Saturday Night Live recap: An earnest Jenna Ortega tries her hand at live comedy
- TV Show
Hey there! Welcome to this week's SNL in Review commentary. Tonight's host is Jenna Ortega, a modern scream queen with starring roles in horror films like Scream and X. But fans probably know her best from the popular Netflix series Wednesday, in which she plays the stoic Wednesday Addams. Saturday Night Live buffs will recall that another Wednesday Addams actress — Christina Ricci — hosted the show and made two appearances promoting Addams Family movies back in the '90s.
I am joined tonight by former SNL cast member Gary Kroeger, who says he was more of a Munsters guy growing up: "I came to appreciate the cast of The Addams Family later in life as I watched reruns. I recognized the tongue-in-cheek swagger of [John] Astin, the effortless grace of Carolyn Jones, and the cunning of the rest." Indeed, as the success of Wednesday demonstrates, "Over time, The Addams Family has proved to be more enduring."
This week, the SNL PR machine placed this spiffy story in GQ, spotlighting the show's next generation. I asked Kroeger how that contrasts with his experience on the show. "This new cast is as versatile as any. Ever," he says. "When I was on the show, the world and media was very different. There was not a lot of media coverage, there was no YouTube, no weekly review like yours, no behind-the-scenes blogs, and certainly no website. In 1982 when I started, Brad Hall, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and I hired a publicist and we got a few local market TV listing magazine covers. NBC took a few publicity pictures. Brad and I did a fashion shoot for Esquire. And I remember being approached by 16 Magazine, we turned them down. But there wasn't an industry of SNL promotion and we more or less had to fend for ourselves. That's just the way it was."
Meanwhile, Ortega's latest movie, Scream VI, has had a big opening weekend, so this is a well-timed hosting gig. Let's jump in!
"Oscars Red Carpet Cold Open"
It's the Oscars red carpet pre-show! Mario Lopez (Marcello Hernandez) and Kit Hoover/Maria Menounos (Heidi Gardner) preview this weekend's Academy Awards, complete with a stopover from Kenan Thompson as Mike Tyson, who is heading up security for this year's ceremony. (Tyson has previously been impersonated on the show.)
Nominee Jamie Lee Curtis (Chloe Fineman) stops by as well — Fineman nails this impression. Back in the day, Curtis herself hosted SNL.
I like Devon Walker and Andrew Dismukes as DraftKings commentators giving odds on what may or may not happen at the Oscars — it's not looking likely that Chris Rock will pop up! Molly Kearney and Mikey Day appear as Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell, who appeared on the show earlier this season.
And Bowen Yang returns as George Santos, I mean Tom Cruise.
This is cute. It's almost one of those formless sketches where the entire cast gets shoehorned in, but I like it. Check it out!
Ortega talks about her origins — she started out in a Colgate commercial when she was 9. (Originally, she was discovered when her mom posted a video of her on Facebook. That leads to a joke about the app being to racism what TikTok is to dancing.)
She reveals she is 20 years old — the youngest SNL host this season — and notes that one of the reasons she wanted to host SNL was to face one of her biggest fears: "Happy, extroverted people who are always trying to perform."
Her Wednesday costar and former SNL cast member Fred Armisen is in the audience — he comes on stage to pick up the slack. He tries to be winning, but she shoos him away. Meh.
Kroeger notes that Ortega "has an intelligence and projects confidence in a way that is engaging, without being arrogant or aggressive."
Regarding the now-iconic Wednesday dance scene that went viral, he adds: "The Wednesday dance found rarified air. It was a perfect collision of style, choreographed by Ortega, photography by Burton, and Goo Goo Muck's music. Anyone, including Ortega, can say that it's overplayed, overanalyzed, and even overrated, but it captured a wide range of emotions, conflict, character, storytelling, and just plain cool. It became what it is because once you saw it, you had to see it again. And again, the Wednesday dance is time-capsule worthy."
"School vs. School"
Jay McCormick (Kenan Thompson) is hosting a PBS game show. where teachers team up with students to win big prizes!
Today's contestants: West Grove High School takes on Professor Zander's Academy for Extraordinary Children. It's essentially Professor X and some of his mutant pupils. The X-Men crew is full of angst: Zena (Ortega) cannot control her powers or her emotions. "You are not ready, child!" hollers Mikey Day's Zander. Molly Kearney is also funny as Knockout.
Kenan has a non-sequitur about a COVID-related lawsuit, which is more confusing than redemptive.
