Recap: ‘Saturday Night Live’ – Scarlett Johansson and Wiz Khalifa

05.02.15 2 years ago

NBC

Scarlett Johansson has hosted “Saturday Night Live” three times before, and each time she”s proven an excellent fit for the show. She hasn”t hosted in four years, so there are a lot of new Not Ready For Primetime Players that have yet to interact with her on Studio 8H. Expect parodies of “The Avengers.” You should probably NOT expect parodies of “Under The Skin.”

As always, I”ll be grading each sketch in real time. As always, you should comment in real time in the comments. We only have three more episodes in an overall excellent season for the show, so here”s hoping “SNL” goes out on a high note. Come back at 11:30 pm EST when the liveblog officially kicks off. (Note: I'll be referring to the host all night as ScarJo, not because I think it's a good way to refer to her, but it's far easier to type than her last name.)

Pay Per View Cold Open: After a day full of sports on NBC (“Without a doubt, it was the whitest day in the history of sports!”), and knowing most people are probably watching boxing right now, “SNL” decides to simply air the fight itself. Aidy Bryant plays Manny Pacquiao, which is a bit odd, but the onscreen crawl owns up to the ridiculousness, and Kenan Thompson”s referee calls Bryant out on her inappropriate impressions. After all, this sketch is simply owning up to the fact that ratings for tonight”s episode will probably be terrible, and has little to nothing to do with anything with the fight itself. Those looking for actual cultural analysis of the controversies surrounding it will have to hope Amy Schumer provides some in the near future. [Grade: B-]

Monologue: ScarJo says she”s a MILF: Mother In A Lot Of Films. To help her daughter sleep, she apparently sings Donna Summer”s “Love To Love You Baby” as a lullabye, much to the confusion of Kenan Thompson and Taran Killam. It”s an awfully short monologue, which is good, since the premise itself is pretty paper thin. (“Mom sings inappropriate song to her kid! It”s funny!”) [Grade: C+]

Right Side Of The Bed: Didn”t expect to see this sketch again, but that was dumb of me: Talk shows are one of the show”s “go to” premises, and Killam/Strong don”t work together enough, so why not try this again? ScarJo plays another loud-mouthed New Jersey-esque character here, which another “go to” when it comes to her hosting gigs. (“I”m on the show with the gay guy and his mom!” she tells what I assume to be her jailed husband.) In another bizarre bit of continuity, Kate McKinnon plays another male singer in this sketch (replacing Keith Urban with Hozier). I like the idea of this sketch, but it hasn”t really worked for me yet. There”s not enough time to let the central dynamic breathe, which just makes the whole sketch cacophonous at this point.  There”s some good stuff here, but the writers need to declutter before the next go-around. [Grade: B-]

Baltimore Special Report: “Baltimore has just been on FIRE this week!” declares Frank Robinson (Thompson), one in a series of inappropriate statements the announcers make during the crowdless White Sox/Orioles game. That even extends to the in-game ads. (“Kingsford: Throw a brick; start a fire!”) The sketch also pokes fun at some traditions such as “Kiss Cam” to more or less funny effect. I give the show credit for finding at least some way to talk about the events in Baltimore, even if they found the least offensive way to do so. ScarJo has been given almost nothing to do so far, a trend that I hope changes shortly. [Grade: B]

Black Widow: Age Of Me: “From Marvel Studios…and the writer of “27 Dresses”!” That”s a super alarming combination, only because at some point that might actually happen. A nice counterpoint to “Marvel Can”t Fail” from the season premiere, this sketch nicely illuminates the gender inequality in cinema”s superhero leads, and suggests how some in Hollywood might try to actually fix it. There”s not a ton of depth beyond the simple presentation, but it”s a smart presentation, and one I”m sure ScarJo had a ton of fun playing. With all the talk about the upcoming “Wonder Woman” and “Captain Marvel” films, this is the kind of sketch that can get a lot of play for quite some time. [Grade: B+]

