Whenever SNL is back after a long break, there’s always a pile-up of stories for them to deal with, and as much as that sounds like a goldmine, really, it’s never good. Our cold open tonight piled the Lance Armstrong scandal on top of the Manti Te’o scandal on top of Jodie Foster’s Golden Globes speech with increasingly diminishing returns. Lance got probably about as much as he’s worth—as big as the whole Oprah interview was, it wasn’t the most compelling television and was mostly notable for how rote and automatic it was. But the increasingly hacky jokes (Te’o still doesn’t get that Lennay Kekua doesn’t exist, Jodie Foster says she’s “gaaaaayme for anything”) made the whole thing feel like an exercise and nothing more.
There was nothing really wrong with this episode—but nothing too memorable, either. No sketch really surprised with its premise, and there were a couple that didn’t have any twist to them at all. I’m thinking mainly of “Danielle: A Free European Woman,” a late-night Cinemax spoof that just aped the production values of such programming quite accurately, but forgot to provide the jokes. That was last night’s rock bottom, but there were really only a couple standouts in total.
None of this was the fault of Jennifer Lawrence, who was an extremely capable, game host—not surprising, since even though I haven’t seen her in any comedies, her sense of humor is readily apparent if you ever watch an interview with her. I was pleased to see a monologue with absolutely no singing and plenty of dissing of her fellow Oscar nominees (plus a cameo from Bill Hader as a not-amused Tommy Lee Jones). Like the rest of the show, the jokes were hardly original, but Lawrence made up for it with plenty of panache.
The return of the Girlfriends Talk Show as the lead-off sketch was a bit of a disappointment. I understand that the show is trying to foster its new talent, particularly Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant, who have been getting a lot of screentime in recent weeks, but there’s no need to try and make something like this into a regular thing. This is a one-joke sketch and the one joke barely lands—Aidy is lame, Cecily is trying to be cooler, and guest host is a bad influence (Jennifer Lawrence played a girl who had been to New York on multiple occasions). There’s attempts to build a joke about Aidy’s guinea pigs, but the sketch just kinda ends at some point with barely a punchline.
The following Hunger Games press conference was much better, and I forgive its lack of timeliness (they did spoof the film once before, in Sofia Vergara’s episode) because the gag about Peeta (Killam) being incredibly short was the kind of dumb, obvious joke that totally lands for me. I almost wish they could have done more on Bill Hader’s ridiculous Wes Bentley beard, though. Possibly the best line of the night was Tim Robinson asking about it. “My beard?” Hader asks. “No, the other guy with an insane beard.” This wasn’t the most inventive sketch, but it did at least have one cute twist to it.
The Hobbit spoof that followed was again much more pedestrian—it’s being split up into a zillion movies! Nothing’s going to happen in any of them! Some individual gags were funny—Lawrence as Cate Blanchett trying to decide between white dresses, the dwarves trying to split a complicated dinner bill—but again, it took one ordinary premise and just ran with it. I was groaning by the time it shoehorned in jokes about Grumpy Old Men and Look Who’s Talking Now, because come on, fellas.
The Johnny Two Tones Diner where all the waitresses are fake-rude and then Lawrence is real-rude (and essentially very threatening) was a little more intriguing, but then it never went anywhere. Lawrence just says a bunch of mean things to Bobby Moynihan and Vanessa Bayer that are vaguely terrifying, but she’s nice to everyone else. We never find out why, since the whole thing just ends with her and Hader dumping whipped cream all over them for some reason. This one felt a little more like a missed opportunity (and I really did like Lawrence muttering, “This water is from the toilet.”)
Once Weekend Update came around, the night was basically over. The return of Anthony Crispino was pretty much essential, since there was so much news to fake-cover in the weeks this show has been off the air. Obviously something else got cut, since that was a very short Update with only one fourth wall-breaking moment (Crispino admitted the Depp Ceiling joke was “pretty dumb”). Then Top Dog Chef was…well, it was Top Chef, with everyone in dog costumes, and reacting to the doorbell ringing, or cats. Cause dogs sure don’t like cats! It feels like all the costume budget was blown on really mediocre sketches this week (this and The Hobbit).
The return of the Minnesota early morning hip-hop show was cute, although it stuck to the same territory of how early it is. Lawrence’s terrible freestyling was fitfully funny; better was the return of Bayer’s uncomfortable newswoman, nicknamed “Jigglebutt.” After that, we had the Cinemax spoof (don’t do that again, SNL) and a classic end-of-the-night sketch about a civil war soldier demanding “tit pics” from his lady love that was too drawn-out to merit a single laugh.
It often seems that SNL is either shaking out the ol’ cobwebs or overworked from too many shows in the row, but here’s hoping they hit a sweeter spot next week. Although the presence of Adam Levine is enough to chill my blood.
- Killam as Piers Morgan introduces himself. “Or as you know me, the British Mario Lopez.”
- Lawrence has a nice Quvenzhané Wallis burn—“The alphabet called, they want their letters back.”
- The Starbucks spoof was alright, although “Verquonica” kinda had me thinking more than a dumb spoof should about the implications of the sketch.
- Robinson asks Katniss about the other contestants. “They’re all dead.” “Really? All of them? Is that unusual?”
- “You peaked in high school, and now you sleep with anyone who will ask. And you’re gonna die in your bathroom.” “Like Elvis?” “Except no one will miss you.”
- Sudeikis had the best dog-reaction to the doorbell. “WHO’S AT THE DOOR? I’LL KILL YOU!”