March 29, 2015, 11:30 p.m. (EST), NBC
Jordan Ferguson: Hoo boy, this one was pretty dire. It is virtually impossible not to love The Rock, an affable guy who will absolutely commit to whatever level of silliness is requested of him, and he does his damndest to make things work this week, but the writing is just not there. Sketch after sketch goes to the easiest possible well and then just stays there for its runtime, to the point where I found myself looking for tiny bright spots in a laughless sea of mediocrity.
The Pep Boys genderflect commercial was an undeniable highlight of the night for me, a perfect skewering of the idiocy of Starbucks’ #racetogether campaign that was just perfect in the way each of the employees’ ignorant “open-mindedness” was both deeply awkward and hilariously out of place. I also loved the final sketch, which found Kyle Mooney interviewing children with a massively over-sized microphone. Mooney playing awkward, ill-prepared hosts of poorly made home videos is a thing that apparently will never get old for me, because each and every time I find it delightfully strange. He has such an odd energy in these sketches, all sweatiness and poorly feigned persona, that just works for me.
I also have to hand it to Kate McKinnon, who, as usual, is the MVP of the cast here. From Olya, to the frustrated love interest in the Indiana Jones sketch, to her eerily dead-on Robert Durst impression, McKinnon just nails everything she is given, and enlivens even sketches that reduce down to a long, lifeless “poison sucking” joke (so, by the way, did Pete Davidson’s little cartwheel at the end). What did you think of this, Luke? Did you find more to love here than I did?
Luke Annand: Yes. Yes I did. Wow, I did not expect you to have that reaction to the episode. Over at The AV Club, their reviewer was saying that this was the best episode of the whole season so far. Personally, I think it’s tied with the Blake Shelton episode as the strongest and most consistent episode of the season. Looking back on the notes that I did for the episode, the only time I thought the episode was losing steam was during the last half hour. The rest of the time I thought they were hitting it out of the park. I loved the opening with the return of The Rock Obama and with the added twist of Michelle Obama turning into She Rock Obama and how giddy Leslie Jones was when she and Johnson said the “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!!!” together. I know you hate it when the opening monologue turns into a song, but I dug Johnson’s smooth vocal stylings for the “Franchise Viagra” song (and that even he has standards with saying no to The Smurfs). The WWF sketch I dug for not only bringing him back to his roots (If you haven’t seen Max Landis’ video “Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling”, it’ll change your mind on the snobby attitude people have towards wrestling), but also how far he goes with destroying Moynihan’s life. As someone whose come around to the gleeful stupidity of the Fast and Furious franchise and growing increasingly disdainful of the recent run of live-action Disney films that adapt their animated films, the trailer for the ultraviolent Bambi was a highlight for me. I can keep going, but really I’d just be praising every sketch for one moment or characterization or another. My only real complaint is the Robert Durst sketch. I loved seeing McKinnon as Durst (she gets the forceful blinking he does down pat), but I wish they had done more with the concept than just the impression alone. I am glad they did one other joke in regards to The Jinx during Weekend Update on an ill-timed “Woo” during the opening credits.
Seriously, this episode did nothing for you? After the last few hit and miss episodes (which I’d like to apologize to our readers for not covering. I was moving the weekend of the Dakota Johnson episode and Jordan was busy during the weekends of J.K. Simmons and Chris Hemsworth), this to me was the most consistently hilarious episode since the Blake Shelton episode and Dwayne Johnson showed that he’s a natural as an SNL host. He might not be the best actor, but he’s a born entertainer who tackles anything given to him with a boundless energy and style.
Jordan: My problems here aren’t with Mr. The Rock, who again I thought was solid with what was given him. It’s with the material. The Rock Obama was a great idea the first time around, but its gotten stale, and She Rock Obama didn’t bring much new to the table. The Bambi trailer just felt obvious to me, and while Taran Killam’s Vin Diesel was really funny, the premise just felt lazy. The wrestling sketch was fine, which is enough to make it a highlight in this episode, and I loved Moynihan’s incredulity as things went further and further.
Saturday Night Live is often guilty of going for the easy joke. It’s kind of an inevitable side-effect of the way the show is produced that Kate McKinnon having a Robert Durst impression is more important than writing anything resembling a sketch around it In any given episode, you’re going to have two or three lazy sketches that will either be sold by forceful performances or will stop the show dead for five to eight minutes. This just happened to be an episode full of them for me. There are ways you can save these sketches, by giving them a skewed perspective or just throwing in some jokes that don’t just feel like the most obvious versions of themselves, but this episode didn’t do that. These are cookie cutter sketches, through and through, and there were too-few McKinnon wanting to suck poison out of The Rock performances that lived enough on their own to generate laughs out of weak material. I’m not changing the channel or running for the hills after this week. Episodes like this are part of loving SNL. But understanding why the show is sometimes lazy or uninspired doesn’t mean that I can just let it slide when it does an entire sketch about Kenan being a pedophile with a cooking show that has literally one joke and goes on forever.
Luke: I will admit the “Cooking with Paul” sketch was a lazy, one joke sketch. And the awkward double date sketch is guilty of not so much ending as stopping. But after three regular episodes (not counting the 40th Anniversary special) that were mixed affairs hosted by 1st timers of varying experience and versatility, seeing an episode that had some continuity of quality hosted by a 4 time veteran entertainer was enough for me to make it one of the better episodes of the season.
Just to cover the ones we missed really quickly, the “Japanese messy boy” sketch from the J.K. Simmons ep, the “Dr. Worf” sketch from the Dakota Johnson ep and the “Empire” and “post-Age of Ultron” sketch from the Chris Hemsworth ep (as well as “So You Think You Can Live With Brian?” Bennett/Mooney sketch) were the best moments from those three episodes. What were the highlights for the episodes that we missed for you? And next week, we got Michael Keaton and (ugh) Carly Rae Jepsen. I fucking hate “Call Me Maybe”, so I’ll be putting her on mute. But Keaton is definitely a huge get for them. How soon into the episode do you think Taran Killam will break out his Keaton impression?
Jordan: Immediately? The Keaton impression is coming out, and if not during the cold open sketch, probably during a monologue in which Keaton sings about Birdman being like the morning after pill (a much funnier riff on the totally lazy “franchise Viagra” from this week). I would consider this more on par with the mixed bag we’ve been receiving lately, and I’m not sure the show benefitted as much from having a veteran host here as I would have liked. Everything they gave him was so thin, all that was left was his base-line charm, which while considerable, doesn’t make for a particularly enjoyable episode in and of itself. I’m excited to see him back in his element, in Furious 7, where I imagine his skills will be put to better use.
- “That is so intricate!”
- “You know how babies cry when they are born? Not me. I roll my eyes and say ‘Well played, Devil.’”