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. Blackometer: 6.5/10 https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/patriots-press-conference-cold-open-084617628.html
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. Blackometer: 6/10 https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/hee-haw-monologue-084616968.html
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. Blackometer: 4/10 https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/farm-hunk-084617003.html
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. Blackometer: 6/10 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YA756ItcL-s
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.) Blackometer: 2.5/10 https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/celebrity-family-feud-084617142.html
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. Blackometer: 9/10 https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/weekend-part-1-084617831.html https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/weekend-part-2-084617903.html
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. Blackometer: 3.5/10 https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/parole-board-084617375.html
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. Blackometer: 6.5/10 https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/darlin-joan-102704984.html
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. Blackometer: 1/10 https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/magician-084617793.html
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.
I am admittedly, a huge fan of Saturday Night Live. I love both the comedy that’s come from it throughout its’ 40 years in existence as well as the intricate framework of how this show operates. When all cylinders are firing, it’s a well-oiled machine that gives us some of the greatest laughs and most interesting fascinations in entertainment. Does it always work? Of course not – but I went into this exciting season premiere excited that all involved would put their best foot forward to open up with a bang.
The stars were literally aligned here – we have a first-time host, Chris Pratt, who is at the top of his game right now with his recent fame in Guardians of the Galaxy and of course, NBC’s Parks and Recreation. Ariana Grande is also at the top of her game, doing very well for herself and her music in 2014. After a season of “experimenting to see what sticks” with a very large cast of 17 and the departure of Seth Meyers for Late Night, the recent cast shake-ups bring us some changes I’m pretty psyched about. Cecily Strong has departed from the Weekend Update desk to appear in sketches more, now bringing in Michael Che, to be paired with head writer Colin Jost. So we have our first pair of men and our first African-American Update anchor. How cool! We also have added 21-year-old Pete Davidson, NY stand-up comedian as a featured player to the cast. The esoteric Mike O’Brien has returned to the writers room away from the cast, Nasim Pedrad departed to work on Fox’s Mulaney, and we also lost featured players Noel Wells, John Milheiser, and Brooks Wheelan, who didn’t get too much time to prove themselves last year.
So with a solid cast now assembled, how did last night’s premiere go? Is this a bit much to assess a simple comedy show? Well, I have a website, I review movies, and I like SNL – so I’m gonna do it anyway. (You all have your Thursday night ABC shows, so let me have this.) On we go to the SNL 40th Season premiere!
COLD OPEN: RAY RICE (Bryant, Pratt, Thompson, Pharoah)
First, it was great to see how excited Aidy Bryant must have been to be opening up this season of SNL. Then, out of nowhere, we got Jay Pharoah’s Shannon Sharpe! It’s been too long.Of course, we had to have an opening addressing some of the recent news in the NFL. This wasn’t the most memorable cold open to address a major sports news story, and there’s no way they weren’t going to do this one with as much coverage as its’ been getting. While it did have just enough comedy and material to parody the situation (i.e. Kenan and that doggone bus to avert the issue), it didn’t completely dig its’ teeth into the issue either. But for what it had to be, it was fine. Blackometer: 7/10 https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/cnn-state-union-nfl-cold-063215619.html
CHRIS PRATT MONOLOGUE (Pratt, Faris)
Pratt is pretty charming here! He pulled out his guitar to sing a nice little song to share how excited he is to be here. I always enjoy that kind of fresh energy in a first-time host. You can tell this was a long-time dream of his, because he was both ecstatic and nervous. That’s okay! I look forward to the confidence he’ll have when he comes back. And hey, there’s Anna Faris! Blackometer: 6/10 https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/pratt-monologue-063249167.html
CIALIS TURNT (Killam, Strong, Bryant, Bennett)
I feel like this sketch was written for the hyperactive playa in me who loves Turn Down For What. This definitely feels like something I would have thought of, found funny, and been ridiculed for – and I mean that in the best of ways. It’s good that this didn’t go on too long, because the joke is really over after Turn Down for What hits. Not the most memorable thing ever, but we got to see some bling hanging from Taran Killam’s crotch, so…there’s that. Blackometer: 7/10 https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/cialis-turnt-073937858.html
HE-MAN AND LION-O (Mooney, Bryant, Killam, Pratt, Strong, Grande)
At first, when He-Man & Lion-O showed up, I was so excited to see what might happen. So many chances for good comedy, and – nope. Just a missed opportunity in which they slapped their crotches & ran with that as a running gag instead. Then, suddenly, the sketch just up and ended. If you change the material between the toys becoming real and Aidy Bryant’s mom character returning, you might have had something better here – including better use of Ariana Grande dressed as She-Ra. Blackometer: 4.5/10 https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/man-lion-o-063222639.html
VET OFFICE (Strong, McKinnon, Pratt, Bayer, Moynihan, Mooney)
At least this was…short? Look, I didn’t like this sketch the first time it aired on Josh Hutcherson’s show last fall, and I never expected to see it again. This one seemed less memorable than the first one, especially not having actual live animals or my favorite forgettable cast member around (Brooks Wheelan) this time. However, the one thing I remember is the pun “birdered.” (I’m a sucker for puns.) Blackometer: 4/10 https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/vet-office-063407094.html
MARVEL TRAILER (Pratt, Bryant, Pharoah, Moynihan, Killam, Bennett, Mooney)
Best parts of this: Marvel’s Star Wars, Bobby Moynihan’s long hair as a stormtrooper, A Harlem Globetrotter, a guy dressed as Grimace, and especially Marvel’s Pam 2: The Winter Pam.” As a sendup to Marvel superhero movies, this was pretty good. It’s notable that Aidy Bryant was having a great night. (I would totally watch “Marvel’s Pam 2: The Winter Pam.” Blackometer: 8/10 https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/marvel-trailer-063110406.html
WEEKEND UPDATE (Jost, Che, Strong, Jones, Davidson, Thompson)
Che was nervous at first (to be expected!) but not only did he bounce back fast, he bounced back like a pro who’s been behind the chair for a good few weeks. Jost even looked a little glassy-eyed at first, but that also seemed to go away quickly. Their jokes about “hiding your nudes in this U2 album” and the Orange is the New Black realizing she’s gay from working on the women’s prison scenes “but this reminded me that I definitely am not” were my favorites from them. And hey, it sure didn’t take Cecily Strong long to show up to Update! She reprised her old character as the first walk-on, which was smart of SNL to do to show the audience “see, it’s all good.”
