What a weird week. It’s like someone walked in and announced, “Do you know what’s gotten a pass for too long: World War II era women’s baseball, QVC, and Voltron. It’s time we took all of those topics down a peg. Who’s with me?” I realize SNL doesn’t work that way, but what an esoteric collection of topics. Then again, here we are at the third show in a row when the cast can see the finish line off in the distance, but we’re just not quite there yet. Which leads to a show like this that – even though Taraji J. Henson was about as energetic as a host can be – didn’t exactly feel fresh. While the cast rests up for the final shows that start again on May 2, we can move on to what is a fairly meandering Scorecard…
Sketch of the Night
“Their Own League” (Thompson, Killam, Bayer, Henson, Strong, McKinnon, Moynihan, Bryant, Strong) It’s about time someone took down World War II era women’s baseball. But, yes, somehow this really did have a message and somehow all of this worked.
“Teacher Trial” (Davidson, Bennett, Bryant, Bayer, Henson, Thompson, Strong) I feel guilty for laughing at this. But I laughed a lot.
“Taraji Henson Monologue” (Henson, Killam, Thompson, McKinnon, Bayer, Davidson, Jones) I enjoy monologues that become a spectacle – and this became a spectacle! There was a choir on stage!
“Cold Open: Hillary Clinton Election Video” (McKinnon, Bayer, Hammond) Kate McKinnon’s “smile” as she looks into her phone camera may have been the single funniest thing I’ve seen all week. And, not surprisingly, Darrell Hammond showed up as Bill Clinton and there was something oddly prophetic and familiar about the whole thing, as in, “Oh, it really will be like this if Hillary Clinton becomes president.”
“Depends Legends” (Bayer, Bennett) I do wonder what it was like for Jill Hennessey to turn on her television on Saturday night and see her face on a diaper. Google tells me she’s a singer now. Maybe she will write a song about this experience.
“Game of Thrones” (Pharoah, Thompson, Coster-Waldau, Zamata, Jones, Che) First of all, the production values were great. The acting was great. Actually, everything was good about this, but I kept waiting for it to be funny – so much so that, after awhile, I just felt like I really was watching an episode of Game of Thrones, to the point I was forgetting who characters were supposed to be. In a weird way, I mean this all as a compliment.
“Connectatron” (Killam, Pharoah, Strong, Henson, Moynihan) In theory, this is something I should like — but, again, what a weird topic. And it looked cool, they really did pull off the Voltron introductions well. And, yes, the “I will form the head” announcement is smug, but I wish this sketch amounted to more than a team member not wanting to attach. Then again, what else would it be about? This sketch really does exist, doesn’t it?
“Sesame Street Promo” (Henson) This is one of those weird sketches in which the entire time I feel like I should be enjoying it more than I actually am. I mean, look, there’s Cookie Monster! Great! But, the premise here really doesn’t get much past the fact that Henson’s character on Empire is named Cookie and a character named Cookie Monster exists.
“Home 2” (Kilam, Henson, Pharoah, Jones, Strong, Thomson, McKinnon, Davidson) He’s the first of TWO sketches tonight in which the cast just does impressions. This was fine. The impressions were fine. Everyone is fine.
“Weekend Update” (Jost, Che, McKinnon, Bayer, Crystal) This was weird: One of John Oliver’s jokes has been discussing a little known, but important topic while a graphic is shown that Oliver later points out, “That’s not even the thing I’m talking about and you didn’t even realize it. “Weekend Update” borrowed that same misdirect last night, only they tried by using a picture that wasn’t Maya Angelou, then the joke is, “we got you, that’s not Maya Angelou.” Only, instead, I DO know what Maya Angelou looks like and during this entire joke I was wondering why they messed up the graphic. I feel this is a lesson in “if you’re going to borrow a joke concept from another show, please do it well.” Anyway, this really rubbed me the wrong way. Moving on … Bayer’s Jacob is always a welcome sight and this time Billy Crystal came along as his father, which was nice. McKinnon’s Cecilia Gimenez was good, mostly because that terrifying Lucille Ball statute just feels like a topic that Kate McKinnon should address.
“Vlog” (Zamata, Henson, Mooney, Pharoah) There’s a legitimate feeling of happiness for Sasheer Zamata for now having this become a recurring sketch, because Zamata still seems to be trying to find her identity on the show. (The best thing Zamata has done, “How to Talk to Your Black Friends About Selma,” was cut and never even showed up online, which is a shame because it was wonderful.) But… this all seems so disjointed as a real vlog. Maybe that’s the point, but it doesn’t make it something super-enjoyable to watch.
“Hollywood Game Night” (McKinnon, Killam, Pharaoh, Bennett, Strong, Henson, Bryant) The introductions alone seemed to go on for ten minutes. This is just an excuse for people to do impressions – and some of them were really good; Pharoah does a pretty wonderful Common – but, boy, this just went on and on and on. (And as much as I liked Killam’s Vin Diesel in the “Bambi” sketch – and really every impression he does — something seemed a little off this time.)
“QVC” (Henson, McKinnon, Bryant, Moynihan) There were a few sketches that just seemed to go on way too long and this was another, which is tough when the concept is just “we are all on QVC and we are all quirky.” I DO want to know why this week, out of all weeks, it was decided, “Let’s make fun of QVC.” I honestly didn’t even realize QVC is still a thing, but I checked and, yep, it is! Anyway, I bet QVC feels strangely and briefly relevant today.
Average Score for this Show: 5.63
· 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
· 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.