SNL at Home Still A Charm Second Time Around, But A Bit Too Polished

NBC's Saturday Night Live returned Saturday night (not sure that needed to be said, actually) with the second edition of "SNL at Home," produced remotely from the cast's homes (or respective "home locations" since we don't want to presume) with familiar elements like "Weekend Update" returning as well as original content from the cast. This go-around, we have Brad Pitt playing Dr. Anthony Fauci in the cold open before kicking things off with the episode-appropriate, "Live, kinda, from all across America, it's Saturday night!" and Miley Cyrus proving once again why she should be given the keys to Studio 8H to perform or host any time she wants. As for the show itself? Another impressive effort, though it was interesting to see how much more polished it looked compared to a few weeks ago. The sketches ranged from really working for me to beautiful disasters, but it was still an episode that I wanted to watch from beginning to end. Considering this is only the second time I've felt that way this season and that the other time was the first "SNL at Home," that says something. Let's take a look at how the night broke down, and at what worked and what left us scratching our temple with a Red Vine.

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The cast is back for another edition of SNL at Home, courtesy of NBC.

Pitt's Fauci was a ton more on-point than I was expecting/bracing for. I'm a big Brad Pitt fan, so I'm not sure why it still surprised me when he pulls off a strong performance. Kenan Thompson hosting "What's Up with That?" was not only the perfect follow-up but also the beginning of a strong night in particular for Thompson. Jason Sudeikis returning as the tracksuited running man and Fred Armisen back to offer mini-sax support made my face hurt. That said, Charles Barkley comes across on camera like your great-grandfather using his computer's camera for the first time as he helps you read lines for your audition. Mikey Day's quarantined anchor was the perfect mix of Chris Cuomo and strung out dad, and while the filters might be seen as a cheap ploy for laughs they had me with the banana.

Pete Davidson can do no wrong, at least not with these "SNL at Home" episodes. I thought he was the MVP for the first one and did an amazing job following up. His ode to slowly going insane while in lockdown with the family was blessed by Adam Sandler offering some serious lyrical support. Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon have this amazing ability to be both hysterical and disturbing at the same time, and the Bartenson's commercial was a perfect example of that. Their grocers are fun to laugh at from a distance but would creep us the hell out at the store, but their list of items they definitely still have at the store was spot-on (and we've all thought about using Van Helsing as toilet paper, haven't we?). As for Thompson's Big Papi segment, the best compliment I can give it is that my Dominican roommate was laughing her ass off the entire time so there were definitely some points being hit there.

Cyrus performing Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" was the cover song that I didn't know I needed in my life, made even sweeter by the fact that classic rock "purists" out there would have to own up to its excellence. Unless they're not fans of the "The White Witch" Stevie Nicks' sound and Cyrus' ability to blend country and rock vibes into a heartfelt message of longing and hope during difficult times. Michael Che and Colin Jost have their "Weekend Update" deal down, with Davidson coming in for strong support. I like how Jost found a way to get back at Che for the last episode while wrapping it up in charity, well-player, and will force Che to respond. Only downside? I liked having the Zoom "live studio audience" in the background during the first "SNL at Home."

The next grouping of sketches leaned more towards direct satire and parody, and this is where the "mixed bag" aspect kicks in. Again, none were "misses" but not every on worked for me. That said, Pornhub should buy the rights to the clip below because it really makes them look good so why not save some green. SoulCycle made its point and made it well: these folks are intense, a bit stupid, and probably crazy. The only problem was that it made its point about 30 seconds in, but the sketch went on for a full three minutes that felt like five. You can pretty much apply those same thoughts to the Airbnb sketch, but Cecily Strong's Gov. Whitmer has me hoping the real-life governor rises in national notoriety so we can get more Strong.

https://youtu.be/vNvw2uSA8eA

Our remaining sketches were also in the mixed bag category, starting with Thompson once again coming on strong, this time as OJ Simpson. Props also to Chris Redd this week, with his ex-inmate looking for a little post-incarceration "Netflix-n-chill" in these self-quarantine times channeling a lot of feelings people are having out there. Special mention to Bryant's as his prison pen pal who's actually a mother and does not have time for this s***, and Strong as his one contact who's good-to-go (right after she gets off her ventilator). The Paul Rudd sketch was lost on me, and Beck Bennett's Law & Order "takeoff" (???) felt like a sketch that would've never made it past Wednesday during a normal week. McKinnon's "Whiskers R We" was both adorable and disturbing (see what we mean?): adorable in the way McKinnon had us believing she has 1,001 cats, each with distinct personalities; and disturbing because of the hand-drawn signs and overall video quality, which is slowly moving from "fun cable access" vibe to "snuff film/kidnapping video" vibe.

Bryant's look back at her childhood journals fits into that general feeling, though the better video quality actually works to its advantage by deepening our appreciation of Bryant's skills while being reminded that we would not want to make her mad. Kyle Mooney brought the awkwardness that comes from the "name challenge" to light all the Meatloaf-like cheese we could hope for, putting one of our social neurosis on display in musical form. For my final thought, I'll leave things with this: Melissa Villaseñor had me from the moment "Melissa Seals the Deal" started, even though I had no idea where it was going and a bit iffy from the start. But like every great performer on stage, she made me need to see where it went and it was definitely worth the payoff. I hope this clip gets more attention and I'm sorry it was set so let in the episode, but I appreciate that it was given time to "breathe" because Villaseñor is someone to keep an eye on.

https://youtu.be/vHUadMO3hQc

Saturday Night Live's 2019-2020 team includes Beck Bennett, Aidy Bryant, Michael Che, Pete Davidson, Mikey Day, Chloe Fineman, Heidi Gardner, Colin Jost, Kate McKinnon, Alex Moffat, Kyle Mooney, Ego Nwodim, Chris Redd, Cecily Strong, Kenan Thompson, Melissa Villaseñor, and Bowen Yang. Che and Jost serve as the series' head writers, with Bryan Tucker serving as senior writer. Not including specials and digital series, the program has won 72 Emmy Awards, the most for any show in television history.

SNL also holds the title for the most nominated television show in Emmy history with 270 nominations (once again, not including specials and digital series). The long-running sketch comedy and musical series is executive produced by Lorne Michaels, produced by Steve Higgins and Erik Kenward, and directed by Don Roy King. Ken Aymong serves as a supervising producer, with Lindsay Shookus, Erin Doyle, and Tom Broecker producing. The series is produced by SNL Studios in association with Universal Television and Broadway Video.

About Ray Flook

Serving as Television Editor since 2018, Ray began five years earlier as a contributing writer/photographer before being brought on board as staff in 2017.

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