‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: Season 40, Episode 19 with Host Scarlett Johansson

By May 4, 2015

It was a big weekend for sporting events, from the NBA playoffs to the Kentucky Derby to Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, and that meant film and television suffered. Not only did the box office for Saturday night seem lower than it should have been with a movie like The Avengers: Age of Ultron hitting theaters, but this episode of “Saturday Night Live” featuring one of the film’s stars, Scarlett Johansson, as host felt like it was put together for an audience that they knew wouldn’t be paying attention much. There’s some good laughs, but mostly misses with the majority of the episode. So let’s see what few sketches worked, and which ones really didn’t land.

The Best

Blazer – This would have been fine just as a regular parody of 70s television shows, but lo and behold, some social commentary actually came through in this sketch to make it even better. That wide shot of Taran Killam as Blazer marching across the screen to punch a black guy just minding his own business absolutely cracked me up. The best sketch of the night by far.

Black Widow Trailer – With Avengers: Age of Ultron in theaters, there couldn’t be a better time to make fun of the fact that Marvel seems to be ignoring their female fanbase (yes, it exists). Fans have been clamoring for a Black Widow trailer, and the folks at “SNL” have given it to them as only Hollywood can. It’s Marvel’s first romantic comedy, and it’s hilarious to see Killam as Thor as the gay best friend of the female lead. I feel like this could have been a little funnier, but it’s still a solid sketch.

Orioles – When this started, I was worried that the actual idea of two professional baseball teams playing a game without fans in the stadium was funnier than any sketch could have been, but Taran Killam and Kenan Thompson as the sports commentators really sold the hell out of this concept. There was some great wordplay and clever puns, not to mention mocking how funny the usual jumbotron entertainment would be without fans in the seats.

The Average

Virgin Flight – Vanessa Bayer and Scarlett Johansson do a pretty good job of playing robots, but the sketch never really finds sure footing. If you take a way the two jokes about sexism from the pilot, this is easily a sketch you would find on a kids’ comedy program though. The simplicity is admirable, but it feels like more could have been done here. Still, there were some decent laughs.

Mayweather-Pacquiao – This sketch honestly isn’t all that funny, but “SNL” recognizing and poking fun at the fact that their normal audience is probably significantly smaller due to the big boxing match happening concurrently with the show is a smart move for the live program. While the use of the scrolling text and voiceover was great, the mock fight portion of the sketch could have been beefed up significantly. An admirable effort, but nothing special.

The Worst

Jingle Writers – This kind of sketch has been done better countless times before, so it’s sad to see that the lively and reliable Aidy Bryant couldn’t make this work with Scarlett Johansson. It’s an amusing premise, but not enough to make the repeated joke funny several times.

Right Side of the Bed – Again, these characters are funny, but this show format is not the best way to use them. Cecily Strong was pretty giggly during this sketch, though she never entirely broke. She and Taran Killam have a lot of fun with these characters, but this format wastes them. However, the line about Johansson’s character sounding like a pizza would talk made me laugh.

Girlfriends Talk Show – As someone who is not a fan of this recurring sketch (the loud cheers from the audience baffle me every time), this was already unimpressive, but not even Aidy Bryant’s usual bright self could make this entertaining this time.

The Weird

Dino Bones – I have no idea what the impetus was for this sketch, but it’s just so strange and feels like it was put together at the last minute. Taran Killam even tries to distract us from the oddity of it all while simultaneously adding to it by flipping his hair all the time. Johansson and Strong did a good job as these peculiar characters, but it just seemed weird for weird sake, and also had a very Disney Channel vibe to it.

Weekend Update

Here we are again with commentary on the fact that Colin Jost and Michael Che are at their best when they actually engage and show some chemistry. Che trying to stop Jost from doing his Bruce Jenner non-jokes was very funny, but leading up to that, it was a very choppy Weekend Update.

Game of Thrones’ Samwell Tarly and Gilly – Here’s one of those segments that’s very inside baseball for fans of “Game of Thrones.” It’s a very specific mockery of two characters in the fantasy ensemble with a lot of specific references to the show that only fans would get. I’m surprised this actually made it on a show like “SNL,” but that just goes to show you how massively popular “Game of Thrones” has become.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg On Marriage Equality – Bless you, Kate McKinnon. The comedy sensation didn’t have much to do on the show this week, but she knocked this one out of the park. He Ruth Bader Ginsberg and simultaneously feisty and adorable, and it’s just one of McKinnon’s many great Weekend Update characters.

Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal On the NBA Playoffs – Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah as Barkley and Shaq just get me everytime. Thompson had some trouble keeping a straight face this time, and I think he even lost his Barkley impression briefly. Pharoah was keenly aware and tried to mess with him a little bit to keep him on edge, and it made for a fun end to Weekend Update.

The Host

Sadly, even though Scarlett Johansson has proven to be a very funny host before, this time she wasn’t given much to do at all, and that was just one of the many disappointments from this episode of “Saturday Night Live.” Johansson certainly tried her best with some of the characters she played, but the interesting, fun ones were few and far between. We’ll just have to wait until she comes back again.


Saturday Night Live - Taran Killam - Blazer

Taran Killam – If you look at the line-up of sketches, not only was Killam in all of the best sketches of the night, but he actually brought some laughs to the poor ones as well. I would say that Killam is right at the same level as McKinnon when it comes to delivering great characters, and elevating the comedy, even when it doesn’t always land.

The Final Word

I’m not sure if it’s the boxing match that caused a mediocre show, but it felt like the writers were very aware that all eyes would not be on them tonight, and even less than normally are. There was a lot of subpar material that made it on air, and it was just a wholly unremarkable show. Though there were three fantastic sketches, the majority of the show was flat.

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Ethan Anderton
Some of his favorite films include Ghostbusters, The Empire Strikes Back and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, while his favorite TV series include LOST, Mad Men, 30 Rock, Parks & Recreation, Arrested Development and Saturday Night Live.