"Please Don't Destroy: Road Trip"
Ortega is feeling a little burnt out. Luckily, our PDD heroes are going on a beautiful cross-country American road trip! We are treated to a charming song — "Hit the open road and catch a ride, arms getting tan on the sunny side" — until the boys miss an exit on the highway. Tensions rise, as the bubbly song periodically kicks back in.
Dark turn at the end! Watch.
"The Parent Trap"
A crew guy (played by Armisen) is playing off Ortega's Hallie in a remake of The Parent Trap. They are supposed to be frickin' twins!
Armisen is hamming it up a lot — giving a lot, that's for sure. Is he trying to compensate for Ortega's inexperience? I like that, in this remake, Ed Helms and Leslie Mann are supposedly the parents.
Mikey Day has a savage impression of Ridiculousness host Rob Dyrdek, who is almost 50. This is especially funny given Day started out on MTV's Wild 'n Out. Dyrdek struggles to get the show's inane, pointless vibe going despite Ortega's character focusing on "weird, sad" stories about her disturbing "cat ball" kitten and her dead kitten. "Reset the vibe!" he demands.
Fineman is also really good here. The sketch gets a little limp once the premise kicks in, but taking the piss out of Ridiculousness is so deserved. What happened to MTV?
A melodramatic scene between two teen protagonists (Hernandez and Ortega) in a Waffle House parking lot is undercut by a silly fight in the background. Free bird redneck Mikey Day is tased and shot as the young couple breaks up, oblivious.
Good staging! And a solid payoff at the end.
The 1975 perform "I'm in Love With You"
"I'm in Love With You" is the third single from their latest album. The band previously performed this pop diddy on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon last fall.
Kroeger shares: "The 1975 has been around for a while, but they always have the appearance of being new on the scene. They are performance artists, satirists, and pop musicians. I like Being Funny in a Foreign Language very much. I find it very sincere, while also iconoclastic. And their visual presentations are funny while also being theatrical."
Jokes about champagne and Rihanna! Tucker Carlson is also taken to task over his texts and coverage of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Michael Che has a great Colin Jost joke here.
Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (Molly Kearney) comes on to discuss the uproar over his interactions with provocative posts on social media, insisting that his intentions have been misconstrued. Provocative Instagram posts were liked by McNally from his official account, including one where a young man doesn't appear to be wearing clothes. This goes after his hypocrisy. And this might be Kearney's finest moment on the show to date.
James Austin Johnson comes on to fill time with random impressions like Batman reading Where's Waldo and Jay-Z downstairs. He has a stockpile of useless two-second impressions. Donald Trump ordering a Negroni is amazing. I like this new trend of cast members coming on as themselves to riff.
Jost recently crossed the nine-year mark as an "Update" anchor. Gary Kroeger recalls: "Colin has done everything almost perfectly. Maybe not even 'almost' but 'perfectly.' He knows where he fits, he knows how to do it, his delivery is polished, his humor and, I believe, humility comes through. He and Michael have been a perfect combination; different deliveries but compatible foils."
Mrs. Shaw (Ego Nwodim) is upset when she thinks there's a party happening downstairs on a Tuesday night — actually, it's an exorcism. Her neighbors are waiting for Father Murphy to help their possessed daughter. "Y'all don't have to wait for him," says Mrs. Shaw. "I'll do it. You don't scare me sweetie!" After all, she needs to get her eight hours of sleep, and will solve this situation posthaste. When another priest warns that she may be in over her head, Mrs. Shaw says sh'es got this. She's been a crossing guard at a six-lane street for years, so she's uniquely qualified for this job.
Ortega (channeling Linda Blair) levitates off the bed until Shaw takes control, summoning her husband. I like this!
The 1975 perform "Oh Caroline"
Another catchy pop song that was released last year.
Two Donalds & Dominguez colleagues (played by Ortega and Bowen Yang) need a catchy jingle to make their workplace's phone number — 1-672-555-0136 — memorable. Their law firm lives and dies on business driven by their TV commercial. Luckily, Ortega and Yang were at Luciano's the other night, where they were introduced to the musical duo Soul Booth (Dismukes and Johnson). Soul Booth drops by the office and presents them with a few ditties — Yang just wants to feel "looched up."
—Thank you to Gary Kroeger for his thoughts tonight!
—What did you think? Vote here or chime in below.
—Huge RIP to Erin Maroney Fraser, who helped in the development and launch of Conan O'Brien's Late Night and went on to produce many films for Broadway Video, including Tommy Boy, Superstar, Black Sheep, and Wayne's World 2. Erin also worked as a staff writer for SNL before more recently producing films like Rushed. She will be missed.
Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more
The original late-night comedy sketch show from the one and only Lorne Michaels.