Country and SNL, I wonder how that mix is going to work out? This is the question I was asking leading into the most recent episode of SNL, with host and musical guest Blake Shelton. I’m used to SNL being a very metropolitan, left-leaning laugh-fest, which seems to clash with the country style and sensibility, but if there’s anybody who can bridge that gap it would be The Voice star, and multi-platinum selling megastar Blake Shelton, and he did it very well. The whole night was a great success as SNL ventured into different approaches and fresh ideas while staying true to its identity, delivering funny sketches from start to finish. Needless to say, Blake Shelton won me over, and proved me wrong for being so skeptical about how country and SNL could mix.
The show opened up with a relatively predictable skit topic; the “Deflate-gate” controversy surrounding the Super bowl bound New England Patriots. However, from the moment the sketch got rolling it was apparent that what could have been an easy, yet lame skit was actually well conceived and hilariously executed. Kenan Thompson brought out his ridiculously on point Bryant Gumbel impression as he introduced the press conferences of the prime culprits in the case. Beck Bennett played a great, defiant Bill Belichek, refusing to answer questions in-depth, much as what happened in real life, and Taran Killam slayed as Tom Brady, lampooning his aloofness when questioned about the issues. The whole opening was incredibly well acted and ended with Bobby Moynihan playing an equipment manager having an “A Few Good Men” breakdown moment when asked if he deflated the ball. It was such a great start to the show, leading in to Blake Shelton’s monologue. Shelton cleverly discussed the hesitations of some to have high expectations about mixing country with SNL (something I openly admitted to having doubts about). The cast and he did a “Hee-Haw” spoof, where the cast was supposed to roll with good, safe, friendly country jokes, but all ended up reverting to their usual mean and witty jokes. It was really fun to see Blake and the writers immediately hint at the elephant in the room and put all doubts to bed. Blake killed his monologue, seeming like a natural on the comedy stage, and from there I got the impression the show would be a smash, as everything in the first ten to fifteen minutes just clicked really right.
The show started out with a country rendition of The Bachelor starring Blake Shelton as an average farm guy. This was a fun skit mostly because it gave the women of SNL a nice showcase skit, which has become a poignant part of the current era. One by one all the women of the cast rotated through one-on-one moments with Shelton’s character, spoofing the concept of The Bachelor hilariously. Aidy Bryant’s emotionally unstable contestant was the most noteworthy of the characters, while it’s becoming increasingly clear that regardless of the skit, Leslie Jones basically just plays different shades of the same character over and over again. I don’t mind it much for now, and she’s hilarious a lot of times, but I wonder how long it’ll take for that to get old. Just throwing that out there, otherwise it was a fun sketch. After the sketch, SNL rolled out what’s probably the best pre-taped musical sketch of the season so far. Shelton, along with Kate McKinnon, and Aidy Bryant starred in an inspirational country musical about having faith and belief that things will get better. The beacon of good hope turns out to be the Wishing Boot, which shows up when people are at their lowest to bring their spirits up and give them what they need. There’s no real explanation that I can come up will that truly relays how hilarious and epic this skit was, it really just needs to be seen. The three actors in this video put on the best country stereotypical performances ever, and the narrative of the song was something on par with The Lonely Island digital shorts. This was definitely the greatest moment of the night, and probably one of the greatest moments of the season. “The Wishing Boot” is an instant SNL classic!
I can’t say I’m really into Blake Shelton’s music, but his performances were cool. I thought it was kind of novel to have country music on SNL when we mostly just see alternative rock or pop musicians grace the stage at Studio 8H. It was a smart move by the producers of SNL to bring him in to host and perform because he reaches a demographic that really isn’t brought into the show very often. We don’t see country music on stage at the show, and more importantly, we don’t see Southern culture on the show at all, as the show generally skews more towards metropolitan topics. I think the show taking a risk and branching into a different style or vantage point every once in a while is great, and when you have a star like Blake Shelton at the helm, it ends up not only being a seamless transition, but a flawless one. So, maybe I’ll never be big into Blake Shelton’s music, and it’s likely I’ll never buy an album or even a single of his, but for the night, I could appreciate a performance or two from Blake.
Weekend Update had a strong bounce back this week as well, after what I thought was a bit of a shaky performance last week. One of the better moments of the segment was the introduction of Michael Che’s high school friend Riblet, who decided he could do Che’s job just as good as he does and crashed the set to prove it. I thought this was a clever nod to some of the criticism he’s faced as Update anchor, as Riblet read the news segments, trying to say it was easy to do. I think Jost and Che have gotten a lot of ridicule, mostly for not being Seth Meyers, or Tina Fey, or any of the other popular people who have been hosts in the last decade, but this character introduction was sort of the first moment where this Update group was able to hit back at some of the criticism. I took this character as being the embodiment of all the people wanting ‘anybody else’ to take the Update desk, and for that reason, and for Moynihan’s depth of character, the segment worked for me. Then, we got another great visit from Pete Davidson, telling a story of how his girlfriend caught that he watched gay porn. Davidson has a brilliant way of bringing his real life trials and tribulations to the Update segment, his delivery and his subject matter are very modern and approachable. The guy has really brought a young stand-up perspective to the cast that has been lacking in the last few years, and it’s great to have his perspective on Update every once in a while.
The rest of the show ended fairly solidly, and Blake continued to shine in every skit ‘til the end. Suffice it to say, Blake Shelton was a hit on Saturday Night Live, from start to finish. The guy has charisma, he can sing, he’s a pretty good actor, and apparently he’s funny too. He really brings everything a host should to Saturday Night Live, and as a result of that, and amazing writing, this episode was a hit. It’s one of my favorites from the season for certain. This week will have another all new live episode, with J.K. Simmons as host and D’Angelo as musical guest. I legitimately have no idea who Simmons is, and I haven’t heard a song from D’Angelo in over a decade, so I’m not sure what to make of this coming episode. Guess I’ll have to just tune in and see what all the fuss (or lack thereof) is about. Now, I got to wrap this up so I can go back to watching “The Wishing Boot” over and over again.