The hype for a certain kind of SNL host is the most interesting thing. Blake Shelton is, obviously, a major part of another NBC show, The Voice. While many enjoy his music as well as his personality on the show, that doesn’t always guarantee that someone will make a great component of a sketch comedy show. Do surprises occur? All the time. However…last night wasn’t the good kind of surprise. Shelton seemed game for anything given to him, but most of the material he was involved with seemed either thin (less sketches, which led to killing time by the end…) or like one big ol’ commercial for NBC. I get why these things have to happen (because ratings, because NBC, because promotion) but when the focus is more on someone’s presence, it takes away from the material…and what we got was a rare miss in an otherwise very good SNL season. I found myself more bored than anything on all sketches Blake Shelton was in. (The good news: Weekend Update was the best it’s ever been this year.)
On to a ho-down of a scorecard!
COLD OPEN: INSIDE NFL (Thompson, Bennett, Killam, McKinnon, Mooney, Zamata, Pharoah, Moynihan)
Bobby Moynihan = MVP of this sketch as soon as he started yelling about the balls. As it turned out, he was the MVP of this episode and I wish there was a little more of him throughout the evening. The concept here produced a few good lines (Beck Bennett’s Bill Belichick was pretty great), but even if this was on point with the recent press conference & suspicions, Taran Killam’s Tom Brady having to be basically dumb instead of in a defensive denial (maybe?) could have been focused a little differently…just me.
BLAKE SHELTON MONOLOGUE (Shelton, Moynihan, Killam, Pharoah, Jones, Davidson, Strong, Bayer)
This was a moderately creative way for Blake Shelton to show that he could be a fun host and put a little of himself into his role here. It almost worked! The best part was Pete Davidson’s brief roast lines. Not much going on here, but otherwise…Shelton looked like he was having fun.
FARM HUNK (Shelton, Strong, Bayer, McKinnon, Zamata, Bryant, Jones)
This sketch was only worth it for the final Leslie Jones appearance (who can save almost any sketch, and I look forward to the day she becomes a big star and returns to host SNL). Meanwhile, this sketch went on way too long for lines that didn’t leave too much of any lasting impact aside from Kate McKinnon & Aidy Bryant’s deliveries. Blake Shelton didn’t have much to add here other than some creepy stiltedness…but they may as well have replaced him with a cardboard cutout and it would’ve been about the same.
WISHING BOOT (Shelton, McKinnon, Bryant, Pharoah)
Blake Shelton sings! Watching this, I felt like it would serve well as the random song during an episode of Spongebob. No, really. It definitely sounds like something you’d hear pop up in a nonsensical, over-emotional country song. I may have found this that interesting due purely based on my own interests in country songs, but it was at least well done & everyone in it is good.
CELEBRITY FAMILY FEUD (Thompson, Shelton, Killam, Pharoah, Strong, McKinnon, Zamata, Bennett, Mooney)
You know, the thing that made the other two installments of this sketch were memorable host performances along with the ensemble. The first time, Jimmy Fallon fell apart at Justin Timberlake’s impression of him. The second time, Andrew Garfield killed as an overly-hammy Justin Timberlake. This time…it was pretty much just a sloppy but direct promo for NBC’s The Voice (they literally announce it) with Shelton playing himself, not really offering anything fun. The others did the best they could (Killam’s Adam Levine was spot on), but ultimately, there wasn’t much here with the material to make it good. Also, I usually enjoy Kenan’s Steve Harvey, but it’s getting farther and farther away from the real person each time. (Though, “not in my neighborhood” was funny.)
ONE MORE THING. Does anyone still watch American Idol? Because I haven’t since maybe 2007, but nothing about the teams featured here led me to believe I should start again. (It was nice to Kate McKinnon’s Keith Urban again, but that’s about it.)
WEEKEND UPDATE (Jost, Che, Moynihan, Davidson, Zamata)
Weekend Update was the lone saving grace of this episode. All of the material was sharp, hilarious, slightly different, and made for one of the best Updates of the season so far. I truly think Colin Jost has been getting better and better behind the desk this year – his first SOTU/Patriots joke had him firing shots right out of the gates immediately, which was great! He and Michael Che especially seemed a little looser than usual (“You look so stupid…”) and the pieces of camaraderie we got between the two of them felt very much like the audience could enjoy the comedy with them a little more.
Riblet jeering Che was one of the funniest ‘goofball’ kind of things to show up on Update, reminding me of things we would’ve seen during the Fey-Fallon Update days. I hope next time, he’s already behind the desk with Colin at the start of Update, with a furious Che showing up to kick him out. Pete Davidson‘s bit was an echo of his first appearance in September (still the best one) but he’s still just great to watch all the same. The best parts of Sasheer’s Nicole were Colin and Bobby. That’s all I’m gonna say. Meanwhile, I hope Sasheer can still find a breakout character soon…but I feel she’s getting closer lately.
Man, this was all great.
PAROLE BOARD (Thompson, Shelton, Strong, Moynihan)
So, was Kenan supposed to be an echo of Morgan Freeman in Shawshank Redemption? Either way, he’s a cannibal…and that’s about it. Really. Okay. At least it was weird, I guess. In other news, Kenan’s voice here sounds like Sump’n Claus. I would rather have watched that. Kenan was as committed as ever in this, but once the concept was revealed, it got boring fast.
MY DARLIN’ JOAN (Moynihan, Zamata, Killam, Shelton)
Whoever took those great old-times pictures of Taran Killam & Kate McKinnon deserves a raise. Not super memorable, but far more interesting than other non-Update things on this show. It kind of reminded me of Jon Hamm’s “Hamm & Buble” sketch a few years back when he forced Michael Buble to sing against his will for his business idea. Also, more Blake Shelton singing.
MAGICIAN (Killam, Thompson, Bryant, Shelton, Bennett, McKinnon)
Ugh. Where do I start? This sketch is everything wrong with getting a host that just doesn’t offer much to once you get past “oh look the famous singer” (or athlete, or whatever). This concept might have been funnier in different hands, and Taran Killam is practically sweating trying to make it all work aside the pestering/annoying Blake Shelton skeptic. But in the end, this was nothing but a lame, cheap ploy at comedy, and it continued to go on and on, snowballing as it deconstructed. Blake Shelton’s big “twist” line was a very desperate shot for a “shock laugh.” In fact, that’s all these types famous-personality-host-focused types of episode become – desperate.
Best Sketch of the Night: Weekend Update
Worst Sketch of the Night: Magician
Joke of the Night: “This Wednesday was National Hug Day…Dad.” – Jost
Observations: Other than Bobby Moynihan being the MVP of this show, there’s not much else to say about it. It was the first time all season in which I was mostly pretty bored or annoyed, sans Weekend Update. Blake Shelton seems like a nice guy and all, and from what I hear he’s a pretty fun & talented individual. But I’d rather see a host who can offer contributions to a great episode of SNL with good sketch writing & acting…rather than here’s a host because ratings and the internet. Alas, I’m sure next week’s show hosted by an actor will provide much better material.
My advice: Don’t feel bad about skipping this one and re-watching last week’s Kevin Hart-hosted episode.
BLACKOMETER AVERAGE: 5.0
Next time: J.K. Simmons!
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
Chris Pratt: 6.54
Amy Adams: 6.18
Chris Rock: 5.75
Blake Shelton: 5