It’s not all Blake Shelton’s fault.
Last night’s Saturday Night Live didn’t offer the country singer—who pulled double duty as host and musical guest—many chances to shine and instead turned him into a talking prop that the cast revolved around. It started with his monologue, which didn’t give him much to do save sit on some hay and strum a guitar, and was got worse in the second sketch of the night, with Shelton playing a version of The Bachelor as an excuse to let the show’s female stars do their craziest wannabe wife impressions.
When he did get something to do—like in the Topeka Today sketch—Shelton was occasionally charming and always game, but for the most part fell flat. Part of this was due to the weak writing, a factor that made the show one of the more disappointing of the season. But there were highlights (kind of?) including the evening’s…
This is tough, because none of the sketches particularly stood out as consistently laugh-out-loud funny, let alone contenders for Best Sketch. But I’ll give it to the monologue, which—predictably—used Shelton’s country background to its advantage by staging a Hee Haw-inspired jamboree. While Shelton wanted to emulate the corny jokes of the one-time variety show, the cast members (all dressed in overalls and big-skirted dresses) couldn’t quite grasp the concept and instead used it as a chance to tell generic, dirty jokes.
Shelton brought out his guitar once again for a stint on talk show Topeka Today, where he guested as a local singer performing a song that an older man (played by Taran Killam decked out in some pretty impressive makeup) wrote about his late wife. The song starts off sweet, but gets angrier and angrier as it goes on. The true centerpiece is Killam though, who occasionally mouths and sings along with a look of smug satisfaction as the anchors look on in horror.
Yes, The Bachelor is ridiculous—but we don’t need a seemingly endless sketch to tell us that. Shelton plays a bachelor in Farm Hunk, which mostly mocks how the women on The Bachelor take turns with the titular guy by saying “can I steal him?” While it’s good to see all the SNL ladies together in one sketch, that positivity is ultimately outweighed by how repetitive this sketch is—something that is only slightly helped by Kate McKinnon’s turn as a wacky contestant who brings Shelton things like a pile of spaghetti sans plate and a live macaw.
Best Musical Moment
Shelton brought out his guitar multiple times throughout the night, but it’s no surprise that his best moment with the instrument was when he was performing as country singer Blake Shelton, not as a character. You could see how much fun he was having during the first performance, which gave the show a burst of energy that even non-country listeners could appreciate.
Most Plausible Fake Song
“Wishin’ Boot” might be joke, but it still sounds like something straight off country radio–and that’s the point. The digital short, like many of the night’s sketches, seemed to go on forever, but it was weirdly catchy, and did have some high points: Between Shelton’s dog turning into a boot and Kate McKinnon’s boot holding a never-ending supply of food, the music video was just absurd enough to justify the “Hey, here’s a country song that has some silly lyrics!” premise.
Most Obvious The Voice Plug
For this (too, too long) edition of Family Feud, host Steve Harvey, played by Kenan Thompson, pitted the judges of American Idol against—surprise!—The Voice. Shelton, of course, played himself in the sketch, which was really just an opportunity for the cast to perform some quick celebrity impressions—and for them to end with Shelton and Adam Levine on the verge of kissing. Ah, yes: the overused “Ha, ha, two men are kissing!” joke—perfect paired with the also overused celebrity game show sketch.
Thompson did what he could with a lot of weak material tonight and ultimately stood out as the star player of the show, which most notably featured him as a cannibal trying to get parole. The sketch itself was weird enough to be funny on its own, but Thompson upped the absurdity by playing the character as a naive monster.
-Killam was the runner-up MVP tonight: Between his turn as an angry old man in Topeka Today and as the ever-evasive Tom Brady in the cold open (“I’m not a science computer!”), he brought humor to sketches that needed it.
-The monologue was stuffed with cast members, but Leslie Jones’ mostly silent role was the one worth paying attention to. As Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong danced with scary enthusiasm in their Sunday best, Jones very hesitantly danced along behind them while flashing looks of suspicion. She wasn’t supposed to be the focal point, but it was hard not to focus on—and laugh at—her character’s visible discomfort.
-“Wishin’ Boot” proved Kate McKinnon would be a great country star. Also, her dancing after introducing Shelton’s second song was adorable.
-Back to Killam: Hearing Adam Levine’s voice come out of his body is equal parts terrifying and impressive.
-After Bobby Moynihan’s turn as the obnoxious Riblet on Weekend Update, it was a relief to see Pete Davidson roll up to the desk—but even the SNL newcomer’s charm couldn’t save his gay porn bit, one that was too drawn out and ultimately uninteresting.
-A-plus for Colin Jost’s delivery of this Weekend Update line though: “This past Wednesday was National Hug Day,” he said before pausing. “Dad.”