By Derek Lawrence
January 15, 2017 at 12:34 PM EST
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Credit: Will Heath/NBC

Fittingly, before last night’s first Saturday Night Live of 2017, NBC aired a very special vintage 1978 episode hosted by the late Carrie Fisher. The broadcast both served as a nice nod to the Star Wars actress, who died last month, and also as a perfect lead-in to the hosting debut of the latest Star Wars heroine.

The SNL gig caps off quite a recent run for Felicity Jones. Rogue One has dominated the box office since its December release and here, the Academy Award-nominated actress had her chance to show that the comedy force is strong with her.

Jones’ monologue predictably began with a few Star Wars jokes, and she seemed nervous — but it was unclear if it was genuine or just part of the bit. After a clever Saw Gerrera cameo (Kenan Thompson), Tina Fey returned to Studio 8H via hologram to ease Jones’ nerves and deliver a message that everyone should live by: “If Steven Seagal can do it, then so can you.” Her helpful tips included telling Jones that the show gets reviewed way too much (did Tina Fey just start a beef with me?), signs that she won’t be the funny one in a sketch, and that the appearance of an angry and horny Leslie Jones means that the writers couldn’t think of an ending. It all then happens to end with Jones strolling in and guess what? She’s a tad angry and horny.

Best Political Moment: Cold Open

While SNL has been off the air for a month, that’s fine because nothing very newsworthy ever happens over the holidays, right? Well, those were the days before Donald Trump was elected as the next U.S. president. Since the last episode of the show, the Russians reportedly stole the election, Trump’s relationship with the press has gotten worse as his friendship with Steve Harvey has gotten better, and oh, yeah, there’s also the whole Russian blackmail urine situation.

SNL didn’t waste any time, getting right into it by using the cold open to give their version of Trump’s recent press conference. In his return as the president-elect, Alec Baldwin had a lot of topics to cover from Obamacare — which SNL‘s Trump unknowingly seems to be a fan of — to the issue of Russia hacking the election, which he blamed on other countries when confronted by “Wolf Blitzer” a.k.a. a shirtless Vladimir Putin (Beck Bennett) holding a VHS labeled “Pee Pee Tape.”

Speaking of urine humor, this strong sketch was highlighted by Trump’s refusal to address allegations that came to light last week via Buzzfeed. “I want to talk about what’s really important, which is jobs,” he said. “Because I am going to bring back a thick stream of jobs to this country. The biggest, strongest, steadiest stream you’ve ever seen. This country will be literally showered with jobs. Because I am a major whiz at jobs. This will be a golden opportunity for me as president to make a big splash.”

Best Sketch: Beard Hunk

This was a tough decision — not because there were tons of home runs to pick from, but rather a bunch of solid-to-mediocre ones. Admittedly, I’m not a Bachelor viewer, so my only knowledge of it is that Monday night is the time I understand the least of what’s happening on my Twitter timeline. And still, I found the spoof to be pretty spot on.

Bennett is perfect as Nick, the latest to prove that men like me who can’t grow a beard will never be cool. He promises that this season will deliver “a lot of drama, a lot of excitement, and as always, minimal Asians.” He’s trying his best to get to know the women, only for them to be constantly substituted in and out. None of the ladies scream wife material, each having their own drawbacks, ranging from having five STDs to being an iced tea promoter on Instagram. Despite all of the perceived flaws, the offense that goes too far for even sweet Nick is when one woman reveals that she brought a one-piece swimsuit and not a bikini. Confession: I don’t watch The Bachelor, but I do watch UnREAL, and that does totally seem like an excuse that would be used to send someone home.

Weakest Sketch: Corporate Retreat

In a night of solid, but not great, sketches, they saved the worst for last. The sketch centers around three seemingly innocent pharmaceutical reps (Jones, Cecily Strong, Melissa Villaseñor) who happen to enjoy telling inappropriate jokes about, uh, being loose. “Wow, all your jokes deal with being loose,” says the event’s emcee (Mikey Day). “I guess comedy is not for everybody, right folks?” Weird after Fey’s message in the monologue that Day would decide to give his review of the sketch during the sketch…

Best Short: The Princess and the Curse

Neither short was very memorable, but this gets the nod for the premise and the end punchline. The classic cursed princess story gets a twist here, as Princess Viola (Jones) won’t turn into a beast or ogre at night, but something even scarier in Prince Benedict’s (Bennett) eyes: “I become me… but 15 pounds heavier,” she confesses much to Benedict’s dismay. Kate McKinnon’s reappearance as the sorcerer adds the kicker to the sketch when she offers to reverse the princess’ curse if the prince agrees to lose one-quarter of an inch from his penis each night. Unsurprisingly, the prince isn’t onboard — but it’s telling (and hilarious) that the princess is against the idea, too.

Weekend Update Highlights

Donald Trump has often made the job of Colin Jost and Michael Che almost too easy, supplying them with endless material. And each week, they show their appreciation at his expense, a trend that continued here, until Che found himself somewhat paying respect to the president-elect. While discussing Trump’s press conference, Che couldn’t help but enjoy Trump’s treatment of CNN. “I know, I’m not supposed to like that guy, but damn, that was funny,” he said of Trump refusing to answer a question from the network. “The president-elect just called CNN fake news live on CNN. And the only thing CNN could say back was, ‘Sir. Sir. Sir.'”

Che really shined later when he delivered a comedic and poignant take on an investigation into Chicago Police’s treatment of African Americans. ” … Black people don’t like being in crime-infested areas either, and I think that gets lost,” he said. “That’s why I hate the term ‘black-on-black crime,’ because it makes it seem like it’s just a race issue. Which makes people who aren’t black check out, and I don’t blame them.” By the end, Che was back to making us laugh, but it’s great to see SNL go to different and real places.

No celebrity cameos or “special guests” on this week’s Weekend Update. Instead, we got Bennett contemplating leaving comedy to become a pop sensation and Pete Davidson once again flawlessly representing young people in America, this time by giving his first impressions of Trump’s cabinet picks.

Best Musical Moment: “Call to Arms”

While country star Sturgill Simpson delivered two upbeat, guitar-centric performances, it was his political track “Call to Arms,” off his Grammy-nominated album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, that stood out for its incredible timeliness.

Cast MVP: Beck Bennett

Often this award comes with the caveat that it’s for the best cast member not named Kate McKinnon — yet that wasn’t the case here. It seemed that Bennett was everywhere in this episode, playing an integral and hysterical role in the majority of the sketches, the best short, and even popping up on Weekend Update. But let’s be honest, he probably sealed this up the second he showed up as a shirtless Putin.

Episode Recaps

Saturday Night Live

The original late-night comedy sketch show from the one and only Lorne Michaels.

type
  • TV Show
seasons
  • 46
rating
  • TV-14
genre
airs
  • Saturdays at 11:30 PM
creator
  • Lorne Michaels
network
  • NBC
stream service

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