For the 39th season finale of “Saturday Night Live,” executive producer Lorne Michaels brought back Emmy-winning cast member Andy Samberg, fresh off his hit new series “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” to host, and many more of the ghosts of Studio 8H’s past were on hand to end the season with a bang. And while that made for a very entertaining episode, it also didn’t seem all that fair to the very large current cast. But we’ll get to that after the recap of the sketches below.
Kissing Family with Andy Samberg – Well, this was by far the biggest reunion of the more recently departed cast members of the night with Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg, Maya Rudolph, and even Paul Rudd returning for the latest installment of the overly affectionate Vogelcheck family. However, this one had a nice spin besides just being a callback sketch, because it included a reference to the drafting of openly gay football player Michael Sam into the NFL, and gave the sketch a charming message of acceptance that was also timely.
When Will the Bass Drop? – With Andy Samberg back as host, there was no doubt we were going to see at least one SNL Digital Short, and this one did not disappoint. It was just the right mix of silly and odd, and the Indiana Jones referenced absolutely cracked me up. The ending was fairly predictable, but everything leading up to it was pretty damn hilarious.
Confident Hunchback – In what almost seemed like a sketch that got lost in someone’s desk back in the 90s, I could not believe how funny this sketch turned out to be after the premise was explained in the very beginning. Maybe it was Samberg’s charm or just some timeless comedy writing, but this was surprisingly funny and felt like a throwback to the “SNL” of 20 years ago in the best way possible.
Camp Wicawabe – If this starts recurring instead of Girlfriends Talk Show, that would be awesome for Aidy Bryant. However, Kate McKinnon really shines in this sketch as she shows off her incredible skill at creating a character, giving it 110% and adding subtle layers. The fact that she doesn’t forget about eating her popsicle, keeps occasionally ogling Andy Samberg while she’s not speaking, and much more just show why McKinnon is the breakout star of the cast right now. And we can’t forget to talk about Kyle Mooney’s amazing six-year old voice, because that was adorable and hilarious.
Hugs – Two SNL Digital Shorts in one episode? Don’t mind if I do. This one is clearly just a tease of what The Lonely Island has in store for their latest album. However, when the time comes for this new one to hit shelves, it might seem weird that we haven’t seen half of the songs in music video from on “SNL” since the rap parody trio is no longer part of the show. Obviously, their videos can still go viral on the internet, but we’ll miss seeing them on “SNL” as frequently.
Bvlgari – There have been much stronger versions of the recurring porn star promotion sketch, but even when the sketch isn’t at its best, Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong’s increasing skill at playing these characters makes it amusing. Plus, Kristen Wiig with a mustache was worth a few laughs.
Jay-Z and Solange Message – With all the jokes, unnecessary news media analysis and coverage of this gossip rag story, it’s impressive that “SNL” was able to do something fresh with the story of Beyonce Knowles’ sister Solange and her strange feud with Jay-Z. Since this was the cold open, the return of Maya Rudolph as Bey was just a precursor to how many former cast member cameos there would be.
Blizzard Man – It’s Andy Samberg’s dedication to this character, and the earnest credibility and respect that rapper Two Chainz puts on display that made this recurring character funny once again. Of course, this has never been a raucously hilarious recurring character, but it’s one of the few Samberg has from his history at “SNL,” and that’s what we get when Justin Timberlake is busy on tour in Russia.
Kimye Talk Show – I have never liked any incarnation of this sketch, and seemingly will never. As good as Jay Pharoah and Nasim Pedrad are at being Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, this kind of sketch format for those impressions just doesn’t work. The pacing is always off, their guest are not entertaining, and it just feels forced.
Legolas at Taco Bell – Well, this sketch is about 10 years too late. Even the prominence of Legolas in The Hobbit films didn’t make this timely, relevant or funny, and it seemed to fall flat on its face. The joke is basically in the description of the sketch, and this was felt dated like the Confident Hunchback sketch, but this time in a very bad way. Not even Bobby Moynihan looking like a convincing Gimli made this fun to watch.
Colin Jost really showed some personality this week, especially with that baby twins holding hands sketch. Plus, his interaction with Nicolas Cage worked out very well in the absence of Seth Meyers for the first time. Meanwhile, Cecily Strong is showing more and more how she doesn’t really need a co-anchor, and could just as easily do Weekend Update on her own, and become the first solo female Weekend Update anchor.
Bruce Chandling – As much as Kyle Mooney clearly loved doing this character the first time, it just didn’t jive with me. But for whatever reason, I found myself liking this iteration of the old school, hacky comedic stylings of Bruce Chandling. Maybe it’s just because Mooney has grown on me as a performer and I love his weirdness now, but I surprisingly loved the hell out of his appearance.
Get in the Cage with Paul Rudd – If you thought Nicolas Cage appearing alongside Andy Samberg for a past segment of Get in the Cage was the end of this recurring Weekend Update bit, you were wrong. Since this is one of Samberg’s few recurring bits, it’s a welcome return, mostly since his Cage impression is so great. Plus, you can’t go wrong with Paul Rudd making a cameo and talking about Ant-Man.
As if there would be any doubt, Andy Samberg was right at home again as he returned to host “SNL.” And since he brought all of his friends back with him in cameo form (plus Martin Short), he was clearly having a blast. It was a little bit of a bummer that Justin Timberlake wasn’t able to show up (though he left his regards in the monologue), but it also showed that an episode hosted by Samberg didn’t need his help as a guarantee to bring some laughs. Samberg did just fine without Timberlake, but brought plenty of other people to compensate.
Andy Samberg & Friends – It’s hard to go wrong with a host that’s a former member of “Saturday Night Live” and Samberg did not disappoint, especially with the inclusion of some of his former fellow cast members. They clearly stole the show, and the return of the SNL Digital Short was fantastic. However…
The Final Word
While there was an entertaining upside to Andy Samberg hosting “SNL,” there is another side to that coin. The upside to this is we all got a fun episode of “SNL” with plenty of cameos, returns of recurring characters and sketches, and a season finale that ended on a high note. The downside to this is that barely any of the new cast members had anything to do.
Kyle Mooney deserves plenty of respect for standing out the most in the featured players section, but otherwise Sasheer Zamata was in the cold open, John Milhiser, Noel Wells, and Mike O’Brien were nowhere to be seen and even the slightly more seasoned Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon only got a couple great moments. Even older cast members like Taran Killam and Kenan Thompson didn’t have much to do. The small window of opportunity that was available for the already large cast was made all the smaller by having Samberg bringing more than half of a dozen other “SNL” veterans and guest stars pop up.
No matter how much we love things like this, Lorne Michael needs to keep this kind of nostalgia in check, especially when he has a cast that’s already struggling to maintain chemistry, and so many people that the small amount of stage time for many of them doesn’t allow the audience to connect and fall in love with many of the cast members like they used to when there were less players. In the future, it would be nice to have the guest stars show up for some fun, but still let the cast have the time that they’re working for and deserve.
That’s all for the 39th season of “Saturday Night Live.” We’ll be back in the fall to review the 40th season.
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