In a promo for this week’s Saturday Night Live, Benedict Cumberbatch announces he’s this week’s host if he… could just… get a word in… edgewise among cast member Ego Nwodim and five of the approximately 42,500 members of the band Arcade Fire. It’s a cute bit, and Cumberbatch seems comfortable and energetic.
Not that there was doubt: Cumberbatch has previously acquitted himself extremely well on the show; this will be his second hosting stint. During his first episode, he demonstrated an appealingly self-deprecating sense of humor in the damn-they-really-nailed-it game show sketch “Why Is Benedict Cumberbatch Hot?”
Attitude aside, the host lends the show more than enough contemporary and historical material to work with: He’s coming off an Oscar nomination for The Power Of The Dog, an appearance as Doctor Strange in the recent Spider-Man: No Way Home, and his own damn superhero sequel in Doctor Strange In the Multiverse Of Madness. (And has it really been 12 years since Sherlock debuted and five years since it ended?)
And yes, the highly populous Arcade Fire is the musical guest, for the sixth time. The band has a great sense of humor, so it’s possible they’ll be incorporated into at least one sketch. Which reminds me of “New Cast Member or Arcade Fire?” another game show sketch that aired on the Tina Fey-hosted 2013 episode. (For some reason, game show parodies are only guaranteed slam dunks when Fey’s involved; “Meet Your Second Wife”—one of the best such sketches the show has ever done—aired on her watch in 2015.) This was a very effective way to introduce that season’s featured players—unfortunately, all of them were quickly ejected from the show except for Kyle Mooney.
The big question this week is how the show will handle the dominant news story—the seemingly imminent overturn of Roe v. Wade. This writer is not sure this writing staff is up to the task of nailing topical cultural moments. Although this year’s earlier episodes (Oscar Isaac, Zoe Kravitz) had plenty of charming and clever bits, the show’s most recent cycle was a downward spiral: The Jerrod Carmichael episode whiffed the Will Smith Oscars incident, sketch-wise, and Jake Gyllenhaal and Lizzo were foiled by a parade of childish premises.
Will the show leave the big news to “Weekend Update” to handle (as Michael Che did so well on Carmichael’s week) or at least attempt something as cutting as Supreme Court members showing up in Chevy Chase and Jane Curtin’s bedroom to referee their sexual activity? Not to be too cutely circular, but lately the show’s idea of strange involves body fluids and ephemera from TV commercials past. This cultural moment demands more from the show; there’s far too much that needs to be said.