After a less than thrilling episode last week, Saturday Night Live returned this week with a fantastic episode, from start to finish. Host Reese Witherspoon was charming and funny in her appearance on the show, and Florence and the Machine also put on a great performance as musical guest. The show as a whole was full of laughs, and it was nice to see the writers get creative and witty throughout the episode, instead of just at certain moments like last week’s episode. I watch SNL for the entertainment value, and I’m glad I can say I was thoroughly entertained this past Saturday night.
The show started out with an interesting cold open, with the Republican presidential candidates being showcased at some hokey convention by a DJ, played by Cecily Strong. It was a topic I expected the show to get to at some point, and while it was kind of a weird way to go about premiering some new cast impersonations, it did end up being relatively entertaining. It’s very early in the whole 2016 election cycle, so premiering these character impersonations at the very end of this season is a smart decision for the show, because they can at least get some reaction on the characters now, and decide how they want to proceed accordingly by September’s premiere. Reese Witherspoon came out next, and her monologue turned into a grand, wonderful Mother’s Day celebration, with the entire cast bringing their mothers out and apologizing to them for something bad they had done growing up. It was really funny, and heartfelt, and it set a great tone for the rest of the show. Honestly, I think this was one of my favorite monologues of the entire season, so props to the writers, and to all the cast and their mothers for that great kickoff to the episode!
The sketch portion of the night kept going strong after the opening, as the cast opened up with the “Be Scene in LA” skit. Cecily and Reese were hilarious as egregious morning show co-hosts on a pilot episode. The best part of the skit was Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah playing clueless producers fumbling all the audio needs for the show. The skit took some really hilarious turns as it went, and Pharoah had one of the best deliveries of the whole show when he told Reese’s character “Uh, honey, we all lie on an interview. You get on a job and you figure it out.” This was probably one of his best non-impersonation characters, at least in recent memory. Next came what might be the most controversial, yet most hysterical skit of the night. The sketch was of a game show called “Picture Perfect” where contestants had to draw a clue and have their team guess what they drew. The game show was going perfectly fine for all involved, until one team got the clue to draw The Prophet Muhammad. Obviously this is a bit of a taboo subject in pop culture, but the show did a great job skewering this delicate subject, showing the characters, played by Bobby Moynihan and Kenan Thompson, frightened of the concept of drawing the clue. Taran Killam was equally brilliant as the game show host in the skit, egging on the contestants to fulfill their clue, saying at one point that they would subtract a million dollars from the competing couples’ bank account if they didn’t fulfill their obligation to draw the clue. I loved the way the skit played out and the way they took on a serious subject of world interest and made it farcical. That is SNL at its best, when they can be sharp and comical all at once.
After a wonderful performance from the popular alternative band Florence and the Machine (especially Florence who is a brilliant live performer), Weekend Update kept the episode going strong. The news portion was witty and seemed to be finally flowing better than it had earlier in the season (I especially liked his Hamburglar bit), and the guests were great. We saw Leslie Jones come back to the update desk as their ‘Relationship Correspondent’ and, as usual, really click well opposite Colin Jost. I said it on Twitter, and I’ll say it again now, Jost and Jones are the powercouple of SNL 40, one of the more memorable parts of his inaugural season on the desk. Jost and Che did some good work this episode; I really enjoyed their entire stint on the night. The whole rest of the episode was entertaining as well, I loved that they did another High School drama show, those are always so awkwardly perfect, and the kind of skit I have to watch over and over again after the show has aired. I thought Leslie Jones’ character of a pissed off audience member brought something fun to the sketch as well.
Overall, this week’s SNL was wonderful start to finish, with good writing, good acting, good music, and a nice performance from guest host Reese Witherspoon. She was vivacious throughout the night, putting on some nice performances throughout the night, and the fact that the episode was a winner sort of contributes to her being a good host in general. This next episode of SNL, coming up this Saturday, will be the season finale, with guest host Louis C.K. and musical guest Rihanna. It will hopefully be a nice ending to the celebratory 40th season of Saturday Night Live.