I was looking forward to this episode, mainly because I was a pretty big fan of James Franco’s SNL documentary. It was pretty interesting look at what goes into the making of an episode of SNL. And how blindingly white things are behind the scenes.
And having Franco host with Nicki Minaj as the musical guest sets up all sorts of interesting things. Will the writers at Saturday Night Live be refreshed by their holiday break or rusty?
Phil Hartman – Comedic gold
Chris Farley – Definitely funny, but kinda messy
Norm MacDonald – Funny, but not for everyone
Kristen Wiig – So-so premise saved by performer.
Tim Meadows – Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it, dripping with adequatulence
Darrell Hammond – Funny, but overstayed it’s welcome
Jim Breuer- Crowd pleaser, but a bit obvious
Robert Downey Jr – Brilliant performer, not a lot to work with
David Spade – Trying too hard
Janeane Garofalo – Weird weird, not weird funny
And introducing our new Host Rating Scale;
Drake – Outstanding
Edward Norton – Impressive
Josh Hutcherson – Fine Enough
Charlize Theron – Essentially an Extra
Seth Rogen – Expectation, Unmet
Jim Parsons - Awful
Politics Nation – SNL was in a no win situation; if they didn’t address the Grand Juries with the cold open they’ve be viewed as avoiding the one thing that’s been dominating headlines for the past few weeks. But how do you make that funny? As this sketch proves, you really can’t, in sketch form. The jokes come from standard Kenan as Al Sharpton humor.
Rating: David Spade
Monologue – Nice work including the Sony hack in the monologue, which gives it a bit of topical relevance. But then Seth Rogen comes in and effectively sucks all the air out of the thing, which becomes incredibly predictable. Though Franco tying his Instagram fiasco into the hack was a nice touch.
Rating: Jim Breuer
Peter Pan Live – This was a sketch that I bet sounded better on paper. Not only is it poking fun at NBC’s Peter Pan Live, but it also brings back Aidy Bryant’s Tonker Bell character. Unfortunately, because it’s really two sketches crammed together, it never really found a rhythm. And I haven’t decided if I liked Franco’s Walken or thought it was terrible. I feel like it’s the latter.
Rating: Tim Meadows
Star Wars Trailer – This was a funny bit that maybe went on too long. Killam’s Harrison Ford was pure comedy. The rest of the sketch was just jokes about old people, set in a galaxy far, far away. It was stupid, but it made me laugh.
Rating: Kristen Wiig
Jingle Ballerz/Hip Hop Nativity – This sketch was garbage. The premise was so thin and the impressions ranged from adequate to laughable. Sasheer’s Rihanna was horrible, like distractingly bad. Franco had to be crammed into this sketch and I just kept waiting for it to end. Though McKinnon’s Bieber deserves a shout out for being great as always.
Rating: David Spade
Grow a Guy – First off, “A Mike O’brien Picture”? Mike gets branded stuff now? Nice! I like the weirdness of this one. I love Beck as the jerky bully that he often plays. I liked watching Franco’s character grow and learn things. The fact that Franco’s character had a sense of humor was a nice touch. And that ending was pretty sad, in a funny way.
Rating: Norm MacDonald
Troll Bridge – Nice to see Cecily anchor something again. This is the second time we’ve seen this character, right? She’s an interesting character with a pretty funny story, but she’s bogged down by the premise of the sketch. And the big laugh getter in this sketch is supposed to be Franco and Mooney making out, which feels pretty juvenile. Eh.
Rating: Robert Downey Jr.
Nicki Minaj Performance #1 – Bold of Nicki to allow Skylar Grey so much time to establish the hook of the song, given that it’s Nicki’s performance. I vaguely recall Skylar Grey was supposed to be something huge, but that never really panned out. Anyway, Nicki is rhyming and aiming squarely at her base. There’s to see here, other than an outlandish figure.
Weekend Update – You’ve got to applaud SNL for devoting the entire opening of Update to some pretty awful Grand Jury decisions. It was good not only because of the shift in tone and voice, but also because it showed that the show can evolve. I was happy to see Anthony Crispino again, because he’s one of my favorite of Moynihan’s correspondents. Leslie Jones, again performing stand up, and with diminishing returns. Maybe she should give Update a rest until the Spring? It was kind of fun to see Nicki as Kim K. They are clearly grooming her to host SNL in the near future.
Jeremy’s Brain – Light on plot but funny premise with some solid jokes. It’s also completely relatable.
Rating: Chris Farley
Tad Rankin – I loved this one. I loved the fact that Tad was traumatized by sight of Tommy’s father’s ballsack. I liked how bitter he was about losing an election to a kid. I even liked when Franco almost lost his composure. This was good stuff.
Rating: Chris Farley
Nicki Minaj Performance #2 – This performance was a mess and really illustrated the a problem with Hip-Hop; given it’s highly collaborative nature, if all of the contributors to a song aren’t present a performance can have some awkward gaps. Nicki trying to fill voids by soliciting response from the audience was possibly the most awkward thing since Ashlee Simpson’s hoedown. Also, I really appreciate how Nicki is blatantly selling sex.
Sunseeker Yachts – I’m surprised and slightly saddened that this sketch wasn’t been retired. It’s another case of diminished returns. “We’re gonna need a bigger throat” was a pretty funny line, but beyond that things looked bleak until Franco’s character brought some life to the sketch. I’m totally fine with this being the final one. Please.
Rating: Kristen Wiig
Final Thoughts: Seriously, I think we can all agree that Nicki Minaj will be hosting SNL within the next 12 months, and possibly later this season. This episode was clearly a test run.
Franco did fine, which is another way of saying “it’s not him hosting the Oscars.” I wasn’t blown away and I wasn’t disappointed.
Host Rating: Josh Hutcherson
Next Week: Martin Freeman and Charli XCX. I’m genuinely curious about this episode. I’m putting even money on both Sherlock and Fargo getting send ups.