Now that the Olympics are over, “Saturday Night Live” is back in full swing, complete with a new face behind the Weekend Update desk. Colin Jost has taken over for Seth Meyers alongside Cecily Strong, and while the new addition shows promise, it almost feels like this singular change has thrown a wrench into the system that was finally starting to gain momentum after adding so many new cast members at the start of the season (not to mention the recent addition of Sasheer Zamata).
The return of “SNL” after nearly a whole month away wasn’t quite a disaster, but there were plenty of hiccups and misses when it came to the sketches. But we’ll get into that in more detail with the breakdown of this episode hosted by “The Big Bang Theory” Emmy winner Jim Parsons. So here we go!
12 Years a Slave Auditions – With it being Oscar weekend, there was no doubt going to be some sort of sketch referencing this year’s nominees, and this first one didn’t go the route that I initially expected. While it seems like another cavalcade of the cast doing their best impressions was right around the corner, this focus on the audition process for some of the more racist supporting characters was hilarious. You gotta wonder how awkward it would be to audition for a racist role like this and be praised for being good at it. This might be the best thing Brooks Wheelan has done all season.
Elevator – Well, Mike O’Brien might not be stepping up to the plate as a cast member, but when he appears in what seem to be his own sketch ideas (his brand of humor isn’t hard to spot), he knocks it out of the park. Helped by the awkwardness of Jim Parsons, the idea of someone actually crapping their pants out of being caught off guard and the aftermath that follows really hit the mark. Though we’re not sure why this guy wouldn’t know he was already in the tallest building in the world, but whatever.
Dance Floor Killer – Well, if Jim Parsons really wants to step away from his awkwardly, nerdy personality that people inexplicably love so much on “The Big Bang Theory,” he should do a Sundance movie playing a creepy serial killer. We’re surprised he never came out and said, “You’re the Salmon girl.” What really helped this one was all the retro footage of the killer on the dance and music shows that no longer exist.
Spotlightz Acting Camp – This recurring sketch is starting to run its course for me, but Vanessa Bayer is so damn good at being an exaggerated child actor that it still works just the right amount. Plus, Taran Killam and Sasheer Zamata in their rendition of Captain Phillips helped elevate it as well. Otherwise, it’s the humor is pretty much the same every time, but not in the way when we get excited to see a recurring character like Stefon or someone of that caliber.
Peter Pan – While it’s not the most original idea, Aidy Bryant as this sassy, rough around the edges sister of Tinkerbell made me chuckle. She get’s a little too ghetto at times, but it works. By the way, don’t Kyle Mooney and John Milhiser make adorable little kids?
The Ellen DeGeneres Show – Oof. What a terrible opening sketch to come back from this long break. While Kate McKinnon does an incredible Ellen DeGeneres impression, everything about this sketch felt awkward, poorly paced, and completely disjointed. Definitely a waste of bringing Jim Parsons out before the monologue when they didn’t give him anything substantial to do.
Murder Mystery Dinner – This was a thoroughly wasted concept that would have been much better served as a filmed sketch, and likely not even for “Saturday Night Live.” The idea of having a murder mystery where someone is forced to play a vague, sex-crazed character where he will be inexorably blamed for his actions is funny in theory, but the execution just didn’t work.
Cowboys – For being the 10-to-1 sketch, this was hardly the weirdest of the evening, but it was certainly one of the worst. This kind of sketch needed to go for the gold if it was truly going to be weird. Jim Parsons’ dedication to a surprise for his cowboy friend’s birthday was amusing, especially with that feminine cowboy voice, but it felt safe and cutesy, even with that abrupt violent end.
Bird Bible – Not only was this the weirdest sketch of the night, but it was also one of the weirdest of the season. However, it was also one of the best, and props goes to whoever decided it should be on earlier in the show to give Mike O’Brien a little more traction. This felt so genuine that someone out there will believe this is real, and with the amazing pages put together featuring birds reenacting scenes from The Bible, that wouldn’t be surprising.
Well, it was Colin Jost’s first time behind the desk, and he took the time to say thank you for the opportunity, and couldn’t believe he was in this position. However, maybe there was a little too much disbelief, because while Jost had some great jokes for his first time, he definitely seemed a little too on edge and wide-eyed for it to go smoothly. Thankfully, Cecily Strong is just perfect behind the desk, and she’ll continue to bring Jost along until he’s comfortable.
Oh, and Part I of Weekend Update also includes Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah as Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal, and they always knock it out of the park. I feel like they could discuss anything, whether it was related to sports or not, and it would still be great. Jost needs to get a little more comfortable engaging with the Weekend Update guests, but that will come with time.
Jebediah Atkinson – Undoubtedly the best part of Weekend Update, and maybe even the saving grace with Jost being just a little shaky on his debut, Taran Killam railed on this year’s Best Picture nominees, and also the winners of the Oscar from years before. This character is a catty, snarky delight, and Killam’s exaggerated criticism, combined with the way he throws those cards around (with an accidental) trick he’ll never be able to duplicate again makes him a great new recurring character this season.
While Jim Parsons’ monologue (see above) attempts to separate himself a bit from the nerdy, sci-fi-loving scientist he plays on “The Big Bang Theory,” he didn’t do much to step away from various awkward characters throughout the night. Thankfully, some of the sketches around him utilized that spectacularly. However, the musical monologue just felt too easy and flat. I’m sure everyone who loves Parson’s Emmy winning turn as Sheldon on the aforementioned CBS sitcom hopes he’s a real nerd, but it turns out he just looks and sounds like one.
Mike O’Brien – All right, even though Mike O’Brien hasn’t really earned his stripes as a cast member yet, this week’s work in the Elevator and Bird Bible sketches really stood out. Taran Killam might have beat him out if he were in some better sketches other than his lively Jebediah Atkinson, but O’Brien really delivered this week as a writer and cast member. Let’s see if he can ride this wave out.
The Final Word
Jim Parsons pretty much did what he’s been getting praised for, and that’s be hilariously awkward and weird. The writers of “SNL” were able to use it very well in a few sketches, but the long break and the addition of two new faces recently seems to have shaken up the show again after a rough season premiere was finally starting to fade from the rearview mirror. Here’s hoping “SNL” gets back up to speed a little faster.
We’ll be back next week to recap Lena Dunham hosting the show on March 8th.
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