Girlfriends Talk Show: Maybe this is punishment for not giving the last sketch an “A”? Ugh. ScarJo is the latest in the line of characters brought in to destroy Morgan”s self-confidence. Maybe this is all a slow, long path that ends in Morgan”s in-sketch suicide in 2017? Bryant spitting out the phrase “Basic B” is mildly amusing, but mostly this sketch makes me feel horrible. [Grade: C-]

Weekend Update: Ruth Bader Ginsburg (McKinnon) is ready to rumble about the recent Supreme Court hearings on gay marriage and give out her patented “Ginsburns.” Once again, she”s a combination of Jean K. Jean and David Paterson in terms of joke delivery/celebration. Later, Sam/Gilly (Bobby Moynihan/Vanessa Bayer) from “Game Of Thrones” celebrate their status as the show”s hottest couple. How are they the hottest couple? They are the ONLY couple left on the show. (I think of Brienne/Podrick as a couple. Same with Tyrion/Varys. But I guess the show disagrees!) Even later, Charles Barkley/Shaquille O”Neal (Thompson, Jay Pharoah) come on to talk about the NBA playoffs. Pharaoh”s Shaq is hysterical, and I”m glad the show hasn”t overplayed this card. When Thompson breaks while Pharaoh searches for ghosts, it”s a delight, since the audience has been trying to love this episode all night and finally can. You can almost hear the relief in their laughter. Weekly Jost/Che Status: The Bruce Jenner segment is pretty awesome, especially with Michael Che offscreen cutting Jost off at every opportunity. Other than that: Same ol”, same ol”. This combo just isn”t working, and we have now had a year to see if it would. Whether or not they are still both there next Fall will be one of the biggest questions of the offseason. We've seen glimpses all year of what it COULD be, but neither they nor the show want to fully commit to it.  [Grade: B]

Museum Tour: Let us never talk about this sketch again. [Grade: D-]

Blazer: I didn”t get it until I got it. I was ready to write this off as a weird ’80s parody until I realized what Blazer was up to in terms of his directional violence. Having the police chief explain the joke took away a little of the satire (because the sketch eventually reveals its intent by showing, not telling), but having that chief approve of Blazer”s techniques only to get fired gives this segment some extra oomph. As with the baseball sketch, “SNL” is engaging with topical issues in the best way it knows how. Given its political/cultural toothlessness in recent years, it”s welcome, even if there”s room for improvement. [Grade: B]

Virgin Dream: ScarJo and Bayer are the world”s first automated flight attendants. The line readings here are pretty funny, especially as they vacillate between programmed speech and the variations provided by the passengers. (“I”m going as Red Riding Hood from ‘Into The Woods”!”) Plus, as anyone who has tried to use voice-automated services knows, getting computers to recognize human speech can lead to frustrations. But it”s another sketch in which the fun ends more or less once the premise is revealed. I almost wanted this sketch to be about Pete Davidson”s frustrations at Killam”s sexist pilot, since that was some sharp, dark material. But it”s probably funnier for the in-house crowd to see Bayer serve 38 boxes of Animal Crackers. [Grade: B-]

Jingle Writers: “You know the jingle scene: It”s coke for breakfast and ass for dinner!” That feels like a “Mad Men” spoiler, but OK. The songs here sound like terrible Jim Steinman outtakes. The show deployed the juxtaposition of “bad song/entertaining performance” nicely in the “Waterbed Warehouse” sketch in the Martin Freeman episode last Fall. But here the overall vibe isn”t “capper to a great episode” but rather “final nail in an overall sub-mediocre night”. Oh well. Episodes like this happen. [Grade: C-]

Best Sketch: Black Widow: Age Of Me

Worst Sketch: Museum Tour

How was Wiz Khalifa? He barely got a word in during “See You Again,” but commanded the stage well during the repetitive but catchy “We Dem Boyz.”

Final Thoughts: A shocking, disappointing episode. I didn't expect perfect. But I didn't expect this. So comfortable onstage before, ScarJo never found her groove, and neither did the show.

What did everyone else think? Sound off below!

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