It’s been almost a month without new episodes, but “Saturday Night Live” returns tonight with host Melissa McCarthy and musical guest Phoenix. McCarthy was a game host during her first gig in the Fall of 2011, but the episode itself was a mixed bag. In that episode, she played quite often against Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg, both of whom have since left the show. She and Jason Sudeikis also had a lot of interactions last time around, so it will be interesting if “SNL” holds onto that dynamic or pairs here up with the many new cast members that have popped up in the interim.
It’s time for Justin Timberlake to enter a special place in the “Saturday Night Live” pantheon tonight, as tonight’s hosting gig allows him membership in the Five-Timers Club. Given a certain photo that a certain member of that club tweeted this week, let’s just assume that there will be many existing members of this exclusive organization on hand tonight to mark the event. (Then again, maybe that picture simply depicts a table read for “The Ghosts Of ‘N Sync Past”.)
After a two-week hiatus following its strongest episode of the season, “Saturday Night Live” is back with host Kevin Hart. I’ve seen Hart in "Undeclared" as well as in supporting roles in several films, but won’t pretend to be anything remotely related to an expert on his stand-up career. So I’m coming into tonight’s episode with a relatively blank slate. Anything is possible when it comes to this installment, so far as I’m concerned. And that’s a good thing, so near as I can tell. Sometimes the hype can be too much (as will undoubtedly be the case when Justin Timberlake hosts next week), and sometimes negative preconceptions can cripple an episode before it even starts (paging Justin Bieber, who lived down to that hype).