Dwayne Johnson is Cooking Up Some Energy on SNL

Now 4th-time Dwayne Johnson came with the most energy the a host has had since Kevin Hart’s show back in January – maybe even more? He unsurprisingly proved to really transcend the show just on pure energy and commitment with every sketch appearance he had. And with Michael Keaton and Taraji P. Henson following him, it feels like we’ll have a great stretch of three spring shows that can pull SNL out of its’ recent array of inconsistencies (no names *coughblakesheltondakotajohnsoncough*).

COLD OPEN: THE ROCK OBAMA (Pharoah, Killam, Mooney, Moynihan, Johnson, Zamata, Bennett, Jones)
Dwayne Johnson did this sketch twice in 2009 with a mostly different cast (save Moynihan and Kenan Thompson). There was even a different person playing the president! It’s just a thrill to see how much he loves playing The Rock Obama. Just when I wondering if they would do anything different this time: boom. She Rock Obama.
Blackometer: 7.5/10

DWAYNE JOHNSON MONOLOGUE (Johnson, Zamata, Bryant, McKinnon, Strong)
“Franchise Viagra” are two words I wasn’t quite expecting to hear as the subject of a song. It wasn’t the most memorable thing in the world, but still, Johnson was having the time of his life singing about it. It really did set the tone of the night for all the energy The Rock was cooking. I could smell it. See what I did there? (Also: Did I miss something?? This guy sings???)
Blackometer: 6.8/10

PEPBOYS (Strong, Moynihan, Bayer, Bennett, Killam, Mooney, Bryant, McKinnon, Pharoah, Zamata)
I need to see if this one grows on me later, but…I don’t know. The idea of targeting the doomed Starbucks campaign #RaceTogether is a good one. However, in execution, it was somehow a little uncomfortable to watch. That’s obviously the point, but I’m not sure. I think the direction of a good idea just went into a place where it didn’t necessarily need to go in order to make its’ point.
Blackometer: 5.9/10

WWE PROMO SHOOT (Johnson, Moynihan, Killam, Mooney)
To prepare for this match effectively, Coco hired a lawyer to dig up personal information on his opponent Trashyard, and also spent 8 months catfishing him. The only thing possibly funnier than the lines The Rock was bellowing would be Moynihan’s reactions. “THAT IS SO INTRICATE!!”

NEW DISNEY MOVIE (Johnson, Killam, Pharoah, Strong, Moynihan, Mooney, Davidson)
Yes. I would watch the heck out of this. Also: deer puns.
Blackometer: 9/10

DINNER DATE (Thompson, Bayer, Johnson, Strong, Bennett)
This was good just because of the sheer energy and chemistry between Johnson and Cecily Strong. It’s the kind of sketch that could have easily gone wrong (or just played off as annoying) in the hands of the wrong host. However, now I’m wondering if I wouldn’t mind a $5.00 Walmart-bin movie for a Friday night at home featuring these two just bothering people, getting into mischief. And of course, singing about bananas.
Blackometer: 7.3/10

THE JUNGLE (Davidson, Johnson, McKinnon, Mooney)
This went exactly where I was afraid it would go. But credit where credit is due: The Rock was selling the absolute heck out of this material, even if it was low-hanging fruit. (But it still wasn’t good.)
Blackometer: 3.5/10

BROGAINE (Bennett, Mooney, Davidson, Zamata, Thompson, Johnson)
This was okay at best, but definitely not anything special in the Mooney/Bennett lineup of pre-produced videos. That comes from a mix of both the plot and the same ‘bro’ voices they’ve used in most of their pre-produced sketches. It felt like any other one, which makes me wonder if I’ll remember it in two days time. Although, I did like Beck Bennett’s “WHOO-HOO!!!”
Blackometer: 5.7/10

WEEKEND UPDATE (Jost, Che, McKinnon, Thompson)
Another solid Update! Kate McKinnon’s Olya Povlatsky returns, fully recharged with more life than the average recurring character. (Somehow, an Olya Povlatsky segment in 2015 is the last place I expected to hear a joke on Kelly Rowland.) Che’s neighbor Willie also returns to talk about the joys of spring, despite just how awful his life has become. It’s a little more biting, but just as enjoyable as his Christmas appearance. Update in 2015 has started to become looser in general – I wish we would have had more time for our two anchors to continue their #RaceTogether chat. Also, Colin Jost has just been on fire behind the desk in 2015, and I’m not sure we’re fully realizing it.
Blackometer: 8/10

