Dwayne Johnson and Bobby Moynihan

Dwayne Johnson and Bobby Moynihan

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Dwayne Johnson and George Ezra

The action star hosts for the fourth time

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.

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Chris Hemsworth and Kate McKinnon

Chris Hemsworth and Kate McKinnon

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Chris Hemsworth and Zac Brown Band

Can The God Of Thunder be The God Of Comedy?

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.)

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Dakota Johnson and Taran Killam

Dakota Johnson and Taran Killam

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Dakota Johnson and Alabama Shakes

The 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' star makes her hosting debut

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.

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<p>Donald Trump</p>

Donald Trump

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'The Celebrity Apprentice' crowns a winner

Trump chooses a winner, but since it's for charity, everyone wins!

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.

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'Saturday Night Live' at 40 - From A to Z: Part 2
Credit: NBC

'Saturday Night Live' at 40 - From A to Z: Part 2

Not Ready for Primetime Players? Hardly.

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...

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<p>Tom and Padma</p>

Tom and Padma

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'Top Chef: Boston' crowns a winner in Mexico

The winner cooked the best dessert Tom Collichio ever ate

In the final part of its three-part finale, "Top Chef Boston" came down to the two most winning chefs: Gregory and Mei. Prior to the finale, Mei won or was in the top eight out of 12 challenges. Gregory won or was among the best seven out of 12 times.

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<p>&quot;Saturday Night Live&quot;</p>

"Saturday Night Live"

Credit: NBC

'Saturday Night Live' at 40 - From A to Z: Part I

How Do Eddie Murphy and Weekend Update both fit in this part?

As we approach the fortieth anniversary special of "Saturday Night Live," -- Not to be confused with the 40th anniversary 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, working the first half of the alphabet this week and finishing up next Saturday, the night before NBC's big special (and nine months before the actual anniversary).

Check out A to M...

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JK Simmons and Kenan Thompson

JK Simmons and Kenan Thompson

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' - JK Simmons and D'Angelo

The 'Whiplash' star hosts the last show before the big anniversary special

JK Simmons seems like a pretty inspired choice to host “Saturday Night Live,” with his acting versatility baked into his lengthy track record in both the most serious of dramas and silliest of comedies. He’s been in seemingly everything, but his recent award-winning turn in “Whiplash” is getting him the kind of attention not often bestowed upon him. Look for at least one sketch tonight parodying that film, and at least one or two others that reference one of his many, many, many roles.

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Sleepy Hollow - Kali Yuga
Credit: FOX

Recap: 'Sleepy Hollow' - A vampire by any other name is 'Kali Yuga'

You can't be named Carmella and NOT be vampire. It's the rules.

Last week, “Sleepy Hollow” pulled itself out of the lore quagmire it had gotten bogged down in for the first half of Season 2. Sure, Pittura Infamante sagged in the middle, but there was no sign of impending doomsday and/or teen angst love octagons, so I’m calling it a win.

Can the show carry the momentum into this week’s episode, “Kali Yuga”? Let’s find out!

*******

Last week, Ichabod went on a date with his estranged witch wife who was trapped in Purgatory until recently and still thinks their son is salvageable from evil, so I guess it’s par for the Crazy™ that this week he would go on a platonic date with his hetero-life partner, her sister, and the supernatural antiquities thief friend who has attempted to sleep with both women. Oh, and karaoke. While I will forever feel cheated to not hear Ichabod Crane sing the iconic Britney Spears song “Oops, I Did It Again,” it was nice to watch Jenny and Abbie behave like actual siblings. Complete with all the hypocrisy and ill-fated attempts at giving relationship advice to each other.

There’s a rule against people in supernatural dramas being in happy, functional relationships though. Just as quickly as Jenny and Hawley seem to have the beginnings of a real go at things, an old flame/caretaker shows to be the Big Bad of the week. With heels that high, lipstick that dark, and a name like Carmella Pines, Hawley’s lady Indiana Jones (no, not Lara Croft) teen guardian is legally obligated to be a vampire. She instantly acquiesces to expectations, but with a Hindu twist: she’s here to find the Kali MacGuffin and by God, Southern Gentleman Aquaman is going to help her.

Why, you ask? Well, the answer the show GIVES us is because Carmella is the only family SGA has left — Hawley took the traditional “my parents died in an accident days before Christmas” route to becoming an orphan — and he feels semi-responsible for her being turned into monster while looking for his runaway teenage ass in Mumbai. The SUBTEXT says it’s because she clearly Mrs. Robinson’d him and they’re swimming in a miasma of unresolved feelings.

