Yay! So, after taking a year off from writing regular reviews, I have decided to come back. I guess I just missed reviewing this crazy show. However, if you missed it, you can still read a list of my favorite sketches from season 39.
First things first – let’s discuss some of the big changes this year. Four of the new featured players from last year were let go. I saw potential in all the new cast members and I was hoping that they would be given another chance. However, after Lorne Michaels made that not-so-cryptic announcement that there would be some changes for the new season last summer, I pretty much knew that the underused Noel Wells and John Milhiser would be sacked. Brooks Whelan was also let go, along with (surprisingly IMO) Mike O’Brien (however, he is still a writer so…he’s employed!) Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett staying was a no-brainer (however, I knew they wouldn’t be upgraded to main cast member yet). And Sasheer simply deserved a full year so I knew she wouldn’t be taken out either (although considering how little she had to do in this episode, I’m already worried).
I’ll discuss the new cast members later in this recap but I just want to point out that there are a couple new writers I’m excited for. It’s good to see Nick Rutherford finally join the SNL family after being snubbed last year despite the fact that the other members of Good Neighbor (Mooney and Beckett) were hired. I’m also very excited that CollegeHumor’s Streeter Seidell was hired. I love CollegeHumor and (although it’s sad seeing many of the older comedians leave the site behind) it’s nice seeing writers and performers on that site move on to “bigger and, well, bigger” things.
So…I’m not going to necessarily discuss EVERY sketch from the night (esp. since this is a longer than usual introduction), but I’ll highlight my favorite (and maybe my least favorite) sketches of the night and other notable moments. Welcome back! Season 40!
New Opening Sequence: Y’know…I didn’t realize how much I missed the “scenes from New York city” opening. But after a couple seasons of just head shots, I really love this new opening…even if some/most of the fake smiles from the cast members seem a little much. When I first watched this episode on television, I could barely hear Darell Hammond. He’s a little clearer on my computer download. Hopefully he develops a more commanding sound like Don Pardo…but I can’t think of someone more suited for this job.
Alive Toys: Honestly, my favorite part about this sketch is Kyle Mooney. He does a very nice job playing a lonely kid on his birthday. Overall, this isn’t the kind of sketch I could watch 10 times and be entertained. But, the part where He-Man and Lion-O (played by Taran Killam and Chris Pratt) “pleasure themselves” is uncomfortably funny. It seems like Ariana Grande (playing She-Ra) was plopped into this sketch just for the sake of having the musical guest in a sketch. But Aidy’s line about She-Ra being a “freak” makes it worth it, I suppose. Oh! Cecily Strong as the uninterested older sister is also great.
Vet’s Office: I’m genuinely surprised that the writers thought this could be a recurring sketch…but I’m laughing. I’m just not sure this would be fine a third time. But, yeah, Cecily bluntly telling someone their pet is dead is funny.
Marvel Can’t FAIL!: I’d watch Pam…only if it starred Aidy Bryant. Seriously, though, Bryant has perfected her “smiley middle aged woman” character. It’s always funny at this point. And I feel like “Pam” is the obvious go-to name for that type of character.
Weekend Update: Weekend Update was quite excellent this week…mostly because of the guests. First up was Cecily Strong’s infamous “Girl You Wish” character. Here are some of my favorite lines:
“Welcome back” (to new co-anchor Michael Che)
“I’m thinking about it 25/7!”
“Let me mansplain this for you in terms you can manderstand.”
“Every five minutes, another species…”
“I have a crush on Gandhi! But I’m sure Jessica discovered India too!”
