This is the third season in a row in which Louis C.K. has hosted “Saturday Night Live.” As he speeds towards his membership in the Five-Timers Club, “SNL” comes to the close of an overall excellent season. While there have been natural peaks and valleys, it has also felt like the strongest overall start-to-finish run since I started covering the show five years ago. Given that long-time head writer Seth Meyers left last season, and given all the attention and effort that the fortieth anniversary special incurred, it’s pretty miraculous that this season was even passable, nevermind actually, legitimately good. But that’s what makes the show so special: Just when you count it out, it roars back and reminds you why it’s lasted this long.
Promoting one’s movie is par for the course for hosts of “Saturday Night Live.” So what happens when that movie (one you also produced) has horrific critical buzz and has already all but tanked at the box office? Soldier on ahead and pretend like nothing has happened. So let’s see how well Reese Witherspoon can do that in this, her first hosting gig in nearly fifteen years. (Her last and only other appearance? The first post-9/11 episode, in which the immortal “Can we be funny?”/”Why start now?” solidified the show’s place in the popular consciousness anew.) Last week’s ScarJo episode was a bummer, so let’s hope things improve this week before heading into the Louis C.K.-hosted finale.
As always, I’ll be liveblogging the episode, assigning grades to each segment. As always, I invite you to participate, commenting along in real time as well. We only have two more episodes this season, so let’s make them count. See you at 11:30 pm EST when the show begins.
Cold Open Southern Republican Leadership Conference: Republicans can be cool! And being cool apparently involves playing the “ESPN Jock Jams” CD as Cecily Strong’s DJ introduces the candidates. It’s a fairly weak premise, but I could watch Bobby Moynihan dance for about a week, blacklight or not. And if Marco Rubio goes far in the campaign, Taran Killam will have one helluva character on his hand to play. Just like the voters, “SNL” is just getting to know these candidates, so the real test will come next Fall as the campaigns really heat up. For now? A forgettable cold open with a few fun moments. [Grade: B-]
Scarlett Johansson has hosted “Saturday Night Live” three times before, and each time she’s proven an excellent fit for the show. She hasn’t hosted in four years, so there are a lot of new Not Ready For Primetime Players that have yet to interact with her on Studio 8H. Expect parodies of “The Avengers.” You should probably NOT expect parodies of “Under The Skin.”
After a slow start to 2015 (anniversary special excluded), the last two weeks of “Saturday Night Live” have been a return to form. Both the Dwayne Johnson and Michael Keaton episodes were excellent, now the show has the chance to complete the trifecta with Taraji P. Henson as host. There’s bound to be at least one “Empire”-centric sketch tonight (probably involving musical guest Mumford & Sons, because why not), but personally? I’m hoping Taran Killam gets to bust out his amazing Brad Pitt impression opposite Henson in a parody of “The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button.” (Those banking on a “Person Of Interest" parody might be disappointed.)
Michael Keaton has hosted “Saturday Night Live” twice before, but hasn’t hosted since 1992. It was a full decade between that and his original hosting gig. The man does not rush things when it comes to hanging out in Studio 8H. And while the iron may not be quite as hot on his career as it was during the recent Oscars season, that’s no reason not to have him host now. His off-kilter persona and unique energy are still perfect for the show, and there’s little reason to think there’s every chance for a great episode tonight.
The questions isn’t whether Dwayne Johnson will be a good host (since he excelled during his first two times in Studio 8H), but whether or not “Saturday Night Live” can finally start regaining some of the momentum that propelled it through its Fall run. That was possibly the strongest stretch during my five years covering the show here at HitFix, but 2015 has been marked by less-than-stellar episodes and a less-than-ideal production schedule. As such, “SNL” has been spotty both in terms of quality and production. But maybe tonight will be a turning point as the show heads into this season’s home stretch.
Look at it this way: “Saturday Night Live” has only up to go after last week’s trainwreck. And while Chris Hemsworth doesn’t exactly inspire confidence as a potentially great host, the show is due to come out of the semi-spiral it’s been in during 2015 so far. We’ll get some Marvel-inspired gags/sketches, and who knows, maybe even some of the other starts from “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” might show up tonight to support Thor. (NBC may or may not have one of that movie’s stars already on the payroll, is all I’m saying.)
I get it: There are more than a few concerned fans worried that tonight’s “Saturday Night Live” might be a less-than-stellar edition. Most know host Dakota Johnson from her most recent film role, which isn't exactly a "Bridesmaids"-esque romp. But think of it less as one hosted by the star of “Fifty Shades Of Grey” and rather one hosted by the former lead of the late, great FOX comedy “Ben And Kate.” Dakota Johnson might be more (or near-exclusively) known for the former, but she was straight-up funny on the latter. And while we’ll probably see more references to Christian Grey than Ben Fox, I just don’t have the same hopeless feeling I did before Blake Shelton took the stage in January.
After two TV personalities created ads for Universal Orlando and paid their "Celebrity Apprentice" dues by praising Donald Trump, he awarded one of them $250,000 for their charity.
That money is about the only thing that matters on "Celebrity Apprentice" finales, which are the worst part of a show that draws so much entertainment from celebrities being tested by high-pressure, quasi-business challenges. Since the decision is up to Donald Trump, it's always been like flipping a coin into a shredder: decisive but pointless.
As we approach the fortieth anniversary special of “Saturday Night Live,” it’s time to take stock of what makes the show so unique. Yes, the Not Ready For Primetime Players are key. So are the show’s writers. And hey, that whole “live” thing is still pretty important.
But what about larger themes and trends? What disparate elements add up to the show as presently constituted? We’re going to break down “SNL” from A to Z, finishing here what we started last week.
Check out N to Z below...