We're chalking up last week's effort to "ring rust" after coming off a break following a six-episode stretch, Jason Bateman trying too hard to play Jason Bateman instead of just being Jason Bateman, and our left-over resentment towards Morgan Wallen for being given a second chance. Because this week's episode of NBC's Saturday Night Live was not only a return to form for the long-running sketch comedy/music series but also the best "complete" episode of SNL this season.
From host Timothee Chalamet's (Little Women, Dune) opening monologue where we learned that SNL runs in the family before Pete Davidson joined him at the piano for an ode to NYC, to his not-so-subtle show of support for Legendary in its battle with HBO Max in the closing wrap, every just seemed to work this week. Sure, previous episodes had sketches and moments that hit (and hit hard sometimes) but this weekend was the first for me where the cooled open, monologue, sketches, prerecorded sketches, and "Weekend Update" all had me at least smiling but more often than not, legit laughing.
If there was one common thread running throughout that helped make this happen, it was this: everything knew how long it should be and when it should end. No sketches "stayed too long" and for a show like this, that's a must. Pretty impressive for a show that's inching closer to its half-century birthday. And in case anyone out there thought Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band was booked solely out of respect for his rock history were given a smack-to-the-back-of-the-head reminder in the form of "Ghosts" and "I'll See You in My Dreams" that "The Boss" and his crew still have quite a few musical moments left to over and few more miles of road to travel.
So with that in mind, here's a quick look at what went down Saturday night, along with some random observations and perspectives:
With all due respect Beck Bennett (who was a big player throughout the night) and his Wolf Blitzer and Heidi Gardner's Dr. Birx, this was all Dr. Fauci and all Kate McKinnon. Hit all the right notes, and will hopefully put to rest any interest Brad Pitt might have in ever portraying Fauci ever again.
Get out of my head, SNL! I've been joking about this very thing for a while: those damn holiday car commercials. Bennett is the Dad who surprises his family with a purchase that goes oh-so-wrong and spirals into an almost American Beauty-like mini-drama. Gardner's much more down-to-earth reaction to the present is what makes the sketch, with special mention going to Mikey Day's understandably pissed-off neighbor.
A sketch involving a family of coronavirus particles (Chalamet, Cecily Strong, Bennett, Lauren Holt) who ave a falling out during a Christmas reunion reminded me of the old days of SNL– The Killer Bees, Coneheads, etc. Like those characters, this sketch worked because everyone involved was invested in it- it didn't come across like they knew they were in these goofy-ass costumes. What also worked was that the social commentary in the sketch was strong enough to balance the visuals, making it a little easier to forget that they were there at times. Bonus points to Chalamet in particular in this sketch because others would've probably broken up during it. By staying in character during this sketch, he helped elevate it overall (and I usually love sketch break-ups).
Show this sketch to any Trump lover out there who doesn't get why Newsmax is nothing more than a propaganda machine. Alex Moffat's Sportmax anchor serves as the ringmaster to a tinfoil-hat-loving selection of conspiracy theories about the New York Jets that also sound eerily similar to the ones being pooped out about the U.S. elections.
If you ever need two actors to play characters who represent every horrible thing about "cultural appropriation" and white people possible, you would be hard-pressed to find two better than Chalamet and Davidson. I also appreciated the message it was sending to Rap/R&B fans that as a form of music expression becomes more of the norm (like rock-n-roll was), those that were there from the jump lose control over saying what it should still be. Bonus points to Punkie Johnson's Queen Latifah and a special award to Questlove for making that pick attack on Chalamet look convincing.
Okay, this is the cruel, mischievous 8-year-old in me writing this right now, but the reason to include "Tiny Horse" aside from it being wonderfully absurd (with the flash to reality to show just how slow the horse would be running was a nice touch)? Try getting that damn song out of your head. I was still humming it three hours after. As for the "Holiday Baking Championship"? We had a lava cake that looked like an anus that suddenly started spewing its filling while Chalamet attempted to block it with his hands. You need more reason to watch it than that? I hope not, because other than the erupting anus cake? The sketch was the weakest of the night.
I'm glad they covered what was one of our favorite pop culture stories from the past week (it hit our radar when AEW Wrestling's MJF got involved). Chalamet's Harry Styles, Melissa Villaseñor's Billie Eilish, Chloe Fineman's Chalamet (lol), and Davidson's Machine Gun Kelly all hit their marks, but the sketch is all about Ego Nwodim's Dionne Warwick. Not to SNL: this is definitely a sketch to keep going.
Michael Che and Colin Jost have this "Weekend Update" thing down, and it's all because of the chemistry between the two of them. Their approach vibes the same way that other successful "Weekend Update" pairings have vibed in the past: make each other laugh first, and everyone else will come along. The pair have perfected this ability to bring you in and getting you laughing- whether it's at the joke or their reaction to the joke (especially when they know they've thrown a wonderfully painful knife-twister). As for McKinnon's Dr. Wenowdis, we're appreciating it if for no other reason than it might just be the on-screen therapy McKinnon needs and jokes about. McKinnon speaks for most of us, bringing out that exhausted voice we have that's nearly exhausted with trying to figure out how common sense escapes so many people- even in the middle of a pandemic. Plus, I love when McKinnon gets Jost to stop even trying to keep the sketch going. But Villaseñor gets the belt for this round of "Weekend Update" because that Dolly Parton not only confirmed what we were saying about Villaseñor earlier in the season but should also be a Wonka golden ticket to more screen time.