We even got the return of writer Leslie Jones! She talked about being single, flirted with Colin (her marshmallow) and basically reminded America why she’s good at what she does. Then, as I predicted, new cast member Pete Davidson came on as himself to introduce himself to America. And boy did he nail this – I liked when Brooks Wheelan did this last year, but man, I have to admit how much more memorable this was. The subject matter takes a major left turn FAST, for sure – but his relaxed delivery & confidence just sells the whole thing. It’s obvious that SNL wants this guy to be their next big thing, and he enjoyed every second behind that desk with Che.
Finally, Jost and Che’s “Cheer Up, President Obama!” with Kenan singing “Ooh, Child” clinched it for me. Not only was it fun, original, and hilarious – it was the first sign of “these two anchors have great cohesion together” that we’ve seen behind the Update desk in quite some time. (I’d love to see a sign for “Barack OGanges” on a billboard in Colorado one day.) Weekend Update was clearly the best part of the night. Blackometer: 8.5/10 https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/weekend-part-1-081539574.html https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/weekend-part-2-065207726.html
BOOTY RAP (Bryant, Pratt, Strong, Bayer, Zamata, McKinnon, Mooney, Moynihan, Bennett)
Oh look, Vanessa Bayer and Sasheer! Good to finally see them. Anyway, the sketch right after Update always worries me because most of last year (maybe always?) this spot would go to something one-note, forgettable, and underwhelming. I’m not 100% sure what to do with this one, just based on concept. The execution was fine (Bryant sells it, and for all I know, she wrote this sketch), but I don’t know…something about flirting with someone simply with the use of one horny song doesn’t show clever material, it reminds me of how much today’s music sucks. Blackometer: 5.5/10 https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/booty-rap-063353371.html
BAD BOYS (Mooney, Bennett, Pratt)
Beck Bennett & Kyle Mooney get another shot at getting last year’s Wing sketch that didn’t make it to air on the Andrew Garfield show. Also set in the 90s, except this time Chris Pratt allows himself to make new friends with some young, punk kids. They’re the wrong crowd, but Pratt goes with it to find his place until a kid pulls a gun on Pratt until he steals Beck Bennett’s ball to play with. Just writing that out makes me laugh. I mean – this is probably the ONLY time seeing a kid pull a gun on someone will be funny. And I appreciate that the Mooney/Bennett pre-recorded sketches get a little better than the 10-to-1 slot this time. It’s great to have these guys and their brand of comedy back in both live and pre-recorded sketches – and finally, thanks for the random cutaway shot of the castle. Blackometer: 8/10 https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/bad-boys-081547652.html
NFL INTROS (Bennett, Killam, Thompson, Moynihan, Pharoah, Pratt, Mooney, Che, Davidson, Jost, Jones)
Hey, we even got to see Che and Jost in a sketch! This was a fine sketch with pretty good, well-written jokes. First, I laughed when Jost confesses to tax fraud, looking like the innocent do-gooder of the NFL. Then Kenan admits to hitting his wife, and no one laughed. So I was nervous…until Leslie Jones showed up as the wife who hit him back. That alone launched things into a whole new era of great. Blackometer: 7.5/10 https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/nfl-intros-063241747.html
VIDEO GAME (Bayer, Pratt, Killam, Zamata, Davidson, Moynihan, Thompson)
3 people must help field test a simple puzzle solving game that consistently resolves in the couple taking you through the game making out & making the testers uncomfortable. This is that special brand of weird that only Vanessa Bayer can bring to the table – and it works purely on execution. Blackometer: 6/10 https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/video-game-063209122.html
Best Sketch of the Night: Weekend Update Worst Sketch of the Night: Animal Hospital Joke of the Night: TIE between: Pete Davidson: “I’m not gay, I’m just a businessman…If you don’t go down on a guy for a million dollars, you obviously don’t care about your family.” AND Kenan Thompson: [NFL Intro] I hit my wife. … Leslie Jones: And I’m his wife – I hit him BACK!!! (Runner Up: “Marvel’s Pam 2: The Winter Pam”)
Conclusion: A few standouts, a few good-but-forgettable sketches, and a couple “how did this make it to air?” sketches. Weekend Update is off to a great start this year with Che & Jost. Pete Davidson is going to be a breakout star pretty soon. Aidy Bryant continues to climb the ladder of stardom. The show remains consistent in one way, and I think Quagmire on Family Guy said it best: “Some women are like SNL sketches. Most are all right…some are just awful…then there’s that one…that special one…” However, things feel like they’re off to a much more solid start than last year! It’ll be interesting to see where this continues to go.