This past weekend brought the hosting debut of Martin Freeman on “Saturday Night Live”, just a few days before the debut of his final turn as Bilbo Baggins in the final installment of The Hobbit trilogy in theaters this week. With an eclectic star of comedies such as Love Actually and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, dramas like “Sherlock” and the aforementioned fantasy adventure franchise, the pressure was on to see what Freeman can do in the unique environment of “SNL.” Thankfully, the result was an all-around great episode with very few shortcomings. So let’s get down to the greatness.
Hobbit Office -With Martin Freeman hosting, it was almost a guarantee that there would be some kind of Hobbit sketch, but we didn’t think that it would be mashed up with Freeman’s work on the original British version of “The Office.” But we’re certainly glad this happened, because there’s a good chance this could end up being one of the best sketches of the year. From Taran Killam’s fantastic impression of Gollum to Bobby Moynihan as Ricky Gervais as David Brent as Gandalf. Hang on, I think I have a nosebleed.
Church – For anyone forced to go to church with their family on Christmas, this one just hits all the right notes. I’ve honestly experienced every single aspect of this sketch, and seeing it presented as if it’s an underground rock festival (RIP Ass Dan) just sweetened the deal. It’s also worth it just for Martin Freeman saying, “Daddy needs his chocolate” and following it up with a rendition of the Bagel Bites slogan.
Wedding Objections – Just the sheer size comparison between Martin Freeman and Leslie Jones was enough to make this hilarious, but a great sketch came along with it as everyone attending the wedding had all the right objections. Vanessa Bayer as Freeman’s wife cracked me up, and it was pretty amusing to see Kate McKinnon cause Jones to break towards the end of the sketch.
Sump’n Claus – It seems that pretty much everytime Kenan Thompson sings, we’re going to get a good sketch (or at the very least, some big laughs just from him). But with Sump’n Claus, this is just an all-around solid holiday musical sketch; the kind that I can see “SNL” playing every year for their Christmas clip show. My only wish was that the final round of “Everybody’s gettin’ sump’n” went out with a bigger bang.
Waterbed Commercial – Aidy Bryant doesn’t always stand out, but when she does, it’s fantastic. This reminded me of the “Sofa King” commercial with Shia LaBeouf from years ago, and having Martin Freeman doing his “Fargo” accent was just icing on a hilarious cake. Also, where can I get that bedspread. I’m asking for a friend.
Charlie Rose – Taking the Torture Report topical subject matter and turning it into a completely non-political sketch was a great idea. It’s not that it would be unwise to do anything else with the headline-making details, but this approach was just perfect, likening the despicable nature of planning torture to all the awful customer service and advertising out there.
Right Side of the Bed – The great thing about this episode is that even though this is the worst sketch, there’s still some decent laughs here. But the problem seems to be that there’s just too much going on. Cecily Strong and Taran Killam have some great characters for this morning show, but they seem to be overpowering Freeman’s much funnier joke in the sketch. Not terrible, but just seemingly misguided.
Holiday Gig – Hey look, it’s Kenan Thompson singing again, in what is like a weird holiday version of “What’s Up with Dat?” but much weirder It doesn’t quite work as well as that favorite recurring sketch of mine, but I could easily see this becoming a recurring sketch with a new band member hiding something every time.
Assembly Line – This was such an innocently peculiar sketch that it felt like it was from a variety show from the 50s or 60s. You could almost see it being part of the Carol Burnett line-up, or even something involving Abbott and Costello or Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks. This is classic comedy, which makes it feel weird today, but also very charming.
Sasheer Zamata – Well, at least they didn’t decide to bring Leslie Jones back for this bit. Don’t get me wrong, Leslie Jones is hilarious, but she’s just being overused for these segments. Zamata seemed nervous at the desk, but her level-headed approach to the matter actually made the complaint a little more endearing. The interaction between her and Colin Jost was pretty great, but it could have been better.
One-Dimensional Female Character from a Male Driven Comedy – One more draft of this sketch probably could have ended up being a little more clever. The problem here, despite a fantastically flat performance by Cecily Strong, is that there’s not much fresh material here that hasn’t been explored and parodied by spoofs like “Not Another Teen Movie,” “They Came Together,” and even the terrible “Scary Movie” franchise and other low-brow spoof movies. There’s ripe material for making fun of mediocre female characters in comedies with prominent male stars, but this isn’t the best version of that sketch.
Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy On Hanukkah – It’s the first time this character has been back since Seth Meyers left the show, and it’s still a delight. I’m surprised they didn’t do more with Jacob being nervous by Michael Che being new, but they’ve done that with a bunch of other Weekend Update characters, so maybe it’s just better this way.
Holy cow, Martin Freeman! Not only was this a great hosting turn for a first-timer, but this was a great bit of hosting for anyone. Freeman fit in with the cast just as well as a Steve Martin or a Justin Timberlake. He didn’t seem nervous at all, even improvising occasionally during his monologue above, and each of his characters in the sketches were so well-defined, it didn’t feel like Freeman was just reading from cue cards. Please, bring Freeman back any time.
Taran Killam – The MVP title this week almost went to Martin Freeman, just for doing such an amazing job for his first time hosting, but it just didn’t feel right to ignore Killam’s fantastic work in this episode. From his spectacular Gollum impression to his flamboyant Southern talk show host (even if the sketch was a little messy) and that almost retro assembly line sketch, he just had a great episode. Plus, check out that Alan Rickman impression in the monologue. Killam may not be Bill Hader when it comes to impressions, but he’s doing a hell of a job.
The Final Word
This is exactly what we needed after last week’s disappointing show with James Franco as host. The energy was there, Freeman just made every sketch work like he was a cast member of “SNL” and all the writers seemed to bring their best material to the table. The writers didn’t even have to rely on recurring characters, sparsely used the talk show format, and provided some truly original and smart comedy. This just might end up being one of the best episodes of the year.
Come back next week for our recap of the last episode of the year with host Amy Adams.
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