COOKING WITH PAUL (Thompson, Johnson)
How goofy this was. But somehow, once again, Kenan Thompson finds a way to make one joke fun to watch for three minutes. I think this may be the only sketch in which Johnson was playing the straight man while something weird happened around him. Also, on twitter last night, someone referenced that this character is what happens when one of Kenan’s All That characters from the 90s, Pierre Escargot, grows up.
Blackometer: 7/10

IMPROV SHOW (Zamata, Bryant, Davidson, Bennett, Mooney, McKinnon, Strong)
Kate McKinnon makes a pretty eerie Robert Durst. Alas, for those of us who started this sketch hoping for a return of last fall’s High School Theatre Group Sketch with Cameron Diaz, it was quite the disappointment with the weirdest choice for a focus (topical or not). I’m still not certain if there was a point here, other than the show acknowledging this guy.
Blackometer: 4.5/10

INTERROGATION (Johnson, Bayer, Killam)
Good lord, this was something. It was very short, but there are so many great lines and deliveries by The Rock with these lame insults. Once again, he sells the heck out of material – but unlike the jungle sketch, here it just slays. I laughed the lost at this sketch – and then it just stops. There’s no way the original creation of this sketch was this short.
Blackometer: 8/10

CIRCUS (Mooney)
I will say: this crack at Mooney’s awkward on-the-street interviews is definitely better than his attempt meant for the 40th anniversary special. Although the point is the incessant awkwardness of him approaching these people, there’s also a charm to it at times that I felt more here than his prepared anniversary segment.
Blackometer: 6.8/10

Best Sketch of the Night: New Disney Movie
Worst Sketch of the Night: The Jungle
Joke of the Night: “Do you really expect us to just sit here and follow the yellow brick lies?!” – Johnson (Runner up: his catfishing of Moynihan in the WWE Promos)
Observations: Most of the hosts have been great in SNL’s 40th season, but The Rock is definitely one who should be noted as a potential frequent each year. 2009 was his last hosting job, and on this show, he displayed a fantastic amount of infectious energy. Seriously, he was on fire for 90 solid minutes, being as committed as ever with each and every minute. Can you imagine some of these sketches with someone like Justin Bieber or Paris Hilton hosting? (Just a friendly reminder that this happened.) Otherwise, this truly felt like an episode in which everyone returned from a two-week hiatus feeling very refreshed. Let’s keep it going for Birdman and Cookie these next two weeks!

Next time: Michael Keaton!

Martin Freeman: 6.98
Bill Hader: 6.91
Kevin Hart: 6.86
Dwayne Johnson: 6.81
Chris Hemsworth: 6.81
James Franco: 6.81
Woody Harrelson: 6.80
Jim Carrey: 6.80
Cameron Diaz: 6.78
Sarah Silverman: 6.78
J.K. Simmons: 6.70
Chris Pratt: 6.54
Amy Adams: 6.18
Chris Rock: 5.75
Dakota Johnson: 5.62
Blake Shelton: 5

Chris Hemsworth is Cock-of-the-Walk on SNL

Chris Hemsworth was an electric host, who was completely committed in everything SNL threw his way. He was so committed, in fact, that even less-than-great sketches with him were at least interesting to watch because of his engagement with the cast. He almost reminds me of Andrew Garfield’s first hosting gig last season, in terms of his charm, energy, and readiness to just throw himself into making anything work. Even the few things that I didn’t think totally worked at least had something interesting to glean from them – which is much more than we could say in recent weeks surrounding the anniversary show.

Kate McKinnon wins the role of Hillary Clinton, most recently played twice last season by Vanessa Bayer. Here, she deconstructs her emails and even Netflix accounts to prove she has nothing to hide except covetousness for the presidency – if she chooses to run. Kate McKinnon brings her own thing to her Hillary Clinton, and she is just a thrill to watch, making this work more than it probably should have.
Blackometer: 6.5/10

CHRIS HEMSWORTH MONOLOGUE (Hemsworth, Liam Hemsworth, Luke Hemsworth, Thompson, Strong, Mooney, Moynihan, McKinnon)
This monologue had two gears: a nice moment with Hemsworth and his brothers (even the black one) on stage, and then fake questions. The material wasn’t great here, but it was at least better than last week’s. I wish more had been done with the Hemsworth family on stage instead of the questions we got, because Hemsworth showed that he really does have some pretty good charm with the cast. While there’s not much here, I will say that Kenan’s monologue appearances are pretty great.
Blackometer: 6/10