When I found out that Cecily Strong would be leaving Weekend Update, I was upset because between her and Jost, she was definitely the better anchor. However, apparently this was her own decision because she wanted to do more character work, which…OK. As long as she brings out this character at least three more times this season, it might be worth it. Next up, Leslie Jones came back to do a bit on being single. I just love her raw enthusiasm and energy…and I think this bit was easier to swallow than her last bit on slavery (although I, at least, appreciated the risk that first bit took). The last guest was newcomer Pete Davidson who did a very funny bit about “going down on a guy” for money to support his family (which looks weird without the full context…he has very good reasoning) He must be related to Andy Samberg somehow. The same big, crooked teeth. The same smile. The nose. This was a very good debut for Davidson (sort of reminded me of Cecily Strong’s Weekend Update debut from a couple years ago). And he trended pretty high on Twitter. A lot of people are really excited for him (especially the ladies who think he’s cute). He didn’t do much else this episode. I think I can’t truly make a conclusion about him until I see him in a few more sketches. I think a successful player is someone who can be funny in the live sketches (even if that’s not their strong point, ie. Andy Samberg, Kyle and Beck). But, so far, for a 20 year old, he has a lot of natural charm and confidence. And, hey…this is the first cast member who’s younger than me. So…now I officially feel old.
As for Colin Jost and Michael Che…they were OK. Che needs to some work. I cringed when he made a mistake during his first joke (say what you want about Strong…but she didn’t make any obvious stumbles during her first joke…although it was her second year on the show). Che also has some enunciation issues. But…we’ll see. As for Jost…I don’t dislike him as much as most people seem to do. He’s sort of…plain white…but he could make that work for him. For example, during the “Cheer Up, President Obama” segment, his attempts at trying to groove to the music were funny in itself. And, I liked the segment because it was a nice way for those two to work together. And this Che line makes me crack up:
“Remember, no matter what, the brothers are always going to love you. I mean, you could lose a war to Canada and we’d still paint murals of you in the hood. Right between Martin Luther King and Aaliyah.” Yep. True.
Jost also had a funny line early on:
“The company has strengthened security for its iCloud storage system in response to the recent hacking of celebrity nude photos. But if you really don’t want anyone to see your naked photos, you can just hide them in that free U2 album.”
90’s Sitcom: I was going to call this sketch “TGIF” sitcom (just because I get strong Boy Meets World vibes from this sketch), but apparently this “show” actually airs on NBC so…that’s not going to work. Anyway, last season, Beck and Kyle did a similar sketch with Andrew Garfield that was only made available online. I’m glad this idea was brought back. It’s just…you have to be a nineties kid to understand. Sorry, Generation Z.
NFL Player Introductions: I wasn’t crazy about the NFL cold open (mostly because I didn’t know who any of those people were). But I really liked this simple, weird little gem where the players have introduce themselves with the crimes they committed. Jay Pharoah as the Somali pirate got the biggest laugh out of me. But seeing cameos from Jost and Che (I’m assuming those two won’t be appearing in many sketches throughout the season and will just focus on their Weekend Update duties a la Seth Meyers) and Leslie Jones made me smile.
Video Game Testing: The last sketch wasn’t the weirdest “last sketch” the show has produced, but…it was still pretty weird. It involved kids testing a game that mostly involves Vanessa Bayer and Christ Pratt making out. Hey. We also got to see Pratt’s abs for a second so…yay! It was a nice way of seeing Pete Davidson in another live sketch (he was also in the NFL sketch) and the underused Sasheer and Bobby.
Goodbye: Seeing Anna Faris and Chris Pratt kiss was cute…seeing Leslie Jones interrupt the lovefest gave me one last chuckle.
Ariana Grande sounded great. I was hoping she’d perform “Problem” but…that’s sort of an old song. She’s performed a million times before. And I can’t blame her for wanting to showcase a couple newer songs. But, yeah, I’m a fan of Ariana..even if I can’t understand anything she’s singing.
Overall, premieres are always a little wonky. They’re rarely perfect (which is weird considering the writers have sort of had the summer off). But I’m definitely excited for the new season. Chris Pratt was a good host and blended well with the cast. Beck and Kyle are already starting to have a stronger presence on the show. Despite the Emmy nod, Kate McKinnon was still underused in this episode. Hopefully that’ll change in the next few weeks. Cecily and Taran continue their co-dominance.
MVP: Aidy Bryant had a great premiere. She got to say “LIVE FROM NEW YORK.” She appeared in most of the sketches. And she was especially great working her inner Nicki Minaj in that bar sketch with Chris Pratt. To think we almost wrote her off a couple seasons ago. Now I can’t imagine the show without her.
Next week! Sarah Silverman! And, hopefully, I’ll still be doing these! Bye!