Hawley’s shenanigans pit him against the group for most of the episode. He breaks into the Library of Exposition and steals the blueprints to the Kali statue MacGuffin, he points a gun at Ichabod (momentarily severing their man bond and breaking my shipper heart), he manipulates and tricks Jenny, and he locks Abbie and Ichabod in a vault so he can run off with Carmella. Of course, Hawley’s also desperately hoping to save his surrogate mother and doesn’t have time to debate the merits of loving a shitty family member (I mean, who DOESN’T have a murderous vampire loved one?) with his friends, and what does SGA get for his loyalty? Played by Carmella, who has been pining (zing!) after him. Exactly zero people can believe she just wanted Hawley to be a platonic companion post Hindu-vampire ritual. I mean, she even took his shirt off while her man-harem looked on.

While Abbie and Ichabod take Hawley’s bizarre behavior in stride — after all, thieves tend to be Chaotic Neutral and can’t be trusted to make sense — the depth of Jenny’s feelings for SGA become even more painfully obvious. She repeatedly runs after him, despite his warnings to stay away. If Carmella was even remotely competent with her venom claws, Jenny Mills would be dead twice over. Once in the Sleepy Hollow underground, and again during the climatic battle. Luckily, being an immortal being doesn’t immediately grant you competence, and Jenny escapes unscathed. Of course, even putting her in danger is reason enough for Hawley to throw in the towel and flee both the relationship and the town, under the guise of hunting down Carmella of course. Ugh.

Speaking of incompetent immortal beings, I had literally forgotten that Orion the angel even existed until Ichabod had a fit over finding Xena’s mini-chakram necklace. Take that for what you will.

Jenny and Hawley aren’t the only ones having relationship problems, though. Being trapped in vault with no cell signal forces Ichabod and Abbie to hash out their issues. Things get a little meta as the writers use them as a mouthpiece to basically apologize for veering away from what works — Ichabod and Abbie solving mysteries and stopping the end of the world together.

Off in the C-plot, Frank and Cynthia Irving spend the entire episode dealing with their own relationship issues. Despite being mysteriously exonerated for his crimes, Frank’s wife can’t reconcile her marriage until he agrees to a metaphysical exam. Of course, this means a trip to the Cabin in the Woods and Katrina, who had been delightfully absent from this episode. Katrina instantly starts harping on about her son Henry and the inflection of her voice says she still thinks the Horseman of War is A) alive and B) still has good in him.

I want to shake her.

Much to Katrina’s dismay, Irving is free of Henry’s influence. But if the Horseman of War didn’t resurrect the Captain, it leaves the door open to other possibilities. My money is on Orion.

“Kali Yuga” continues to get “Sleepy Hollow” back on the right track. For me, branching out beyond Christian mythology both extends the lifespan of the show, and makes for more interesting story options. Letting the Headless Horseman plot languish while focusing on the relationship between Ichabod/Abbie, Abbie/Jenny, and, sigh, even Ichabod/Katrina is a step in the right direction. Oddly, the Irving family storyline at this point is so disconnected from the group that it seems out of place. But I’ll take small hiccups over series-shattering missteps any day.

Odd & Ends

 Katrina not finding Mary Poppins “very progressive” actively offended me

 If Carmella has venom-hands, why not just dissolve her way into the vault?

 So, how were the Hindu-vampires converting people to their cult before they got the statue back? Did Knox just recently acquire it?

 Hopefully one day, we get to the hear the story of who Carmella murdered when Hawley was 18 and why she felt she was doing it to protect him. I smell a “your parents didn’t really have an ‘accident’” reveal

 I really, REALLY enjoyed Ichabod’s reaction to getting the emergency exit puzzle wrong

 Exactly what KIND of yoga classes was Abbie taking and where can I sign up?

 Did Irving have no reflection in the cabin window? If not, did he have one in the police station one-way mirror? WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

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Blake Shelton and Cecily Strong

Blake Shelton and Cecily Strong

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Blake Shelton

The country star and 'The Voice' coach makes his hosting debut

Look: maybe this won’t be so bad?

This has been a pretty stellar season of “Saturday Night Live,” by far the best and most consistent since I’ve started covering it here at the start of Season 36. So who could blame the show for picking a host based on corporate synergy rather than comedic talent? Plenty of hosts serve a larger purpose than “comedic quality” when they appear, and at least we are sure that Blake Shelton isn’t ashamed of making a fool of himself. (We have his cringe-inducing holiday specials as evidence of that.)

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