The big question for tonight’s episode of Saturday Night Live: Can the show justify doing two Empire parodies in as many months?
When Chris Hemsworth hosted in March, Fox’s hip-hop hit was just about to wrap up its blockbuster first season. Naturally, the time was ripe for a spoof sketch starring Kenan Thompson as Lucious, Sasheer Zamata as Cookie, and… Thor. Okay, he wasn’t the best fit for this bit—which, of course, was part of the joke. Either way, the sketch was very well-received; it’s been viewed over one million times on YouTube alone.
You’ve got to wonder if the writers are kicking themselves over this, now that Empire‘s actual star, Taraji P. Henson, is making her maiden voyage to Studio 8H. I wonder, though, if Henson herself may be feeling a sense of relief. If the writers have already used up all their Empire spoof jokes, that means they might have to dig a little deeper to find material for tonight’s host—which means that Henson may get a chance to show audiences who know her best as hard-charging, slap-happy, broom-beating Cookie Lyon everything else she’s capable of.
After all, Henson was hardly an unknown before Empire burst onto the scene. She’s had a long, varied career on both TV and film, playing everyone from detective/Army interrogator/lawyer Joss Carter (on Person of Interest) to a pregnant prostitute (in Hustle & Flow) to April, who can do bad all by herself (in I Can Do Bad All By Myself). That said, Cookie is definitely the most high-profile role she’s had yet—which means she may be fighting a perception battle against those who are expecting her to do nothing but yell and throw things in tonight’s sketches. No Empire parody could mean material that goes beyond that comfort zone… although SNL would be crazy not to give Cookie any sort of role in the show. (Maybe they’ll do a Game of Thrones sketch that inserts Cookie into Westeros? Because you know as soon as she got to King’s Landing, it’d be game over.)
What are you hoping to see from Henson—and musical guest Mumford & Sons, making their second appearance on the show? (That surprised me too; I could have sworn they’ve done, like, 50 episodes of SNL, but that might just be because there have been so many Mumford-esque folky outfits on the show over the past three years.) Are you crossing your fingers for any cameos from her Empire castmates? What do you think is the over/under on a musical monologue? (Remember: Henson can actually sing!) Talk it out here—and check back int he morning for a full recap.