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It’s been quite a while since the last episode, where Seth Rogen was the guest host and SNL gave the world Monster Pals, a fantastic short film which I brazenly (and I believe rightly) called the best taped piece since Sad Mouse. In the hiatus, I went through all my old recaps in order to start putting together my Best/Worst of the Season lists (which will get published shortly after the season finale) and learned a few things. One is that, while I often kvetch about the dire material on Saturday Night Live, the list of potential best sketches outweighed the worst ones. Often at 1 in the morning, I start to get curmudgeonly and my SNL recaps have seemed to reflect that as of yet. But, when you take a step back, you can clearly see that SNL has produced some real gems this season.
Tonight, I’m hopeful that Andrew Garfield will produce a few more of those gems. He’s a good actor, capable of disappearing into any number of diverse roles, and should make a game SNL host.
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.
Donald Sterling Press Conference: * * * ½
You knew SNL had to address Donald Sterling tonight and the cold open would be the obvious place for it. Here he’s played by Moynihan, whose subtle looks of disgusts every time he shares the stage with an African American cast member is funnier than most of the dialogue written for him. With cameos from Pharaoh as Dennis Rodman and Thompson as the NAACP president, this sketch kept moving at a good pace and was probably one of the better cold opens of the season. Do I wish it had more teeth (a la the Black Jeopardy sketch), yeah, but it held up quite nicely even when the material could have been pushed even further.
Opening Monologue: * * ½
Speaking of things you knew would be on SNL tonight, Emma Stone is in the house! The joke is that Stone (and Bryant) don’t seem to trust that Andrew Garfield is up to his hosting duties and keep interrupting him with helpful hosting tips. I guess it’s an all right premise but I can’t help but wonder if the SNL writers had the same reservations about Garfield that Stone did. He seems like a game host, why not give him a fair shot right out from the gate?
Some people may like sketches about excessive flatulence. But I am not 6 years old or stoned, so I am not one of them. Oooof, this was rough, especially for so early in the broadcast.
Celebrity Family Feud: * * * ½
Most of this sketch, an impression-o-rama music edition, fell flat. The pacing seemed painfully slow and some of the impressions barely got going before they were over. But McKinnon’s Shakira (who sounds like the car radio on scan, according to Feud host Steve Harvey) and Killam’s Russell Crowe save the sketch almost singlehandedly. The moments with them are hilarious. Garfield also shows great promise as SNL favorite and all around renaissance man Justin Timberlake. So, all in all, more hit than miss.
Oliver Twist: * ½
What if Oliver Twist shared the orphanage with a needy woman named Deirdre who, for no explainable reason, speaks more like a Jersey housewife than a cockney street urchin? That’s the basic premise of this clunker, which is never really very funny or witty about the material. Why is Deirdre there? Who is she? Perhaps with more exposition, it’d feel more grounded (and therefore funnier) but as it stands, Oliver Twist is about as funny as the original novel.
The Beygency : * * * * ½
This season, much of the best material has been in pre-taped segments so it’s no shock that tonight’s best skit (so far) is this faux movie trailer where Garfield plays an everyman who must flee from his home and escape a mysterious police squad after insulting Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love.” The production values are great here (and the 24 cameo borders on brilliant) but, at its core, The Beygency is just a hilarious take on the nation’s obsession with Queen B. How this could come from the same team as Stanx, I’ll never understand.
Weekend Update: * * * *
I loved Olya Povlatsky when she first appeared at the Update desk. McKinnon’s Russian peasant woman is such a fantastically specific yet universally simple character and McKinnon plays her with every bit of wide-eyed, sad-sacked, zany energy she can muster. Perhaps the jokes weren’t as funny as the first time around, but McKinnon totally made up for it in delivery. The same goes for the return of Jebidiah Atkinson. I love Jebidiah and I love Broadway, therefore I enjoyed this segment immensely. Yes, the jokes were stale (I think the world has heard enough Les Miserables and Cats jokes), but the whole thing was infectious, especially when Killam had a hilarious line flub. (Plus, is it just me or was the feline AIDs joke a callback to Debbie Downer?). On the other hand, the stand up (sit down?) bit with SNL writer Leslie Jones just fell short for me. I bet she’s a funny lady and I bet she’s a great performer, but I’m not sure this was the best platform for her.
Spider-Man Kiss: * * ½
Perhaps this explains the “conscious un-coupling.” Garfield and Stone play themselves shooting the climactic kiss between Spidie and Gwen Stacy at the end of the new Spider-Man flick. But apparently Garfield and Stone (a real-life couple off screen too) kiss in very awkward ways. The actors are game for some spit-swapping physical comedy, but the sketch is mostly anemic and dull rather than outrageous. Later, Chris Martin shows up to step in and smooch a rather uncomfortable Garfield. OK, then.
Wedding Speech: * * *
At Cecily Strong’s wedding reception, the best man (Garfield) decides to announce his love for the bride. It was slow to get started, but once it was revealed that Garfield’s wife and kids are in attendance, the sketch scored some laughs.
Bird Bible (Rebroadcast from the Jim Parsons episode): * * *
When this sketch first aired, I gave it a half a star and wrote that “I’ve seen local car dealership commercials with more humor and wit.” On second viewing, I was way too harsh and can say that I didn’t really get it the first time around. Is it worth a second airing, probably not, especially with Monster Pals and Twin Bed waiting in the wings, but it’s a weirdly wonderful little piece of comedy.
Best Sketch: The Beygency
Worst Sketch: Stanx. Why? Just why?
Musical Guest: Coldplay
I’m usually 50/50 on Coldplay. Some of their material is fantastic, but most seems to leave me cold. Their first, “Magic,” was a good example of the latter. The spacy groove and driving electronic drums sounded nifty enough but it wasn’t really funky enough to be memorable. On the other hand, “A Sky Full of Stars” has a full, anthemic feel that was up to Coldplay’s exacting standards.
Overall Thoughts: When this episode was good, it was really good. Beygency good. Plus, Garfield was a game host who showed some real comedic chops. He did a good Timberlake impression and shows some great range. Problem is, he had to wade through a few real clunkers.
Next Week: Charlize Theron and The Black Keys star in this season’s penultimate episode.