Last night saw the Miley Cyrus hosted season premiere of SNL, and it was not a good episode by any measure. After mostly struggling through the last two seasons, the show needed a good bounce-back season during an election year. Unfortunately, the season premiere was not a good omen. Miley Cyrus — who has served as a good host before — was poorly utilized, often pushed into the background of sketches so that the show could focus on its up-and-coming stars.
To that end, the show’s more popular cast members did get ample screen time. Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones dominated the show, while Kate McKinnon got plenty of time in, as well. Pete Davidson also got a segment on “Weekend Update” and took full advantage. To its credit, SNL also tried to be topical, and hit upon political sketches more often than usual. Unfortunately, with the exception of the Hillary Clinton sketch, they mostly fell flat.
Most of the show fell flat.
SNL needs a win to get back in to the good graces of the SNL faithful, and this episode was not it. Let’s hope that Amy Schumer can turn things around next week, because the only winner to come out of tonight’s episode was Hillary Clinton.
Cold Open — The 41st season of Saturday Night Live kicks off with Taran Killam’s first outing as Donald Trump, with Cecily Strong playing his overly supportive wife. It’s not much of a cold open, because SNL runs into the same problem that everybody has with Donald Trump caricatures: He’s caricature-proof. It’s never encouraging when an entire season starts off on a mediocre note. (Score: 4/10)
Miley Cyrus Monologue — Cyrus sings farewell to those who trended in the media over summer but who will be forgotten by next year, like Rachel Dolezal, Kim Davis, pizza rat and the Entourage movie. It’s basically the SNL cast silently acting out a series of Uproxx headlines (no offense, Uproxx!) while Cyrus sings. It goes nowhere. (Score: 3/10)
Abilify Commercial — A pill for deranged people, like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, who actually believe they have a shot in hell at being president. It’s a pill specifically designed for 11 people with dementia. Cute. (Score: 6/10)
Grease Parody — A bunch of kids, straight out of Grease sing, dance and hand-jive about making out and other relatively tame activities, until Miley Cyrus shows up and goes into record-scratch mode. Blergh. The new guy, Jon Rudnitsky, got some decent screen time (and popped up frequently throughout the night, which may not be a good thing). (Score: 5/10)
Hillary Clinton Sketch — Easily the best sketch of the night. Watch it here. (Score: 8.5/10)
Weekend Update — I know that I wrote over the summer that Weekend Update is the hardest job in comedy, and I still believe that. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be good at it. Che, and especially Jost, still aren’t good, and this was a mess. Jost seems completely out of it. He’s sleepwalking through it and it’s the FIRST EPISODE OF THE YEAR. (Score: 3/10)
Kyle Mooney as the Pope — When you’re reduced to Polish jokes, that should tell you all you need to know. Oy. (Score: 2/10)
Pete Davidson — Davidson’s bit on Trump is easily the best part of an otherwise weak Update. He compares Trump to America’s Idol Sanjaya Malakar, the “Vote for the Worst” guy from a few years back, and delivers this winning line: “America needs to stop doing things because it’s funny.” (Score: 7/10)
Leslie Jones — Jones talks texting and relationships, and as usual, her flirtation with Jost is the best part of the bit, although she ultimately way overplays it and ruins the joke for future episodes. (Score: 5/10)
The Millennials — Why is it when old people make fun of millennials, we always end up coming off worse than the millennials? Look! They’re making fun of identity politics and social media obsession. Look how out of touch they are! Oh wait, look how out of touch we are! (Score: 3/10)
When Harry Met Sally — A group of ladies get together in a restaurant and recreate Meg Ryan’s orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally. Leslie Jones goes overboard with her recreation. It’s a good joke, and Jones is great in it, but it runs a little long. (Score: 6.5/10)
The Squad — Decent trailer parody, which envisions a post-apocalyptic world in which everyone has become a Taylor Swift convert. It’s funnier as an idea than as a trailer, but on a night with mostly uninspired ideas, I’ll take it. (Score: 5/10)
American Voices — The PBS doc takes a look back at a little known black, female late-night talk show host (Leslie Jones), who made segregation jokes and got testy with guests who had African-American caricatures on their shows. Eh. (Score: 5/10)
Kyle Mooney Sketch — Miley Cyrus wants to marry Kyle Mooney. The problem? She loves Mooney too much. And it would make his life too great. Or something. I don’t know. It’s incoherent. (Score: 2/10)