Saturday Night Live kicked off the first episode of the year in solid though unspectacular fashion. It was great to see Adam Driver in a context different from Star Wars or his gloomy Girls character, and it turns out, he has a considerable amount of charm and some gifted comedic skills. The more we see of Adam Driver, the more we like him.
It’s not an episode that will be remembered as classic, but one sketch — Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base — will probably be remembered for a very long time.
Republican Debate Cold Open —Maria Bartiromo (Cecily Strong) and Neil Cavuto (Kyle Mooney) moderate the latest Republican debate. A few good zingers, and the beginning of a night dominated by Cecily Strong, who had spent much of the early half of the season buried in the show. It’s good to see her dominating again. (Score: 5/5)
Adam Driver Monologue — Adam Driver is forced to spend his monologue deflecting Star Wars questions from Taran Killam and Bobby Moynihan. Because Driver isn’t particularly well known outside of Star Wars circles, an opening monologue like this seemed inevitable. Driver, nevertheless, elevates an otherwise pedestrian monologue with charm. (Score: 6/10)
NFL Playoff Game — Al Michaels (Beck Bennett) and Cris Collinsworth (Adam Driver) try to respectfully cover the horrific injury sustained by Green Bay Packers quarterback Jared Schleff (Pete Davidson) during a playoff game between the Packers and the Arizona Cardinals. It’s a one-joke sketch, but it’s a joke with a ton of mileage. (Score: 6.5/10)
Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base — Sketch of the night. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) goes undercover as Matt, a radar technician, at Starkiller Base. Absolutely hysterical. (Score: 9/10)
Aladdin — Aladdin (Adam Driver) and Princess Jasmine’s (Cecily Strong) magic carpet ride encounters some unexpected issues. I had no idea Strong had such an impressive singing voice, and this one-joke sketch works better than it should. (Score: 7/10)
America’s Funniest Cats — Host Finn Raynal-Beads (Adam Driver) and his French counterparts, Joelle LaRue (Cecily Strong) and Noelle LeSoup (Kate McKinnon), take very different approaches to narrating cat videos. Good premise with intermittently amusing results. (Score: 5/10)
Weekend Update — I think Jost and Che have finally and completely hit their stride, so that even during a mediocre set of jokes, the segment works (and they continue to effectively use Jost as a punchline for Che). Pete Davidson also shows up to comment on the absurdity of being able to carry guns in mental hospitals in Texas, and Vanessa Bayer’s Laura Parsons shows up again to excitedly deliver very dark news. (Score: 7/10)
Awareness Seminar — A pair of speakers (Adam Driver, Cecily Strong) warn students about the dangers of social puppeteering. This social puppeteering is a very serious and dangerous business. Tell us more about it, Adam Driver. (Score: 6/10)
Fred Armisen Remembers David Bowie — Fred Armisen reminisces about staying up late to watch David Bowie perform on Saturday Night Live in 1979. Classy and necessary. (Score: 10 out of 10 Starmen)
Golden Globes — After their parents (Vanessa Bayer, Adam Driver) tell them to go to bed in their Golden Globes acceptance speech, two kids (Kyle Mooney, Kate McKinnon) spend the night worrying when they’ll return. It has the absurdity of a Kyle Mooney sketch, but the melancholiness of a Mike O’Brien sketch. In either respect, it works. (Score: 8/10)
Porn Doctor — A young girl (Aidy Bryant) confuses a porn shoot starring Dr. Rockhard (Adam Driver) for an actual doctor’s office. It was annoying the first time they tried this sketch, and it hasn’t improved much on the second attempt. (Score: 3/10)