We all know James Franco has taken a turn for the weird as of late, so it really shouldn’t be any surprise that this is reflected in his latest turn as SNL host. The Cameron Diaz episode we last left off with was fun and very suited to her persona. You can say the same for this week, but we churned out some mixed results. There’s definitely shreds of the creativity and the daring the writers continue to take, now that there’s definitely more establishment with the new cast members and their fortes, but not all the results were laugh-out-loud, slap-your-knees funny as some of the sketches had been this season. Let’s take a look.
Cold Open: Politics Nation. The more and more Kenan does his almost-too-perfectly-misspoken Al Sharpton, the more it grows on me. This character totally works. The crescendo for this bit was good, but fell off by the end. Decent writing, but timing felt off. It could’ve ended sooner than it did.
Monologue: This has actually been one of the shorter monologues in a while. Simple premise, simple joke, simple execution, and pretty concise but well veiled promo for the upcoming movie The Interview. We get a fun special guest appearance from Seth Rogen, and we go meta with the whole Seth Rogen-James Franco bromance and awkward photos. It was fun and fast. Probably one of the more normal moments of the night, believe it or not.
Best Sketch of the Night / Best Fake Ad: Star Wars Teaser. Maybe it’s because I really did love Star Wars as a kid, and maybe it’s because I too definitely got excited about the new trailer. But this was definitely a fun, REALLY HIGH PRODUCTION VALUE take on what could be part of the revamped Star Wars. Seeing funny renditions of the characters we knew and love but OLD was great. All the little jokes they wrote in for each character was totally right, and the casting was also pretty perfect. That light saber walker totally got me, and watching Bobby Moynihan fumbling around with R2D2 not knowing how to record a message as Princess Leia was a spot on joke. They made some great callbacks to the main characters – the Lando Calrissian addition was a pleasant surprise – and they did it well.
Best Awkward Effort of the Night: Creating a new category here, as there were several honorable mention moments here for great ideas, even though the execution may have been totally weird/off for the majority of the sketch.
The Magic Bridge sketch was totally bizarre but I found the hidden genius in it as Cecily Strong and James Franco rambled on in their totally wackjob characters. The reward here is the shock factor moment of Kyle Mooney and James Franco hardcore making out as the punchline. I probably could’ve seen this coming once they established that a kiss is all it takes, but these two really went for it and totally played it up.
Peter Pan Live’s primary redeeming quality is Aidy Bryant’s Tonkerbell, but Cecily Strong also gave a very strong performance as the overacting Allison Williams. Even though James Franco’s Walken impersonation was iffy, it was still kind of fun to watch him bumble along, if only because Tonkerbell says he looks like a Geisha. I also loved that we had an awkward Fern Gully tie-in with Bobby Moynihan as the bat boyfriend.
Jingle Ballerz Special was certainly not the strongest bit of writing, but I got a kick out of the impersonations here. Everyone kind of went to the furthest extreme with all the caricatures they created for the different hip hop stars, and Nicki actually killed it as Beyonce. Even though it’s totally weird, I get a kick every time Jay Pharaoh screeches as Kanye. And, as always, Kate McKinnon’s Justin Bieber is a welcome addition. (I died when she commented about being surrounded by all the “amnimals” while birthing Jesus) Mad props here for commitment to performance.
Worst Sketch of the Week: Kid Mayor. I really don’t have many words for this sketch. Almost 0 reaction to this one.
Player of the Week: Aidy Bryant and Cecily Strong. Ladies are really killing it.
Weekend Update Moment of the Week: First, let me say I do think Michael Che and Colin Jost handled the Eric Garner decision and the proceeding protests really well. I can’t imagine what this would’ve looked like if we didn’t have Michael Che as a co-correspondent on Weekend Update. Each comment was given the appropriate weight and was well executed across both sides.
But I gotta give it up to Leslie Jones for this. Even though I wasn’t sure how we’d tie in the Relationship Expert to the presented topic, I knew she’d make it fun. This is totally where she shines (although I totally enjoyed her cameo in the Star Wars teaser)
SNL has certainly done weird sketches before, so even though there was tons of weird, at least this was palatable. Let’s hope we continue rising on a better streak as we veer into the heart of the holidays.