Reese Witherspoon last hosted the season premiere in 2001, the first show to air following the 9/11 attacks, with the now-infamous monologue with Lorne Michaels, Rudy Giulani and firefighters of New York. This time around, she helped the case honor mothers everywhere in a very sweet monologue, and was game for just about anything else! We got some great sketches, some sketches that didn’t go anywhere…a more consistent but interesting episode of SNL.
COLD OPEN: 2016 REPUBLICAN (Strong, Bennett, Thompson, Moynihan, McKinnon, Mooney, Killam)
The DJ brings out the Republican Candidates out, introducing them as these ‘hip’ characters. This doesn’t make them any more interesting though. It’s just a less-messy version of the GOP at Coachella sketch they did last spring. Moynihan’s shirt was fun, though.
REESE WITHERSPOON MONOLOGUE (Witherspoon, Strong, Pharoah, McKinnon, Zamata, Bennett, Bayer, Thompson, Davidson, Bryant, Mooney, Moynihan)
How nice was this? This may be the nicest Mother’s Day offering on SNL they’ve pulled off in recent years. Most of the cast brings their real mothers out to apologize for the weirdos they were as children, followed by a clip reel of home videos. Not only was this incredibly sweet, but it serves as another great way in which we get to know the cast as just themselves. And man, you can tell from watching these people as kids that they were going to be on TV someday.
THE L.A. SCENE (Witherspoon, Strong, Thompson, Pharoah, Davidson, Mooney)
That sketch existed for a fart joke and “voices.” Not too much else…but the best part was really how Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah didn’t know how to operate sound for the show.
PICTURE PERFECT (Killam, Bennett, Bayer, Strong, Moynihan, Witherspoon, Thompson)
First, Moynihan’s reaction to the clue he had to draw was worth the price of admission. Then, Thompson as Reginald VelJohnson (which is as great as it sounds) throwing his pen in disgust took it to another level. Between these things and Taran Killam’s slimy game show host, we ended up with just a great sketch.
MR. WESTERBERG (Witherspoon, Thompson, Moynihan, Bayer, Bennett, Davidson)
I didn’t think I was going to like this sketch once I realized where it was going. But something about Beck Bennett’s insistence in his delivery just sold me on it. Everyone else is mocking their boss’ voice and general comments, while Bennett reveals some pretty disturbing things Westerberg has said to him. It’s not quite like anything else SNL puts on regularly, and until the formula for the sketch is realized, you can hear the audience trying to figure out just how to respond. In the end, I felt just as bad for Beck Bennett as his coworkers.
WEEKEND UPDATE (Jost, Che, Jones, Strong, Witherspoon, Thompson)
“To whom it may concern” is the best way to start a love letter. Leslie Jones continues to be such a force on Update, and I personally think it’s going to be a better idea for them to use her as the closing segment instead of opening – she’s got to be a tough act to follow. Also, the best chemistry on Update was, hands down, between Jost and Jones, which is truly one of the strongest things the show has right now. The Two Girls at a Party were fine, if not on and off rather quickly, and Willie is always fun. Jost and Che sharing their mother’s jokes was just as nice as the rest of the cast’s apologies in the monologue.
HIGH SCHOOL THEATER SHOW (Bryant, Witherspoon, Killam, Mooney, McKinnon, Moynihan, Jones, Bennett, Strong)
This was one of the best sketches of last fall with Cameron Diaz, and as soon as I saw the set being built during commercials, I knew this new rendition, this would not disappoint. With lines such as “next time, don’t like…love” and “guess what? We were black!”, I was right.
SOUTHERN LADIES (Strong, Bryant, McKinnon, Jones, Witherspoon)
This was just a lot of talking in southern accents and trying to be weird. Everyone was good in it, but it just didn’t amount to that much. Poor Cecily.
WATER SLIDE (Bennett, Mooney, Zamata, Moynihan, Witherspoon, Thompson)
This one also went nowhere for some reason. I’m not sure if more plot material was cut to make room for the second Florence and the Machine song, or if it would’ve been just four more minutes of those two ride attendants talking. But hey, you have a great water slide set and some kids ready to go, so I guess you can’t bail on the sketch.
WHISKERS R’ US (McKinnon, Witherspoon)
A cat who’s a registered sex offender, while another one lies about having gone to Princeton. Third time we’ve seen this sketch, and it’s still just a joy.
Best Sketch of the Night: Reese Witherspoon Monologue
Worst Sketch of the Night: Water Slide
Joke of the Night: “Next time, don’t like…love.”
Observations: This episode was a pretty good offering of what the season has been – the highs are pretty high, the lows are at least (usually) interesting, and we’ve gotten a better connection to the people we watch on screen each week. SNL now has good momentum heading into the finale of what has been a pretty stellar season, and it will be great to see what this closing offering will bring.
BLACKOMETER AVERAGE: 6.76
In other news, make sure you check out this fantastic cut sketch from Leslie Jones, Inner White Girl, which was probably made more for the internet than it was a live audience.