Ryan Gosling hosted SNL for the first time last night and continued SNL’s streak of great shows since the Donald Trump disaster (following Elizabeth Banks and Matthew McConaughey). Gosling was also unexpectedly terrific, even if he couldn’t keep a straight face throughout much of the episode. Like Jon Hamm and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gosling was a natural as host: He can sing, he can dance, he can show his chest, he can step it up as the lead of a sketch, and knows how to let the rest of the cast shine, as well. It was an overall excellent episode, as this cast really does seem to be hitting its stride.
Donald and Melania Trump Christmas Cold Open — Donald (Taran Killam) and Melania Trump (Cecily Strong) reveal who is on Donald’s naughty and nice list. It’s a mercifully short cold open that’s not funny, but not it’s not funny, either. It’s serviceable. The good news is, the rest of the show is all uphill from here. (Score: 4/10)
Ryan Gosling Canada Monologue — Ryan Gosling celebrates his Canadian roots with Mike Myers and a Canadian Christmas song. I had some concerns, — because Myers completely dominated the monologue — that Gosling was going to be buried for the rest of the show, like a sports celebrity. But those concerns were unfounded. They just wanted to take advantage of Myers, and Gosling was gracious enough to let him dominate his monologue. It was fun to see Myers and Gosling do a little Christmas Strange Brew, too. (7.5/10)
Settl — Settl: The dating app for women looking to have tons of okay dates. The kiss that Taran Killam gives Vanessa Bayer sells the whole thing. Ech. (Score: 6/10)
Close Encounter — Three people (Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong, Ryan Gosling) share very different stories about their alien abduction. My favorite sketch of the night. Everyone lost their shit and broke into laughter (especially Gosling) at Kate McKinnon, and for good reason: She was absolutely hysterical. (Score: 9.5/10)
Santa Baby — Doug (Ryan Gosling) and Gina (Vanessa Bayer) make everyone at the neighborhood holiday party uncomfortable when they demand to meet the real Santa. Here, we get to see Goodfellas Gosling, as he threatens anyone at the party who gets between him and a visit from the real Santa. (Score: 8/10)
Birthday Party — Melanie (Aidy Bryant) creeps out her friends when she hits on birthday girl Taylor’s dad (Ryan Gosling). It’s got a few genuinely funny moments, and ends with Aidy Bryant pulling a Chris Farley down-by-the-river movie. (Score: 5.5/10)
Weekend Update — “Weekend Update” wasn’t as good as it has been the last few times out, but it wasn’t for lack of chemistry. It was a decent “Update”; some of the jokes just didn’t land.
However, Cecily Strong plays a Glamour magazine reporter who drops by to talk gadgets and spend the entire segment flirting with Colin Jost, and it reminded me of my DEFCON level crush on Strong.Anthony Crispino (Bobby Moynihan) also stopped by with third-hand news guy Angelo Skaggs (Ryan Gosling), and their ability to speak in unison was impressive. (“Weekend Update” overall score: 6/5/10)
Hometown Bar — Trevor (Kyle Mooney), a high school classmate of Ryan Gosling’s, interrupts his interview with a GQ reporter (Cecily Strong) to share embarrassing stories about him. This felt like a monologue sketch that may have been repurposed after they got Mike Myers: It displays Gosling’s ability to sing, dance, and be hot. (Score: 7/10)
Nespresso — George Clooney (Taran Killam) preps Danny DeVito (Bobby Moynihan) for his first taste of Nespresso. It’s a nonsense commercial, but Moynihan’s DeVito is great. (Score: 5/10)
The Wiz — West Oz’s Scarecrow (Ryan Gosling) mistakenly ends up in East Oz with Dorothy (Sasheer Zamata), Cowardly Lion (Kenan Thompson), Tin Man (Jay Pharoah), Scarecrow (Michael Che) and The Wiz (Leslie Jones). Another of the night’s better sketches, and again, it features Gosling’s singing/dancing ability. Plus, the idea of having the white scarecrow interact with the black cast of The Wiz was a simple brilliance. (Score: 8/10)
Santa & The Elves — Santa’s elves (Kenan Thompson, Vanessa Bayer, Ryan Gosling) purposely don’t make any toys in the hopes that Santa (Bobby Moynihan) will punish them (sexually). They did this sketch last year. It works a little better with Gosling, even if it’s still not a great sketch. (Score: 5/10)
And look: Gosling even gives a shout-out to his wife and child in the end.