Saturday Night Live Review: Keke, Kenan & Kel Reunion & More Score Big

If you've been following our review rundowns of Lorne Michaels and NBC's Saturday Night Live, then you know that every episode of Season 48 has had some strong things going for them. Well, maybe not the season-opener… but we're going to stop beating up on Miles Teller. But if you asked me to send you one episode this season so far that represents the best of what SNL has to offer when it's firing on all cylinders, it would have to be this weekend's Keke Palmer (Nope)-hosted edition (with musical artist SZA). Right off the bat, SNL has a bit of a reputation for somewhat "questionable" return episodes after a break, sometimes needing an episode to get back into the swing of things. This weekend vibed with the cool-comfort charm & flow of a middle-run episode. But what put it over the top was a host, cast & writing team that were all on the same page from the cold open to the final bows, hitting our screens with a confident cockiness that the sketches more than backed up. If Lorne & the SNL team are looking for a "blueprint" episode for how the rest of the season should go, they have it right here. Okay, now let's take a look at what worked for us…

Saturday Night Live Review: Keke, SZA, Kenan & Kel Reunion Score Big
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE (Image: Saturday Night Live Screencaps)

Saturday Night Live: Some Thoughts & Observations

While Kenan Thompson's take on Herschel Walker & the cold open overall didn't disappoint, the first sign that we were getting a quality show was the way Palmer announced her pregnancy during her monologue. There was such honesty to the moment and in her reaction that you could tell it had an influence on everyone around her throughout the week. And serious props to Palmer for still being a serious multi-tasker, running SNL rehearsals & then doing a live show while also dealing with social media trying to ruin your news. While there wasn't a bad sketch or segment in the 90-minute run (with one stumble, but more on that below), here's a couple that stood out to me:

"Kenan & Kelly": Right off the bat, the sketch had millions of eyeballs fixated just on the idea of Palmer getting Thompson to return as Kenan Rockmore for a "Kenan & Kel" reimaging. But what elevates it was having it done in a documentary style, with Thompson showing off his deadpan skills perfectly. And then there were Palmer's over-the-top attempts at Emmy consideration, made funnier by the fact that you know that even some of your favorite shows have gone that "awards" route before. But once you bring back Kel Mitchell as Kel Kimble for an on-screen reunion (and the lead roles in Jordan Peele's new movie, Yup), you've now created a pop culture moment that folks are still talking about as I'm writing this.

"Drake PSA": If I'm Drake, I'm feeling a certain way this morning because this one was a metaphorical "F**k You!" punch to the recording artist's face. Playing to reports that Drake can sometimes "dramatize" his various "relationships" with women to make them seem more than they are in his songs, the sketch didn't let the humor mask the message it was loudly & clearly sending. Because this wasn't one of those "Hey! It's comedy! We're all having a little fun!" sketches. This one had a point to make, and it made it.

"Hello Kitty": Another example of an SNL sketch that's so absurd and goes so far off the rails that you have no choice but to love it. Yes, it begins with Cecily Strong & Molly Kearney as Hello Kitty store managers training new employees Palmer, Bowen Yang, Sarah Sherman, and Marcello Hernández. But it's the bizarre journey of how a revelation about the beloved character's origins & backstory leads to a debate over race & sexuality, only to end with a loving commitment to New York City (with a guest appearance from Natasha Lyonne) that hooks you in. I'm still not sure if I was supposed to like this sketch, but its uniqueness took that decision out of my hands (thankfully).

"Arby's": Only two days ago, I was Palmer, Yang, Mikey Day & Ego Nwodim's characters in this sketch. And I love that they not only looked at Arby's deal from a financially impossible perspective but also from the perspective of the law of physics. And we can never go wrong when we have Thompson taking on a Ving Rhames impression, with extra laughs when Thompson attempted to deflect their questions/concerns over to Taco Bell.

"Big Boys": Palmer, SZA, Strong, Nwodim & Punkie Johnson lead a music video singing the praises of dudes like me who appreciate the importance of having the right body type for cuffing season. All of you hardbodies can have the summer, thank you very much. Bonus points go to SZA for fucking killing it in a way that had me forgetting it was a parody/sketch song and to Johnson for that moment when she explains why she wants a "big boy" for the winter even though she's a lesbian.

Weekend Update: Jost & Che Will Make You Cringe Until You Love Them

Once again, SNL audiences need to understand something. "Weekend Update" anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che don't back down when you moan or cringe-laugh at a joke. If anything, it only fuels them to punch home the jokes even harder. And in the end, they're going to win you over. You're going to be laughing. So just save yourselves the time and give yourself over right from the start- or don't, actually. Because watching from home? It's great to see the moment when Jost & Che gets a sense of the audience, buckle themselves in, and throw "Weekend Update" into overdrive. Look, even I threw an "Ouch!" out loud and cringed over Che's President Joe Biden/CTE joke. But I was also laughing about 0.03 seconds later. That's what good comedy does, and Jost & Che were in fine form putting it into practice.

As for this week's "Weekend Update" guests, Sherman's Trish Dale, the President of the Peppa Pig Fan Club, whose life is in shambles because the popular animated series is introducing a gay couple, was wildly absurd genius. Just try to get the expression "anally entering" out of your head by the time the nearly four minutes wrap. You have to respect any sketch that can go that far above and beyond without losing its satirical core. On the opposite end, Michael Longfellow grabbed some space at the desk to discuss what it's like being the child of divorced parents around the holidays. I'm not sure what vibe Longfellow's going for, but it came across as more smarmy and slightly annoying. Like he was trying for this "cool, detached, snarky" demeanor, but it came across more like someone you would never want to be sitting next to in a bar if the bar's not loud enough to drown out his stories.

SZA Performs "Shirt" & "Blind"

Look, we were expecting SZA to fucking kill it, and she did ten times over. But what added to both performances was that each of them fell at just the right moments in the show to keep the flow going, with "Shirt" and "Blind" being both a counter to the comedy that's come before it while still maintaining that "we've got this" vibe that ran throughout the episode.

Saturday Night Live Season 48: Keke Palmer/SZA

Saturday Night Live Review: Keke, SZA, Kenan & Kel Reunion Score Big
Review by Ray Flook

9/10
If you've been following our review rundowns of Lorne Michaels and NBC's Saturday Night Live, then you know that every episode of Season 48 has had some strong things going for them. Well, maybe not the season-opener... but we're going to stop beating up on Miles Teller. But if you asked me to send you one episode this season so far that represents the best of what SNL has to offer when it's firing on all cylinders, it would have to be this weekend's Keke Palmer (Nope)-hosted edition (with musical artist SZA). Right off the bat, SNL has a bit of a reputation for somewhat "questionable" return episodes after a break, sometimes needing an episode to get back into the swing of things. This weekend vibed with the cool-comfort charm & flow of a middle-run episode. But what put it over the top was a host, cast & writing team that were all on the same page from the cold open to the final bows, hitting our screens with a confident cockiness that the sketches more than backed up. If Lorne & the SNL team are looking for a "blueprint" episode for how the rest of the season should go, they have it right here.

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Ray FlookAbout Ray Flook

Serving as Television Editor since 2018, Ray began five years earlier as a contributing writer/photographer before being brought onto the core BC team in 2017.
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