AMERICAN EXPRESS (Hemsworth, Zamata)
Somehow, I was waiting for McConaughey to show up here with Hemsworth. He does a pretty great job of capturing his “how did this happen?” fame.
Blackometer: 7/10

BROTHER 2 BROTHER (Hemsworth, Killam, Strong, Mooney, Bryant)
Incessant deconstruction at its’ finest. Growing up and seeing Disney Channel shows, I was always thinking, “this is what should be happening right now.” Taran Killam was a committed in this as he’s ever been in anything. The piling on of his character might have been a bit much at some point, but it did lead up to a better-than-average payoff. Finally, Cecily Strong’s teacher here more than makes up for last week’s retread of her Cathy Anne troll.
Blackometer: 8/10

EMPIRE PROMO (Thompson, Zamata, Hemsworth, Pharoah, Jones, Che)
I’ve seen some Empire. I don’t know that Taraji P. Henson is quite that violent. This reminded me of last season’s Scandal parody, taking a similar angle, except toning down Hemsworth’s happy-go-lucky-khakis-pants-wearing role to “so this is how you guys operate? Okay…I better stay out of the way…” Everyone is great here; I do wish, though, that there was more going on to Hemsworth’s newbie character to observe than just the characters being upset with each other. The show is actually pretty brilliant with great performances from what I’ve seen – yes, they have plenty of discrepancies, but I don’t get the feeling that they’re known just for being angry. Anyway, this is still good.
Blackometer: 6.5/10

SPACESHIP (Hemsworth, Strong, Thompson, Zamata, a chicken)
Okay – when I watched this live for the first time, I thought it was dead on arrival with the entrance of a live chicken. Then, something magical happened – Hemsworth sold it. His interaction with this live chicken proved how good of a host he can be, and single-handedly pulled the sketch into a stronger gear than it deserved. This is one that would only work with a versatile, engaging host, and having a solid actor here really made it work.  The individual lines weren’t that amazing (until Kenan’s “she’s done!” towards the end), but the commitment everyone had here (especially Hemsworth) made it work. Also: How bizarre. I’m beyond curious to know who dreamt this up mid-week, running on no sleep before the table-read.
Blackometer: 7/10

THE IGGY AZALEA SHOW (McKinnon, Pharoah, Zamata, Hemsworth)
Kate McKinnon went from playing Hillary Clinton to Iggy Azalea in half an hour. Meanwhile, there wasn’t a lot going on here other than a few fairly accurate impressions, but not memorable enough to be much more than that. It felt like just another branch of Vanessa Bayer’s Miley Cyrus Show sketches, despite how good everyone was here.
Blackometer: 3/10

WEEKEND UPDATE (Jost, Che, Jones, Strong)
There truly are few greater things than the chemistry between Leslie Jones and Colin Jost. I’ve never laughed as hard at the two of them as I did at the very end of their segment here. Cecily Strong’s Girl at a Party character was as solid as always, which is no surprise.
Meanwhile, I think this Update features Che and Jost having the most fun we’ve ever seen them have behind the desk to date. Jost’s big flub on the joke he took from Che turned out to be the funniest moment of the entire night, and showed just how great and comfortable he can be! And man, the chemistry between the two of them just took off with that whole bit in a way we haven’t seen too much on air yet. If Che wants to punk Jost every week and it’s at least as funny as what we saw last night, I’m totally on board. Update has been pretty solid all season long, but this was definitely the best one yet.
Blackometer: 9.3/10

AVENGERS (Strong, Moynihan, Hemsworth, Killam, Davidson, Pharoah, Bennett)
Hemsworth was having a blast jumping around the stage in this one, which makes the entire sketch quite the joy to watch. I wish there was more going on here, but it was fun watching him bounce around.
Blackometer: 6/10

MOVIE SET (McKinnon, Hemsworth, Thompson, Zamata)
Kenan Thompson’s acting coach worked on The Jefferson’s for one day. This is pretty one-note and stupid, but I admit that Kenan Thompson sells it with each crazy sound he makes. Not an amazing sketch, but I can’t help it that I still laughed.
Blackometer: 6.3/10

REALITY HOUSE (Bennett, Hemsworth, Mooney, Killam)
This may be one of my favorite Kyle Mooney-Beck Bennett sketch of the season since “Bad Boys” from the season premiere. It was funny upon exposure of what it was mocking, it shifted into second gear and kept the hilarity going, and ended perfectly. Their reactions to each other in each sarcastically underrated situation (and that flashback) were the best parts. Sans Update, sketch of the night right here.
Blackometer: 8.7/10

