but the overall joke – wow, musical theater is really kitschy, loud and feminine – just didn’t work for me as the Broadway they were parodying doesn’t really exist anymore. It also struck me as odd because both this week’s cold open and last week’s seemed to mock men in stereotypically more feminine roles. I’m not going to go so far as to say they seemed borderline homophobic but the theme feels dumb and offensive in a way I don’t usually find with SNL.Perhaps I’m reading too much into this (and I sorta love Pharaoh’s Michael Strahan) but I just didn’t like this one at all.
Opening Monologue: * * * *
McCarthy is happy to be back in New York to host SNL and support her husband Richard Sherman. Just kidding. But before she can get into the monologue, Moynihan boos her from the audience and confronts her of her diva-like attitude (including stealing the SNL white llama) the last time she hosted. And then, for no apparent reason, they have an aerial kung-fu battle on wires. It’s not the funniest monologue this season, but you got to love McCarthy’s total commitment and impeccable physical comedy chops.
CVS Ad: * *
Are you a bad boyfriend? Did you forget Valentine's Day again? Well, CVS is here to sell you some “dumb little things” to keep your girlfriend or wife happy. The truth is the random crap they buy at CVS won’t make her happy and this sketch didn’t make me happy either. The central conceit is fine but it seemed the writers didn’t quite know what to do with it and instead produced a slow and surprisingly dull ad that just seemed to drag on.
Delaware 1 News: * ½
One of my least favorite characters McCarthy has played on SNL is Sheila Kelly, her angry basketball coach from her sophomore outing as host. This is basically the same sketch except now Kelly is a congresswoman who keeps getting caught on camera berating the press and exposing campaign secrets. McCarthy is such a funny and talented lady that a lame sketch like this feels like a complete waste. Why not bring back Barb Kellner, the Honey Baked Ham lady or Arlene?
Women’s Group: * * * *
There’s a pattern of SNL sketches where four people sit around a circle, three of them say normal things and one person says something outrageous. Think those sing-a-long sketches last seen with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. This skit follows the same basic pattern but manages to feel somewhat fresh due to McCarthy’s dark tone and the sketch’s thankful shortness. While three women share their life goals, one (McCarthy) obsesses over revenge for her murdered father. The build up here is quite funny, especially the visuals of her vision board (which, oddly enough, also features yogurt) and I love the little detail of how McCarthy wormed her way into the gang that killed her dad. Will I remember this sketch come the end of the season, probably not, but it’s the funniest thing we’ve seen all night.
Guess That Phrase: * * * ½
McCarthy’s character Kathleen reminds me of Linda from her Hidden Valley Ranch sketch (which you might remember I had near the top of my Best of Last Season list). If only this sketch was as funny as that one. Guess That Phrase had its moments – McCarthy’s character’s weirdly specific guesses were genuinely funny as was Bayer’s contestant who taught dogs to dance – but never quite seemed to get going in the way Hidden Valley did.
Black History Month: * * * * ½
Pharaoh has been doing really well with his digital shorts this year from What Does My Girl Say to H&M. Black History Month is a great edition and Thompson and Zamata are great collaborators. This rap song about black history month has a simple, yet biting, premise that just works really well. You’d think the joke would be over once Pharaoh and co. announces that the song is really about slavery, but somehow they manage to keep building on it. I hope SNL manages to do more stuff like this; well produced videos with an actual comedic point.
Weekend Update: N/A
I could write about Buford Calloway, Killam’s hammy southerner who comes to the Update Desk to complain about the effects of the polar vortex but why bother. This Update belongs to an extended goodbye for Meyers. To send him off is Amy Poehler, Stefon and Andy Samberg. Sure there was some funny moments, I particularly enjoyed the animosity between Stefon and Strong, but this Weekend Update was more of a send-off than an actual sketch, which is why I’ve decided not to rate it. Goodbye Mr. Meyers, you will be missed at the desk.
Living Pictures: 0
There was so many good vibes generated during that Weekend Update that it’d be hard for any sketch to succeed. That being said, this one was particularly unfunny. Like really long and loud and devoid of just about any semblance of humor. This may just be the worst sketch of the year so far.
Girlfriends Talk Show: * * * *
I was a little scared when the Girlfriend's Talk Show graphic came up as it seemed that sketch had run its course, but McCarthy’s Donna was a fun foil for Morgan and Kyra. Besides it was great having McCarthy play someone not totally socially awkward, desperate and mean. Sure there wasn’t a lot of plot to this sketch, but the whole thing was saved on a couple of great lines, my favorite of which involved Donna’s new Hawaiian boyfriend Pua: “But now I understand what Hawaii 5-0 means,” she says “because Pua has given me five Os so far.” That’s some funny stuff.
“What if we do a sketch where Bobby reads wistful narration about a brief fling he had with a weird lady on a park bench.”
“Yeah, sounds great. Let’s have Melissa play her as a vagrant with a red nose who messily eats wings.”
“Let’s not write any jokes, though, and make it so short the viewers almost fast-forward past it thinking it’s a commercial.”
Super Champions with Kyle: *
Awkward man on the street interviews! Awkward editing! Awkward pacing! I usually enjoy awkward but this just felt messy and under-baked.
Best Sketch: Although Black History Month is probably technically the best, I think I enjoyed Women’s Group the best (and it was the best use of the host).
Worst Sketch: Living Pictures, I think the only sketch I’ve ever given 0 stars to.
Musical Guest: Imagine Dragons
What is it with indie bands having random drums strewn around the stage nowadays? It seems like every rock band on SNL recently went the my-drumset-blew-up route when it comes to staging. Never mind. Starting with their hit “Radioactive,” ID delivered a strong performance (if not one running on fumes from their fantastic Grammy act). It started off a little dull, I feel like I’ve heard this song so many times recently, but once Kendrick Lamarr showed up and the guys got to some heavy drumming, it all came together. They continued with “Demons” another hit for the Dragons just seems a few weeks shy of being passé. I generally don’t like musical performances that bust out all sorts of weird theatrics but “Demons” strikes me as such a theatrical song it seems like a missed opportunity when they just perform it so straightforwardly.
This might be the most uneven SNL I’ve seen in quite some time and that was a huge surprise. We had the goodbye for Meyers and a host who is an amazingly gifted comedian and writer, so I expected a fantastic show. But for every strong moment tonight we got three poorly written, annoying and unfunny sketches. Besides, it seemed like the writers didn’t know how to use McCarthy this time. Hmm, at least the writers have a month to regroup and come up with better material.
Next Week: Nothing. SNL doesn’t return until after the Olympics in March.