After a month off, SNL kicks off the second half of Season 41 with a less-than-stellar episode, but one that had its share of good moments. It wasn’t a bad episode by any means; sort of average, in reality. The highlights were the Undercover Boss film and the final skit, Doctor Porn. Here’s a breakdown of how it went:
Cold open – A spoof of this week’s Republican debate. Historically, SNL has an upswing in quality and ratings in a Presidential election season. The show doesn’t seem to be upping its political humor game and the comedy is lightweight and tame. I’m sure that as the campaign process progresses we’ll see the show skewering the front-runners, but for now, it seems weak. It was pretty funny having Chris Christie escorted offstage mid-debate Showtime at the Apollo style. Another thing: I’m very glad to have Darrell Hammond back as Donald Trump; I love Taran Killam but he didn’t do a successful Trump.
Monologue – Adam Driver seems totally at ease in his first hosting gig. “I’m in a movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Please please please please go see it . . . if it does well, they might make another!” The shtick is that all week the cast has been asking what happens in the next Star Wars film.
Skit: NFL Playoff Game – Pete Davidson plays Jared Schleff, a replacement quarterback who suffers a terrible injury on field. An average skit that should have been saved for later in the show.
Film: Undercover Boss – Here we have the first hit of the night: Adam stars as Kylo Ren participating in the Undercover Boss show, taking on the role of “Matt”, a lowly radar tech. It’s sharp and well-written. Take a look:
Skit: Aladdin and Jasmine – Adam and Cecily Strong play the two Disney characters riding on a magic carpet and singing “A Whole New World.” Only, awful things keep happening to Jasmine and Aladdin fails to notice. It’s a simple premise built on a series of site gags.
Skit: Americas Funniest Cats – Adam plays Finn Raynal-Beads (it’s actually Reynolds, he tells us), host of the cat video show, and welcomes the two hosts from the French version of the show, played by Cecily and Kate McKinnon. The two French hosts have a decidedly less-cute approach to narrating the silly cat videos. It’s a cute skit with some genuine laughs. Cecily and Kate doing accents is always good measure, and their characters trying to pull off a comical “boyoyoing” in their ultraserious French attitudes is pretty funny.
Chris Stapleton – “Parachute”
Weekend update – The centerpiece of every episode, this should be the most solid segment of the show. It frequently isn’t. Tonight was somewhere in the middle. Cheap jokes about Trump’s hair and a snake in a man’s pants are punctuated by a few good stories. Guests include Pete Davidson talking about gun control, and Vanessa Bayer playing 12-year-old Laura Parsons in the “Newscasters of Tomorrow” segment.
- Best joke: “A teenaged girl in Virginia saved her father after he was trapped under a burning pick-up truck which she lifted off of him. That story has already been nominated for eight Country Music Awards.”
- Second best joke: “A woman in California claims that she found a severed fingertip in her Applebee’s salad, despite their promise to only add a tip for parties of six or more.”
Skit: Social puppeteering – A good idea that could have been much funnier. The best thing to come from this skit is the accompanying website – www.stopsocialpuppeteering.org
Bowie tribute – Going into tonight’s episode, I kept wondering if they’d do something to commemorate David Bowie, who passed away earlier in the week. And indeed they did. Fred Armisen talked about seeing Bowie on the show in 1979 and how he changed live television. They then ran a clip of the first verse and chorus of Bowie’s performance of “The Man Who Sold the World.” Here’s the full performance from 1979:
Film: Golden Globes – Vanessa and Adam play two parents who have just won a writing award, and Kate and Kyle Mooney play their children who are waiting for them to come home while the parents are out boozing and drugging. It’s a cute video with a surprise appearance by Liev Shreiber.
Chris Stapleton: “Nobody to Blame”
Skit: Doctor Porn – My favorite skit of the night. I always look forward to the last skit of the show, because it’s usually a weird, edgy, playful or experimental skit (or occasionally it’s the two ex-porn stars played by Cecily and Vanessa). This one is a perfect set-up of a gay doctor’s office examination porn (in this case it’s “The Doctor is In … My Butt” 4), with a twist as Aidy Bryant pops in playing a young school-aged girl who is there to genuinely see a doctor:
Overall it was an okay episode that never really rose above the midline. Which is okay, at least it wasn’t bad. But after a month off, I always hope for better, especially following a great episode like the Tina Fey / Amy Poehler / Bruce Springsteen Christmas show that closed the first half of the season.
Next week: Rhonda Rousey / Selina Gomez