The truth is, not much.
Octavia Spencer promised America would be blown away this week by her turn on Saturday Night Live, but all things considered, it was a pretty forgettable night. Spencer’s monologue was uninspired, and her roles in the sketches felt like roles you would assign to an extra, not an Oscar winner.
If you didn’t catch Saturday Night Live last night you probably picked a good week to skip. Some of SNL‘s strongest players largely sat the show out last night. Kate McKinnon was clearly on a lighter rotation last night, and Bobby Moynihan seems to be transitioning to other projects, or on some kind of probation because we barely get to see him anymore. It felt like everyone was shaking off some rust from the break weeks, with line flubs all around (the stumbly kind, not the funny kind), and even the writers seemed uninspired. It was surprising to see that neither Trump’s address to Congress, nor the Oscars fiasco were addressed in sketches- or even in Weekend Update. And it looks like Baldwin was too busy letting America know he is the best Trump impersonator to actually play Trump this week. But Kate McKinnon did recreate Kellyanne Conway’s now famous texting, shoeless, legs tucked under photo multiple times while the show was going to break, and of course the cold open was political, covering Jeff Sessions turn in the barrel (more on that below).
— Saturday Night Live (@nbcsnl) March 5, 2017
On the positive side, Melissa Villaseñor is proving to be a strong asset to team SNL, and she got a good share of the laughs that were had last night with some funny characters and great impressions. She got to show off some of those impressions in the “Zoo-opolis” sketch. Conceptually the bit wasn’t a favorite, but as a vehicle to allow Villaseñor and fellow newcomer Alex Moffat to show off some impressions, it was a modest hit. On her part, she pulled of a solid J-Lo, a funny Owen Wilson, spectacular impressions of SNL‘s Kristen Wiig, and Kate McKinnon, and a very funny Kathy Griffin. Moffat’s Hugh Grant was pretty terrific too. Octavia Spencer snuck in a few funny impressions including a Jodie Foster. Melissa also had a few funny moments in another not-quite-up-to-SNL’s-usual-best sketch, ‘Sticky Buns.’
The Jeff Sessions cold open made a few headlines this morning, but the sketch –which cast Kate McKinnon back in the role of Jeff Sessions having Forrest Gump moments on a bench– finally proved that you can’t just throw Kate into a part and wait for the accolades. The concept and writing have to be strong, and for us, it just wasn’t there. Fast Forward.
Many of last night’s sketches felt like overmined material- a bit about a black woman suing a pharmaceutical company for stealing the names for all their drugs from her family members and a sketch called ‘Wine Bar’ in which a white woman tries to show off her cool relationship with her ‘black friend’ who seems to just be her exterminator dragged out to a bar night. Digital short ‘Girl at a Bar’ was a slight improvement, putting a slight turn on the “girl goes into a bar and gets hit on by guys who call her a bitch after she turns them down” bit. In this case, Cecily Strong’s suitors are a string increasingly feminist men who pique Strong’s interest by showing their support for women’s causes, and then disappoint her by hitting on her (with correspondingly increasing sexual requests) before calling her a bitch.
The worst bit of the night was the weekly attempt at a stupid-funny character (a-la David Pumpkins) which fell hard- real hard. It’s hard to figure the fine line between a hilariously stupid character and one that just leaves you shaking your head– and sometimes you just take the shot. At worst it misses, and is forgotten days later- at best it’s a recurring character that becomes the subject of hundreds of memes. In this case, Beck Bennett is ‘Steve’, a former employee fired for assaulting his co-workers who returns as Chuckie Chocolate, the Elegant Chocolate Man. We predict we won’t be seeing Chuckie again.
Saturday Night Live returns live next week with host Scarlett Johansson. We’ll be hoping for a strong comeback.