DOLCE & GABBANA (Bayer, Strong)
By now, this has become one of the most reliable current sketches in SNL’s cannon. Bayer and Strong’s repartee and deliveries are fantastic, and I get the feeling that this is one of their favorite things to perform. Also Chris Hemsworth looked like he’s been doing these with them for 5 years now.
Blackometer: 7.5/10

Best Sketch of the Night: Weekend Update & Reality House
Worst Sketch of the Night: The Iggy Azalea Show
Joke of the Night: Leslie Jones yelling “SHUT UP!!!” at Colin Jost
Observations: As I had hoped (and anticipated), Chris Hemsworth brought a stronger episode to revival the previous episodes the show has had recently. He truly added a vitality to sketches to make some of them better than they might have deserved to be. The cast also didn’t look like they had to work overtime to compensate for a not-that-great host. Can this momentum sustain the rest of the season now that they’ve recaptured it? I definitely think so!


Image result for saturday night live chris hemsworth

*Please Note: I did my scoring math incorrectly prior to the initial post of this review, and it has since been corrected.

Martin Freeman
: 6.98
Bill Hader
: 6.91
Kevin Hart: 6.86
Chris Hemsworth: 6.81
James Franco: 6.81
Woody Harrelson: 6.80
Jim Carrey: 6.80
Cameron Diaz: 6.78
Sarah Silverman: 6.78
J.K. Simmons: 6.70
Chris Pratt: 6.54
Amy Adams: 6.18
Chris Rock: 5.75
Dakota Johnson: 5.62
Blake Shelton: 5

Dakota Johnson Hosts 50 Shades of SNL

SNL returned last night for their first post-anniversary show, riding high from the fumes of the big celebration two weeks ago. Other than the fact that she is promoting Fifty Shades of Grey at the moment, I knew very little about Dakota Johnson. I heard online once it was announced that she has been pretty funny on Ben and Kate, which I am admittedly unfamiliar with. Does that mean she can sustain as a sketch comedy player? Anyway, between that and wondering if the cast/writers would return inspired by the SNL40 celebration of its’ past, I went into this episode thinking it could be quite the wild card. How did it turn out?

COLD OPEN: GIUILIANI (Bayer, Killam, Mooney, Zamata, Moynihan, Johnson, Bennett)
Full disclosure: I still haven’t seen Birdman. But I know it looks stellar. So as a sendoff to that, this looks pretty well done. (I’m afraid that the audience may have been full of people like me…you don’t hear much audience reaction while he’ going backstage.) Beck Bennett’s Birdman voice was the best part for me.
Blackometer: 6.5/10

DAKOTA JOHNSON MONOLOGUE (Johnson, Mooney, McKinnon, Don Johnson, Melanie Griffith)
Dakota Johnson seems nice. And she’s not naked. That’s about it. Okay, okay – mentioning her parents and honoring them was a nice touch, and she was trying to win the crowd over on her side (albeit nervous). But between that and the questions plug for Fifty Shades, there wasn’t a lot to be remembered later.
Blackometer: 4/10

FATHER DAUGHTER AD (Killam, Johnson, Mooney)
This was the beginning of more ISIS jokes than I had expected to get. However, it was better than the Shark Tank attempt to joke at ISIS last fall. It’s a messed up world we live it.
Blackometer: 6/10

CINDERELLA (Killam, Mooney, Moynihan, Johnson, Strong)
I was looking forward to a nice Cinderella sketch between a charming Taran Killam and Dakota Johnson…and then the worst part of the James Franco episode from last December showed up. I don’t get how this character, even in a different environment, becomes recurring. She used the exact same jokes from the first troll sketch, and it was not funny the first time around. This sketch also wasn’t funny. I want to award points for putting her in a different situation, but I just don’t know wanted to see this character in a Cinderella story.
Blackometer: 3/10

SAY WHAT YOU WANNA SAY (McKinnon, Strong, Johnson, Bryant, Bennett, Pharaoh, Bayer, Davidson, Jones, Zamata, Moynihan)
I can neither confirm nor deny whether or not I have been Dakota Johnson’s character talking to Jessica or Kate McKinnon’s character in the bathroom. (All internally, that is.) Anyway, this was a great idea. (I would watch a sketch about Leslie Jones spoiling movies and TV shows for people.)
Blackometer: 8/10

