by Julian Spivey
“Saturday Night Live” made history on Saturday, April 15 with the first ever episode to air live in all time zones throughout the country. Unfortunately, for everybody watching the historical episode was mostly a let-down.
I had great anticipation for this episode hosted by former ‘SNL’ cast member and current ‘Tonight Show’ host Jimmy Fallon, a man who’s do a terrific job hosting the show before. It just seemed that the writing staff didn’t do the show many favors this week, much like last week’s also anticipated, but ultimately disappointing show hosted by Louis CK.
Saturday’s episode got off to a decent start with the usual Alec Baldwin reprisal of President Donald Trump in an ‘Apprentice’ spoof where he must decide between keeping Steve Bannon, always hilariously portrayed as the Grim Reaper, or his son-in-law Jared Kushner, portrayed without speaking by Fallon, because apparently, nobody’s ever heard the man say a word. The had its moments, but I feel the frequent Baldwin as Trump bits have stalled. The scarier Trump gets in real life the less funny the portrayal on the show seems to be. An interesting tidbit I thought of during the episode is that many, including myself, have claimed Baldwin is a lock to win an Emmy for his portrayal as Trump. The obvious Emmy category would be ‘Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series,’ but the Emmys have a rule stating that an actor appearing in 50 percent or more of a show’s season isn’t eligible. Baldwin should be very near that mark.
Fallon’s monologue was unusual, partly because it wasn’t actually a monologue. Fallon simply took the time to cover David Bowie’s classic “Let’s Dance” while being followed behind the scenes of Studio 8H by choreographed dancers. It was unusual, but still worthwhile and fun.
The post-monologue sketch was the often-used Family Feud, which almost always runs too long and has gotten a little old, but I always find at least somewhat humorous for Kenan Thompson terrific Steve Harvey impression. The sketch featured a time-travel episode featuring celebrities from today against celebrities from the ‘70s, which seemed to be written to solely feature Fallon’s John Travolta impression from both eras and make him have to run back-and-forth on the stage during a live episode to do both. It was unique, but not necessarily funny.
One of the weakest bits of the night was the ‘Legally Blonde’ high school musical taped sketch that had one punchline of “high school musicals/plays are always” awkward that couldn’t carry an entire sketch.
It was followed by another one-note joke where an ex-boyfriend is trying to win back his girlfriend by performing Savage Garden’s “Truly, Madly, Deeply” for her before proposing and her saying, “No, you dragged a man off a plane this week.” It certainly wasn’t the place where I thought we’d get the obligatory United Airlines joke this week and got the loudest laugh of the night from the studio audience, but it was another example of how one joke can’t carry an entire sketch; something ‘SNL’ does too often these days.
The best part of the episode wasn’t even performed live in New York City, but (once again) uniquely from Los Angeles where Melissa McCarthy, another seemingly Emmy lock, reprised her impression as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. In his third performance as Spicer it felt like the bit was wearing a little thin, as well, but it was still hilarious.
Weekend Update was a snoozer this week, as it has been often lately. The worst aspect of it was the guest characters – the much too often used Jewish teen Jacob, played by Vanessa Bayer, and Kyle Mooney’s terrible stand-up comedian Bruce Chandling, by far the worst current Update character in the show’s rotation.
There wasn’t too much worth raving about during the second half of the episode, but it was kind of nice to see Fallon and former cast member Rachel Dratch bring back their classic Boston Teens – Sully and Zazu. It wasn’t my favorite sketch back in the day, but having not seen it in years it wasn’t unwelcomed.
The best bit during the second half of the show was the very last bit of the night, a pre-taped sketch of a director filming a basketball movie in which the extras attempting to play ball in the background of the scene are the world’s worst basketball players. It was an easy attempt at humor, but watching Fallon and Mikey Day suck at basketball did make me chuckle more than most anything did during the episode.
It was a historical night for ‘SNL’ airing live coast-to-coast for the first time in its legendary 42-year history, it’s just a shame the comedy couldn’t bring the A-game on the same night.