If nothing else, Jack Harlow can take comfort in the fact that Miles Teller still holds the belt for hosting the weakest episode of NBC & Lorne Michaels' Saturday Night Live so far (with Brendan Gleeson getting things back on track and Megan Thee Stallion still setting the Season 48 bar). Look, it's not like he wasn't trying, and maybe last-minute nerves were a factor, but Harlow seemed to be leaning too hard on "smug charm" instead of acting in the sketches he was in. The reason why Megan Thee Stallion was such a great host was that she gave herself over to the SNL process and trusted them enough to be willing to go all-in in her sketches while still maintaining a sense of herself. I didn't get that with Harlow, who came across more as a combination of that person in the group project who didn't do their part & now they're trying to play catch-up in the middle of the presentation; and someone more concerned with letting viewers know they're in on the joke instead of just being in on the joke. But with all of that said, it was still a solid outing due in large part to everyone else. The SNL writers & cast were on point, and the return of Tom Hanks's David S. Pumpkins was well-handled. But the key factor this week? The return of Cecily Strong, who showed in every sketch just how right Harlow was in the pre-episode promo. Strong is "The Queen," and "The Queen" was definitely back.
Saturday Night Live: Highlights, Missed Moments & Head-Scratchers
Okay, so let's kick things off with a rundown of some of the head-scratchers and not-so-great moments. Harlow's monologue was okay, but some of the race-related jokes were cringy, as was that part where he went into the audience. And then there's the odd decision that was made to have "Joker Wedding" early in the show and then save the more timely "The View" sketch until near the end of the show. Swapping their spots would've been a better move because "Joker Wedding" fell flat for me. I get it that I was supposed to take the journey to where saying "Joker" so many times would have me going from finding it funny to being annoyed by it to then finding it even funnier than ever. Unfortunately, it stopped at "annoying" and went no further. As for "The View," Harlow's "loverboy" routine starts annoying and stays there, but Ego Nwodim's Whoopi Goldberg and Sarah Sherman's Joy Behar are the reason to watch. When it comes to Harlow and Bowen Yang's "Bartender" sketch, I will leave it at this and say no more. When you're running a sketch that relies that much on physical comedy between two people, then you need two people on the same comedic level as "dance partners." In this case, Yang was on the dance floor alone. Now here's a look at what worked:
"PBS NewsHour-Republican Momentum" Cold Open: A great cold open because it effectively combined stinging satire, broad comedy, and a punch-to-the-face message about our current state of affairs. These versions of Herschel Walker (Kenan Thompson), Dr. Oz (Mikey Day), and Kari Lake (Cecily Strong) were still a little too close to their real-life counterparts, and having that in the back of my mind added a sense of dread that added to the sketch's urgency. Side note? It was nice seeing Heidi Gardner get the "Live for New Work!" Saturday Night Live moment.
"Halloween Red Carpet Show": Look, maybe it's just an NYC thing, but I'm sure a lot of folks in a lot of cities can relate. I have either been or been confronted by every single stereotype in this sketch, and that's why it worked so well.
"AA Meeting": A surprisingly honest & moving sketch that begins as an AA Meeting and ends with the makings of a blockbuster new Pixar film with an original song and Hanks attached. As much as I've beaten up Harlow a bit, he held this sketch together because it played up his strengths while surrounding him with some powerhouses.
"Horror Movie Trailer": In what might've been the best sketch of the night, we see the self-inflicted dilemmas facing Democrats heading into the 2024 U.S. Presidential Election… done in a horror movie trailer form. And no one can accuse SNL of never "attacking its own" with more than a few Democrats taking some hits, but there was something about the title "2020 Part 2: 2024" and the wonderful silliness of it that scored bonus points.
"David S. Pumpkins Returns": Look, you're either into the whole thing or you're not. There's not much "middle ground" when it comes to Hanks's David S. Pumpkins and his skeleton crew. I loved it, especially how it reminded me of the days when Hanks used to do comedies like Bachelor Party and The Burbs. Do I know exactly why I like the character so much? Nope, and that makes me love him more. But let's not forget Harlow, Nwodim, and Andrew Dismukes… with Dismukes, in particular, serving as the sketch's perfect reality check.
"Skechers Commercial": First, let me say that I commend Skechers for the way they handled Kanye West when he showed up at their headquarters. That said? Is there some truth in the middle of this satirical exaggeration? Oh, most definitely. And I'm not sure I can really blame them for trying to get some shine off of kicking a creep to the curb. And while it was a sketch that worked because of the ensemble cast, watching Strong's marketing director slowly convince herself of her & the company's growing sense of self-righteousness was spot-on.
SNL "Weekend Update": Jost & Che Keep the Cringing Coming
Elon Musk buying Twitter, companies cutting ties with West, the Pennsylvania Senate Debate between John Fetterman & Dr. Oz, and a whole bunch of other topics were under the "Weekend Update" microscope this week. And once again, Michael Che and Colin Jost proved that they were all out of "fucks" to give when it came to "offending" anyone's sensibilities. Come for the great humor, and stay for the subtle-yet-obvious exchanges between the two when they know a joke hit (even if it makes the crowd a little uneasy).
SNL: Jack Harlow Performs "Lil Secret/First Class" & "State Fair"
While his hosting skills left a lot to be desired, Harlow didn't disappoint when it came to performing. Here's a look at Harlow owning the stage with performances of "Lil Secret/First Class" and "State Fair":