PRESS JUNKET (Johnson, McKinnon, Killam, Mooney)
Upon re-watching this one, although it didn’t particularly make me laugh out loud, what’s most impressive here is Kyle Mooney. Here, he plays a middle school student who’s seen Fifty Shades of Grey with his dad just to spend time with him, and interviews Johnson for the school paper. Mooney was having an MVP night, and I hope this character comes back again in a new situation. (But please…no more of Cecily Strong’s Cathy Anne.)
Blackometer: 6/10

I CAN’T (Strong, Johnson, Moynihan, Bryant)
Okay, this one wasn’t particularly funny, but had this sketch been put in the wrong hands, the focus would have remained on the three “I can’t even” characters, when the focus should be on poor Margo. I get that the point was a play on the “I literally can’t” thing, but I wouldn’t mind the put-upon Margo showing up again in a more interesting situation (instead of predictably falling out of the window). As far as her coworkers, don’t act like you don’t know these people. You do. (However, this was the most electric Dakota Johnson was all night.)
Blackometer: 6/10

WEEKEND UPDATE (Jost, Che, McKinnon, Pharaoh, Zamata, Moynihan)
We had Kate McKinnon’s Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg first, dishing out ‘Gins-BURN’s while dancing at 81. This isn’t anything new in terms of content or Update characters, but man, Kate McKinnon is just great at what she does. Even her quieter, more passive-aggressive characters that I didn’t understand the first time around are still very good. Jay Pharoah performed a great Kanye West apology rap, and literally, the moment he appeared on stage, the real Kanye West started tweeting about his new album cover. (The world needs to remember again just how great Kanye tweets are.) And back one again, my favorite new Update character, Riblet!!
How were the Che/Jost jokes this week? Pretty darn great, actually. Both anchors were having the time of their lives delivering lines like “what color is that?” referring to Obama, or “Hey Chris Brown: don’t beat yourself up over this”, this was the most fun I personally had all night.

EMERGENCY ROOM (Killam, Johnson, Jones, Thompson, Bayer, Davidson)
I want to study an oral history on the creation of this sketch. It ended with a tribute to Leonard Nimoy for his passing this past week…but Kenan Thompson was playing Worf (sort of). This sketch played to crickets as the audience started to attempt at understanding it, and while I want to give it points for creativity and paying homage to Nimoy, it just seemed to have the wrong setting for its’ intentions. Worf M.D. alone might have been a funny idea, but the setting of this sketch did not have the payoff I think they were hoping it would.
Blackometer: 5.5/10

NET NEUTRALITY (Zamata, Johnson, Davidson, Moynihan, Jones, Killam)
What in the WORLD was this?! I still have no idea what I was watching here. There were multiple issues all going on, and none of them were coherently related. Zamata asks her guests about net neutrality, and suddenly, we’re talking about the dress again…internet porn…fingers…slow clapping…a founding father of the internet slapping the guests…what was this?! Somehow, Dakota Johnson even snuck another Fifty Shades joke in there. Thankfully, the Alabama Shakes performed after this and cancelled out all this noise.
Blackometer: 2/10

MR. RIOT FILMS (Mooney, Bennett, Thompson)
In the moment, my brother had to inform me that this sketch is based on a video series that’s been played in anti-bullying school assemblies. So as far as what Mooney and Bennett do with that to parody it here, that’s great. However, I’m assuming the people they approached were unaware people off the street in real life who were not ready for this, and also who did not react well. That kept this from getting out of first gear, unlike Mooney’s tourist sketch last season where people actually responded to his interruptions pretty well.
Blackometer: 5.8/10

Best Sketch of the Night: Weekend Update
Worst Sketch of the Night: Net Neutrality
Joke of the Night: “What color is that?” – Che
Observations: This episode was pretty much what I was afraid it would be. Dakota Johnson was fine at best, but she just seemed nervous and uncomfortable in almost ever sketch, except when she was given a more upbeat character to play, such as in the I Can’t sketch. Weekend Update was as great as it’s been this season, and the Alabama Snakes did very well for themselves also. The rest of the show was pretty inconsistent in terms of quality. A few good ideas, but sans Update, it was at least 18% more interesting than the Blake Shelton-hosted show.

More Riblet.


Next time: Chris Hemsworth!

Image result for snl dakota johnson

Martin Freeman: 6.98
Bill Hader
: 6.91
Kevin Hart: 6.86
James Franco: 6.81
Woody Harrelson: 6.80
Jim Carrey
: 6.80
Cameron Diaz: 6.78
Sarah Silverman: 6.78
J.K. Simmons: 6.70
Chris Pratt: 6.54
Amy Adams: 6.18
Chris Rock: 5.75
Dakota Johnson: 5.62
Blake Shelton
: 5