With the cultural landscape clearly focused on The Big Fight last night, I did wonder what that’s like for an SNL writer — kind of knowing that no matter what you do, this isn’t a normal week, and just not as many people are going to be paying attention. This was evident even on Twitter, as people who have never, ever tweeted about boxing before were tweeting about boxing (I am guilty of this) — while SNL, usually ripe for live tweeting, seemed to be an afterthought. The opening sketch proves that they were conscious of all this, but I do wonder if it truly does affect the creative process.
Perhaps I am overthinking all of this because this is my long-winded way of saying that Scarlett Johansson’s fourth time as SNL host was sort of disappointing … hey, just like the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight. Maybe we just live in an age of disappointment. Nothing ever again will be good. (At least until next week’s Reese Witherspoon-hosted SNL is good, then just forget everything I just wrote.) I’m tired, let’s just get to the Scorecard…
Sketch of the Night
“Blazer” (Killam, Bennett, Thompson, Moynihan, Pharoah) Admittedly, I liked this well enough just as a sort of non sequitur parody of ‘70s action television shows. But then – hey! – it had something important to say, too.
“Black Widow Trailer” (Johansson, Ensemble) I completely understand the joke here, but darned if Johansson isn’t so charming in the romantic comedy version of Black Widow: Age of Me that I found myself thinking, “You know, this would be better than the nothing we will wind up getting.” Then again, studios don’t make romantic comedies at all anymore, so even this will never happen. (To be fair to Marvel, there is a Captain Marvel movie coming, but the point here is pretty on the mark.)
“Weekend Update” (Jost, Che, McKinnon, Moynihan, Bayer, Pharoah, Thompson) Here’s something I’ve noticed about this current incarnation of “Weekend Update”: The longer it goes on, the more comfortable both Jost and Che get, which makes it a better product. This was a long “Update,” with three separate guest segments. But it wasn’t until Jost did his non-jokes about Bruce Jenner, with Che off-camera telling him to stop, that they hit a stride. When “Update” goes short, this never seems to happen. All three guest segments were good (I wish Kate McKinnon and Ruth Bader Ginsberg were friends in real life) but Moynihan and Bayer’s Game of Thrones segment may have been one of the nerdiest in the history of SNL, and I mean that as a compliment.
“Orioles” (Bayer, Thompson, Killam, Moynihan, Johansson, Bennett, Pharoah, Davidson) At this stage in SNL’s life, they just aren’t going to address highly controversial subjects directly head on anymore (outside of maybe an occasional “Update” joke). Earlier this season, they did produce a daring Ferguson sketch, but it got cut at dress rehearsal. All things considered, this was a pretty good way of addressing what is happening in Baltimore in the way that SNL does such things in 2015.
“Cold Open: Mayweather-Pacquiao” (Pharoah, Bryant, Killam, Thompson, McKinnon) I suppose if you can’t beat them, join them. Again, it’s got to be tough to put on a show like SNL — a show that’s truly a miracle on a weekly basis – knowing that it won’t be THE cultural touchstone on Saturday night. That rarely happens. Regardless, the self-awareness here was probably needed. Also, this was weird!
“Virgin Flight” (Killam, Davidson, Bayer, Johansson, Moynihan, Pharoah, Bryant, Jones) If you’ve ever flown Virgin before, this actually isn’t too far off from the actual experience. Both Bayer and Johansson play robots surprisingly well. Granted, this really didn’t go anywhere, but I’m just going to label it “delightfully weird” and move on.
“Jingle Writers” (Bryant, Johansson, Killam, Mooney, McKinnon) This sketch was frustrating, because it just felt like everything was set up for it to be something wonderful. And then I just kept waiting for the wonderful to happen, but it never quite came. This is one of those sketches that I kind of hope they try again sometime.
“Right Side of the Bed” (Killam, Strong, Johansson, McKinnon) This was weird: In the past, the best thing about this sketch has been the awkwardness of the guests not knowing when they were supposed to go on or what they were supposed to be doing when he or she was on camera. This time around, that aspect seemed to be pretty much dropped and it was replaced by more banter and accents. I think I miss the old concept.
“Scarlett Johansson Monologue” (Johansson, Thompson, Killam) Honestly, it’s kind of funny this monologue exists. It feels like nobody had a good idea for a monologue this week – which, to be fair, is never easy – and they just went with whoever pitched, “What if Scarlett sings sexy songs to her kid?” A sketch about the making of this sketch would be funny.
“Girlfriends Talk Show” (Bryant, Strong, Johansson) As much as I enjoy Aidy Bryant in these sketches, this pretty much has just become the same thing every time it pops up.
“Dino Bones” (Killam, Strong, Johansson, Davidson, Bayer) Yikes. Taran Killam goes overboard trying to save this – like, he is giving it his absolute all, fake hair flopping everywhere. But … yikes.
Average Score for this Show: 5.86
· Martin Freeman 6.89
· Woody Harrelson 6.75
· Michael Keaton 6.75
· Bill Hader 6.73
· Chris Hemsworth 6.55
· Amy Adams 6.52
· Kevin Hart 6.39
· Dwayne Johnson 6.12
· Chris Pratt 5.99
· Jim Carrey 5.94
· Cameron Diaz 5.92
· James Franco 5.89
· Scarlett Johansson 5.86
· Sarah Silverman 5.86
· J.K. Simmons 5.81
· Taraji P. Henson 5.63
· Blake Shelton 5.58
· Dakota Johnson 5.47
· Chris Rock 5.38
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.